Smorgasburg is a glutton’s foodie’s haven. It’s a giant all-food market that’s undoubtedly one of the best outdoor food festivals that New York City has to offer. It offers over 75 vendors selling a wide variety of food from the exotic Indonesian Lumpia, to the much-raved Ramen Burger, to the classic Grilled Cheese sandwiches and the quintessential Ice Cream Sandwiches and Drip Coffee to finish your sundae with a cherry on the top. In the Spring-Autumn, Smorgasburg is held every Saturday at East River State Park on the Williamsburg waterfront from 11am-6pm, and every Sunday at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 – always open rain or shine. Now in the winter, till April, it is held indoors in 1000 Dean Street, Crown Heights, together with Brooklyn Flea selling vintage, antique and homemade goods.
I had the opportunity to visit the flea a couple times, attempting to try every single food each time I go there (but of course I’ve always been unsuccessful simply because there’s so many vendors). But every single time I go there, I am constantly overwhelmed by the amount of tantalizing food available. Should I get that coconut that everyone’s carrying around, or should I get that bubble tea? Should I get Pho, or should I get ramen? It’s insane.
The first thing I had was the Brisket sandwich from Mighty Quinns Barbeque, with the choice of adding as many or as little toppings as you want. It was a hefty $9, if I’m not wrong, for a pretty small sandwich – a brioche bun probably the size of your palm, and a couple slices of that brisket. But it was absolutely mind-blowing, taste wise, probably one of the best, if not the best barbequed meat I’ve ever tasted. The brisket was falling apart, tender, melting in your mouth, extremely juicy, extremely flavourful with its sweet, sour and slightly spicy barbeque marinate; the brioche bun was extremely soft and fluffy, plus with the addition of some raw onions and pickles to provide that textural contrast, one bite proved to be an explosion of flavours in your mouth.
On my first visit, I had seen almost every single person carry around and savour some kind of grilled corn on the cob. I honestly had no idea where that came from (I swear I walked the entire pier though). The second time, I visited the Williamsburg location and one of the first few stalls I walked pass was Vaquero Elotes where I saw everyone leave with at least one Callejeros: Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob topped with cotija cheese, butter and chilli. Extremely lucky me :p I got mine with all the toppings – butter, cheese and chilli. The itself was extremely sweet and juicy, charred with a slight caramel flavor. The cheese gave it a slight savoury hint, the chili surprisingly highlighted all the different flavours, and the butter, the best of all, melted right into each kernel to make each bite all the more creamier.
On my second visit, I also had the Fish and Chips from Handsome Hank’s Fish Hut ($10). For a good $10, you’re given a handful of fries and two humongous beer-battered fish made to order. I personally do feel that you’re getting what you pay for. The batter was light and crispy, absolutely not greasy at all, encompassing a flaky, fresh, perfectly seasoned white fish inside.
For desserts, I was torn between the Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream from Alchemy Creamery ($4) and the Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Vanilla Ice cream and Chocolate Fudge from The Good Batch ($5), and I decided to get both anyway.
I absolutely love that the Ice Cream from Alchemy Creamery was served popsicle style such that you wouldn’t have to struggle with melted ice cream dripping down all over your hand. One thing though, is its hefty price tag for a small stick like that.
More affordable on the contrary, is the Ice Cream sandwich from The Good Batch. The cookies were thin and crispy, although I would prefer it to be slightly thicker and chunky to make each mouthful slightly more substantial. The ice cream surprisingly did not melt as fast as I expected them to, considering the scorching weather that day, which made it the perfect sweet to the end of our meal that day.
On my third visit, I waited patiently in line for the Ramen Burger ($9) and the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($7.50) from Milk Truck Grilled Cheese.
The “buns” made from freshly cut ramen noodles were crispy on the outside and surprisingly al dente in the interior, and the beef patty, grilled perfectly to a medium rare, was juicy and kept moist with that flavorful shoyu glaze. While some traditionalist may scorn at the confusing fusion cuisine, others may indeed embrace its creativity and uniqueness, making it one of “The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time” by Time Magazine,. Would I wait in line for a good 20 min to have the Ramen Burger again? Maybe not. Like the cronut, it may be a defining invention that justly represents the boundary-breaking fusion cuisine that many chefs are attempting at this day and age. I do feel that it wasn’t absolutely mind-blowing though, it was just different from the rest in the field, allowing it to garner thousands of curious and thrilled responses from audiences, that’s it. Personally, I do prefer my traditional burger, though I would have to admit that a fresh take would always be welcome.
The Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich made with Aged Gruyere, Aged New York State Cheddar and Wisconsin Blue with Caramelized Granny Smith Apples on Blue Ribbon Bakery Rosemary Pullman was downright scrumptious (I apologise that the photo does not do justice to it). I’m a huge fan of cheese: a cheese fondue, mac and cheese, a cheese plate, and of course a grilled cheese sandwich, so I pretty sure I’m experienced enough to tell the difference between a good grilled cheese, and a bad one. This one, was absolutely divine, absolutely worth every minute of the 20min wait. It wasn’t just any ordinary cheese sandwich, it was rich and creamy, slightly nutty gruyere cheese, cheddar cheese and slightly tangy blue cheese, all melted and pressed in between two crunchy pieces of rosemary Pullman bread. Not to forget, was that sweet, slightly sour caramelized granny smith apples that I feel helped elevate the flavours of the different cheese.
I’ve still got so many things that I wanna try, such as the sticky rice rom Bamboo Bites and definitely the fries from Home Frite. What I absolutely love also is the atmosphere – situated by the inviting waters at both locations, it is calm, refreshing, cool, informal, a perfect casual hang out place with family and friends for all occasions. Featuring all different types of cuisines, all different types of food, anything, you name it, it definitely caters to every single person as well. This should be on the bucket list of everyone who is in NYC.
East River State Park
50 Kent Ave.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5