When it comes to New York food markets, Smorgasburg is King. Thousands of people travel to Brooklyn every warm weather weekend to sample food from close to 100 vendors. Saturdays you’ll find it at East River State Park in Williamsburg while Sundays they now move to Prospect Park. Both locales offer a feast for both the stomach and eyes with stunning views of the East River and Manhattan skyline in Williamsburg and a lakeside setting in the park. It’s hard to imagine a better place to stuff your face with any type of cuisine imaginable. Seriously, there’s everything from Indian Tacos to Bolivian Sandwiches to Vegan Burgers. Getting a chance to sell your grub here is a highly competitive process which means while some things are better than others, everything is at least pretty good. So gather a bunch of friends and try as much as you can.
Fortunately I live a short walk from the Williamsburg location which means pretty much every Saturday you’ll find me food-in-hand strolling the stalls, looking for my next bite. So yeah, I’ve eaten a lot of things there. And I will now categorize and rank them for your reading pleasure.
Note: As I continue going I’ll keep this list up to date. So you’ll want to bookmark this page. Not that you wouldn’t anyway.
Raindrop Cake This 2016 newcomer has taken the internet by storm so I’ll put it up top for now even if it’s not actually the best tasting thing at the ‘burg. The center is made of only water and agar (an algae based gelatin) and has the look and consistency of, well, watch the video and see for yourself. The flavor comes from soybean flour and brown sugar syrup which essentially gives it that taste of a flan jello. It’s also vegan.
The Original Ramen Burger @ Ramen Burger* Last year’s hottest burger still draws the longest lines at Smorgasburg. The original is an angus beef patty covered with arugula, scallions and secret shoyu sauce on a bun constructed of ramen noodles. It’s a really good burger, but novelty more than taste has elevated it to legendary status. Click the name above for my full review.
BBQ Pulled Pork Slider & Brisket Sandwich @ Mighty Quinn’s* A Smogasburg legend that’s led to several brick-and-mortar locations but graciously continues serving here. You can also expect a long wait for this one if you’re not there early. The pulled pork is tender and well spiced with a great sweet tangy BBQ sauce pickles and chilis. It’s just a very well done BBQ sandwich. The brisket has a great spice rub, but can be a little salty if there’s too much end in it, hence the deduction.
Short Rib @ Carnal You’ll likely notice people walking around with this massive hunk of beef rib topped with tomato and wonder how to get your hands on it. Find them being smoked before your eyes in the far back corner by the beach. And prepare for the meat sweats.
Season Sandwich @ Duck Season Duck confit topped with pickled cabbage, XO sauce and spicy chickpea spread on a brioche sounds like a recipe for an incredible sandwich. It’s good, but unfortunately was also a little dried out. The perils of mass production.
Maine Style Lobster Roll & Connecticut Style Lobster Roll @ Red Hook Lobster Pound* Some of NYC’s best lobster rolls, which has a lot to do with their fresh crustacean and lack of mayo. The Maine Style comes on a buttery bun with just a touch of the ‘naise while the Connecticut is served warm with lemon. Both are covered in paprika and scallions.
Spicy Mayo Ahi Tuna Poke @ East Coast Poke Poke is becoming a “thing” in New York now, but these guys – now in their 3rd year – were ahead of the curve. The spicy mayo on fresh hunks of tuna with a cool seaweed base is the perfect Smogasbite on a hot summer day.
Mocha w/ Almonds , Hibiscus & Dulce de Leche w/ Almonds Doughnuts @ Dough* Dough may be the closest we have to doughnut perfection in NYC. Their massive glazed doughnuts are airy enough they would almost work as a pillow if it weren’t for the fact they won’t last more than a few seconds near your face. If you want choclatey, the dark chocolate mocha w/ almonds nails it down perfectly. For the fruit lover, hibiscus topped with dried cherries is their signature with good reason. The dulce de leche did not having quite enough of that South American caramel flavor coming through but its still pretty damn tasty.
Salted Chocolate Chip Vanilla Sandwich @ Ovenly* I’m not a big sweets guy but this cookie is amazing, even though it was a little dry from being out all day. Fresh out of the oven I’m guessing this is an easy 3. And I was shocked to recently learn it’s vegan.
Goodwich @ The Good Batch I’m a longtime fan of the chipwich and my ability to turn down ice cream stuffed between two cookies is severely limited. This one uses a oat chocolate chunk cookie with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of fudge. The only downside is you need to let the cookie soften for a while before eating.
Original Jianbing @ Jianbing Company New in 2016 is this Chinese crepe filled with egg, cracker, 13 sauce, scallions, cilantro, homemade chili sauce. So as you can see, there’s a lot going on in that crispy little crepe. The crunch combined with the tangy, hoison-like 13 sauce and chili sauce is something that needs to be experienced. If you have any spice tolerance, get it hot (it’s not that hot).
Cholander Sammie @ Kimchi Smoke This behemoth is well worth the $14 price tag. Smoked pork shoulder comes smothered in cheese, kimchi and their signature Fatboy BCS sauce. It’s the best way to ensure you leave Smorgasburg in a food coma.
Short Rib Nachos and Spicy Tuna & Short Rib Tacos @ Takumi Taco* The taco fusion craze takes on Japan with excellent results. What’s not to love about big hunks of tuna in spicy mayo and avocado? Nothing. The crispy gyoza taco shell makes it a little more Japanese and is perfect wrapper. The short rib is meaty and tender and great with wasabi crema. But it makes an even better topping for their nachos.
Pea + Potato Patty Bun @ VanPakistan Fatima Ali (a winner of Chopped Season 12) has got this Pakastani fusion sandwich nailed. It’s vegetarian with just the right amount of kick. It normally comes wrapped in an egg but I had to pass on it due to an allergy.
Channa Masala Sandwich @ Bombay Sandwich Co.* Indian style chickpeas with chutney on a fresh ciabatta it’s packed with a lot of flavor and probably my favorite vegan sandwich in town. Check out their store on W 27th street for a wider selection of excellent vegetarian sandwiches.
Carne Asada Burrito @ Best Buds Burritos I’ve gotta give these guys credit for being the first in NY to execute on the stoner fantasy of french fry filled burrito. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard California style burrito with crema, cheese and cilantro.
Slow Roasted Pork Belly Paratha Taco @ Goa Taco I like the paratha and the pork belly, but I would have liked something a little more Indian than the somewhat uninspired cilantro / chipotle mayo combo.
Stuffed Kimchi Pancake & Mungbean Pancake @ Kimchi Cooks The stuffed kimchi pancake contains beef, onions, ricotta and their signature kimchi which is a perfect mix of tang and spice. The pancacke consists of mung beans, kimchi and scallions (and no eggs!) it makes for a spicy, tangy and reasonably healthy Smorgasburg snack.
Banh Cuon w/ Tofu, Mushroom & Carrots @ Bep Wrapped in a thicker rice paper than summer rolls and loaded with flavor this is one of the best Vietnamese rolls I’ve had. Add some hoison sauce for optimal eating pleasure.
Kim’s Chi Banh Mi @ Monk’s Meats In the battle of soy based meat substitutes, seitan always beats tofu. Hear it’s seared and covered in enough Vietnamese spices you really don’t miss the meat. The kim chi is also damn good and belongs on more sandwiches.
Elote (Mexican Corn) & Spicy Mango One thing Smorgasburg generally lacks is light options. I’m not sure a piece of corn smothered in butter and cheese counts, but at least it’s a vegetable. And it’s delicious so who cares. The spicy mango may not pack the same punch but it’s certainly healthier and refreshing on a hot summer day.
Toro Arepa @ Palenque One of the first places I’ve seen to offer “healthy” apreas – this is a multigrain arepa topped with beef, cheese and of course avocado. They also offer traditional and quinoa based arepas. This 4″ size is perfect for a few bites when coming doing a Smorgasburg tasting.
Mushrooms w/ Faux Gras @ The Regal Vegan My other top vegan pick comes with truffle oil covered mushrooms over a nutty faux gras spread on bakery fresh bread. If you like those things, this is a great bruschetta-type start to your day at the ‘burg.
Slow Cooked Red Chile Chicken Sopapilla @ Zia Green Chile Company The stewed chicken has a good tangy chili flavor but paired with an empanada-like dough is a little hearty for the warmer months that Smorgasburg primarily entails. I did really enjoy the hatch green chile sauce and will give it another go come Fall.
Jamon Bite @ Lolitas Fact: Jamon iberico is one of the world’s greatest hams. And I’ve had some amazing sandwiches made from it in Spain. Unfortunately here it’s undone by a substandard soft white bread. This should be an easy upgrade and I look forward to trying it again if they do.
* Indicates vendor also has a permanent location
Saturdays at East River State Park, Williamsburg
Sundays at Breeze Hill, Prospect Park