After two pandemic-truncated seasons, the hugely popular food market Smorgasburg is starting right on time again this year, with a full slate of vendors setting up shop on Fridays at the World Trade Center, Saturdays in Jersey City, and Sundays at Breeze Hill in Prospect Park. The largest Smorgasburg, located in Williamsburg, is scheduled to open in June, once construction in Marsha P. Johnson State Park is completed.
"It feels really, really good to be out here, our first April opening day in three years," Eric Demby, the co-founder of Smorgasburg, told Gothamist on Friday. "It's been a long-ass three years. We're all really relying on this outdoor season of 2022, and though we all want to move past the pandemic there's also an understanding that maybe we're never really moving past it. So it's no longer about getting back to where we were, but at least we can bring the joy back into what we do."
The feast begins each weekend at the Oculus at the World Trade Center, where twenty vendors will be slinging their goods every Friday through October, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Even in the howling wind down there on opening day — which sent tents flying, snuffed out propane grills, and was disruptive enough to force several vendors to pack up early — there were still steady lines at the booths that could stay open.
There are no newbies here to start the season, but the roster is packed with Smorgasburg all-stars, led by the amazing arepas (and new nachos!) at Vayálo! Cocina, Federoff's and their mighty South Philly Cheesesteaks and Roast Pork sandwiches, the ultra-plump dumplings of Mao's Bao, and the brisket, carne asada, and pulled pork tacos at Carlitos.
Yes, it's pretty meaty down here -- other highlights include Parish Po' Boys (don't sleep on their Crawfish Mac and Cheese), Bark Barbecue, the skewers at D'Abruzzo, the smashed burgers at Paper Plate, and the fried bird at Rooster Boy--but many booths also offer vegan options, such as the Black Bean and Sweet Pepper Empanadas at Nada's NYC.
And for something sweet, the mad ice-cream geniuses at Bona Bona are on hand, blow-torching their signature Italian meringue topping on flavors like Nutella S'Mores, Frosted Animal Cracker, and Italian Rainbow Cookie. By the way, the adjacent Oculus Beer Garden is now open every day, weather permitting, through the summer, so you can carry your food and sit at their tables if you also want to down a few brews.
The big Saturday Williamsburg market, featuring more than 70 vendors, lots of picnic tables, and those great East River views, is delayed until June due to construction work in the park, but the Jersey City Smorg, now entering its second season on the waterfront over there, complete with its own beer garden, is just a quick PATH train ride away.
Plus one of the all-time Smorgasburg greats is in Jersey, Mo Rahmita's superb Afghan food operation Nansense, starring his amazing Mantu, those beef and onion dumplings that arrive in a puddle of garlic yogurt. The vegan Hot and Sour Chickpeas here are pretty rad too. Other good reasons to cross state lines: Korean hot dogs at Oh K Dog, Filipino street food at So Sarap, and some seriously colorful doughnuts from Knead From Love.
Sunday Smorgasburg means picnicking in Prospect Park and, this year, more than a dozen new vendors among the 50 or so lining the paths of Breeze Hill. Jataun & Shelly Flash, the mother-daughter team from East New York, are bringing their Jamaican tacos from 2 Girls Cookshop to the party; Lyana Blount, aka the Black Rican Vegan, is coming down from the Bronx with her vegan versions of Puerto Rican classics; and Kert Lasdoce, Aaron Ortega, and Rivy-Major Oponda will be in from Sunnyside with their Filipino mochi-based dessert at The Boiis Co.
Other Prospect Park noobs include the self-explanatory Birria LES, Jamaican ginger and coconut beverages at Omiel Novado Morgan's Rolle Drinks, Will Coleman's "soulful dishes inspired by the Black American experience" at Sweet Reunion, and those popular burgers from the Smashed NYC team of the Lower East Side. There will be plenty of old favorites here as well: Destination Dumplings, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Thai Bird, Home Frite, Monk's Meats, Duck Season, and Big Mozz among them.
"One thing interesting about last year was that Smorgasburg kind of returned to being a local thing, like it was back in the 20teens," said Demby. "I feel like a lot of people think of Smorgasburg a certain way, maybe based on the last time they were there five years ago, and I think they would be pleasantly surprised by the direction it's taken. It feels different. There's a lot of really great energy in the market now that feels a little more homegrown, and Brooklyn-y, and a little less 'for the 'gram.'"
Smorgasburg will be at Prospect Park every Sunday from now through October, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Breeze Hill near Lincoln Road in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. The World Trade Center Smorg, at Fulton and Church Streets, runs every Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the Jersey City market is located at Harborside, near Hudson Street, and is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (smorgasburg.com)