Every Sunday from April through November, at the historic Tobacco Warehouse inside the Brooklyn Bridge Park, hipsters, foodies and tourists alike gather at Smorgasburg. I was told that Smorgasburg was an off-shoot of the Brooklyn Flee but I failed to see any non-food related vendors during my visit (not that this should deter you from going because there is some seriously mind-blowing food vendors in attendance).
There are up to one hundred vendors hawking anything from street food to art on the DUMBO waterfront (according to their website; I don’t feel like there could have been more than fifty-sixty crammed inside the abandon tobacco factory square, but there might have been a part that I couldn’t see/didn’t know about?); being that it was my first time to this open-air market, I didn’t know what to expect. If I had to sum up my feelings though, I’d say that the experience left me overwhelmed, sweaty and full-to-the-point-of-throwing-up … I can’t wait to go back!
What I loved most about this event, was the view of the Brooklyn Bridge/Manhattan Skyline and the pet-friendly aspect of open-air markets— it makes for better people watching! I noticed this time around, most people appeared to have pug companions. On my last visit it was damn near impossible not to trip over a French bulldog, or three, on jaunts through the DUMBO neighbourhood. I hardly saw any of those sweet little faces this time around (not that I mind because pugs have equally adorable faces, it just makes me wonder where those It-dogs of yesteryear have gone to)?
Although there were a lot of choices to choose from, I settled on sampling the doughnuts from Dough and fried chicken from the Buttermilk Channel (thankfully I was with a large group and got to try out bits from their buys too).
The Buttermilk Channel Fried Chicken (BFC) stand offered fresh fried chicken to order. Though the lines were long, it was certainly worth the wait (it is important to note that this outpost’s line-que is much more accessible than their brunch reservation wait times). Ten dollars will buy you two pieces of freshly fried chicken pieces (a thigh and a drumstick), a cheddar waffle and a few homemade pickle slices. The first bite was piping hot— I tasted the metallic tang of blood (my own), succulent chicken juices and sweet batter.
While the chicken was juicy and delicious, I would have preferred the seasoning to be more evenly distributed throughout. I also had major gripes with how the skin kept trying to separate from the meat (this made it difficult to eat) and there were a few spots along the bone that could have used more time in the fryer (it wasn’t raw per say, but there were pink areas that verged on being red). There was a huge selection of sauces available, but it appeared that the fan favourites were honey, hot sauce, and balsamic vinegar glaze— the sever recommend the balsamic (who was I to say no?).
The cheddar waffle was soft and fluffy on the inside, while crisp on the outside— it lacked any cheddar cheese flavour however. Fortunately, the balsamic glaze was able to impart some flavour to the waffle; it was so thick/reduced that the waffle didn’t absorb the glaze immediately and become soggy. Overall, I felt that this was a nice dish … I’m just not sure if BFC was able to win me over completely. This chicken and waffle combination left me feeling “meh” about the whole experience.
Dough makes, what I fondly like to call, Goldilocks doughnuts. These doughnuts were not too sweet, just the right size and not too soft—- but man, are they soft … like, melt in your mouth soft (think Krispy Kreme consistency). The texture of Dough doughnuts are chewy-soft, rather than the bread-y or crumbly texture that most doughnut chains offer up. One doughnut will cost about $3.
My favourite of the bunch was absolutely the chocolate sea salt— I gobbled the entire thing up in a matter of minutes (and in typical bad form, forgot to share). The thick ganache and chunks of salt were the perfect combination to me.
The toasted coconut appeared to be selling out the fastest; while at the back of the line, I kept my fingers crossed that there would be some left by the time I made it to the counter. Golden brown shredded coconut pieces dusted over a sticky, sweet glaze—- fluffy, airy and not too sweet; I could see why it was such a big-seller.
Passion Fruit with cocoa nibs and hibiscus were two new additions to the menu this year. I tried both and was rather disappointed with the passion fruit & cocoa nibs as the nibs felt chalky and the passion fruit much too tart (the bitterness of the cocoa nibs did not help as it amplified the tartness of the glaze tenfold). I also felt that this glaze was the thinnest/most runny of the bunch; it melted all over my hand as I tried to eat it (I’m guessing it melted upon contact with my fingers, rather than the temperature outside). The hibiscus doughnut was my roommate’s favourite. I liked this one too for its tangy and just-sweet-enough glaze. This doughnut tasted authentically fruity as opposed to the typical artificial tropical fruit flavouring used at most chain restaurants.
Although I didn’t see much of the flea aspect of the Brooklyn Flee I didn’t mind, seeing that I prefer to blow all my cash on food vendors anyway. I thought that the selection at Smorgasburg was great: truly unique, varied and tasty. The lines are insanely long however and the restroom situation (a row of port-0-potties outside the square) were less than desirable however. While the food at Smorgasburg certainly can stand on its own in order to draw in the crowds, it’s the breathtaking view that really steals the show.
The glass pavilion you see in the distance is known as Jane’s Carousel, a restored carousel you can ride for two-three minutes for $2. Charming, novel and picturesque. When you’re inside the pavilion overlooking the water, this fantasy setting makes you forget that you’re supposed to be a grown-up in your twenties … and grown-ups don’t squeal with delight over wooden horses in the company of other adults.
It’s hard not to feel awestruck by (almost) everything you see in New York– everything looks like a scene from a movie. I recommend that if you and your mom ever have the chance to come to NYC, to plan to spend a day in DUMBO. Even if you come when Smorgasburg isn’t happening, there is a ton to do and see in this area (like re-enact Gossip Girl scenes! Ha–Kidding). There is a Jacques Torres chocolate shop in this area (I recommend the frozen hot chocolate) and a bunch of quirky shops that appeal to a wide range of interests. Most of all, there is the view. If you come for nothing else, come for the view.