For the offshoot of a flea market, Smorgasburg sure has a way of whetting the appetite. Imagined as a culinary bazaar playing off the food truck craze, Smorgasburg was originally part of the Brooklyn Flea outdoor market before Flea co-founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler gave it a place of its own in 2011. Since then, this weekend festival - what The New York Times once called “The Woodstock of Eating” - has become both Brooklyn tradition and cultural phenomenon.
And festival it is: every Saturday all summer, an estimated 20,000 people descend on the Williamsburg waterfront, seeking nourishment and novelty alike. While many come for hearty bites, Smorgasburg’s runaway success was built on more outrageous fare: Pasta Donuts, Brunch on a Stick, and whatever’s in “Raindrop Cake” have turned “good eatin’” into “too good to be true.” These wild foods definitely make for a colorful experience, but on a 90 degree Saturday, you (and 20,000 of your closest neighbors) won’t have all day to decide which foods vindicate your sunburn.
In short: if you want the colorful experience to stay off your neck, you’ll need a guide.
With your best interests in mind, we sent two of our interns (Alex and Brandon) off to see which foods made the cut. Nursing both sunburns and food comas, here’s their bite-by-bite guide to Smorgasburg:
(Cost: $6, from Pop Pasta)
BRANDON: A spaghetti donut is perhaps the most unique yet daring combination I’ve ever heard of. Even if this turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread it begs the question, but why? That being said I strategically chose the mac & cheese flavor. It was the equivalent of mac & cheese balls but in doughnut form. I am still perplexed on how this is made and how it stayed together but if you’re looking for the great taste of pasta on the go, look no further.
ALEX: I draw the short straw and am soon staring down the barrel of a Red Sauce donut. It’s 90 degrees out, my “donut” is hotter than air, and after 30 seconds of jeering and Snapchats, I take bite #1. It's, uh... not for me. On the Autobahn, a pass this hard is a showing of disrespect. That being said: props for novelty. I may not have loved the pasta donut, but I both bought it and ‘grammed it.
OVERALL: Unique, for better or for worse. Three handheld noodles out of five.
Cost: $10, from @darrenwong
BRANDON: Bad cake is similar to bad pizza, even when it is not the greatest, it’s still pretty good. However, raindrop cake proved me wrong. Imagine eating gelatin that was water flavored and had even less taste than water. I know this doesn’t make much sense but to be honest, neither did this cake so I stand by my example.
ALEX: You know what? I like it. Every part of this feeding process weirds me out, but with brown sugar and syrup, it’s pretty good. Ate, bought, ‘grammed, enjoyed.
OVERALL: Did it for the 'gram. Three carefully-balanced spoonfuls out of five.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Cost: $10, from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
BRANDON: Make sure that when you order it, you ask for the works. I mean … come on, deliciously seasoned and marinated pulled pork on a soft flavorful bun. What more can you ask for?
ALEX: The best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had. Delicious meat, tangy toppings, and a bun so structurally-compromised every juicy bite only dooms it further. I have two options: put the sandwich down, or eat faster and faster before the whole thing implodes. Neither option seems desirable. Mighty Quinn’s, however, is very much so.
OVERALL: A must-try. Five greasy napkins out of five.
Cost: $7, from Brunchstreet
BRANDON: The concept alone caught my attention. It's the two things us New Yorkers love the most: brunch and convenience. Both now living upon a skewer for my enjoyment. Five quail eggs with the option to top it of with bacon, sausage, cheese, pesto, whatever you brunch lovers desire.
ALEX: Interesting. A+ form factor, solid taste, and an iconic Smorgasburg treat. I just can’t help but hear it in Costanza’s voice: “It’s BRUNCH… on a stick!”
OVERALL: Dig it. Four eggs-on-a-stick out of five.
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich
Cost: $7, from Dulcinea Churros
BRANDON: Unfortunately I opted out of trying the churro ice cream sandwich because of how full I was. Yes I regret it, don’t remind me.
ALEX: Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. If you get no other dessert option as Smorgasburg, make it this. Churro “bun,” peanut butter-banana filling, and a spoon you’ll first shun before relying on later: to the lactose intolerant, just bite the bullet.
OVERALL: Love is real. Five combined desserts out of five.
Cost: $10, from Joe’s Juices
BRANDON: Who doesn’t look cool walking through Brooklyn drinking out of an actual pineapple? My point exactly. The only negative was that I drank mine to fast and immediately wanted more but be warned, so did everyone else. That line was pretty crazy.
ALEX: In a vacuum: pure refreshment. In the hour-long line to get one: good but not great. Then, you get out on the water, and there’s sand, and a breeze, and tropical fruits - it’s a vacation with a straw. Just, uh, you know, apply some sunscreen before waiting it out. Learn from my errors.
OVERALL: A sweet finale. Four staycations out of five.