Levitating Noodles & All The Other Things You Should Try At Smorgasburg LA
It's the second-to-last Sunday in April and the sun is beating down on the pavement at the Alameda Produce Market. Yet, the crowds at Smorgasburg LA don't seem to mind. The water-misting tent is consistently busy, but no one hesitates to line up 50 people deep for Shrimp Daddy or Goa Tacos. Mixed into the air with whiffs of churro batter and wood-fired pizza is the music of Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power. A child licks an ice cream cone, her face crimson with tomorrow's sunburn.
Smorgasburg LA (which you'll find there every Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will hit its one year anniversary this June, and the L.A. outpost of Brooklyn's original Smorgasburg is still going strong. "On a typical Sunday, we usually hit between 5,000 to 8,000 people," Zach Brooks, the market manager of Smorgasburg LA, told LAist on a recent Sunday. "We had an ice cream event last year on National Ice Cream Day that hit 12,000 people." And though several thousand people (and food trucks and tables) crammed into a roughly two acre space may seem tight, the event maintains a sense of calm and order.
Smorgasburg keeps its relevancy with a constantly evolving line-up of vendors. As the spring season gets underway, LAist put on its stretchy pants and went to taste what's new at the event.
While a pop-up vendor peddling asian fusion hot dogs sounds quintessentially L.A., AsiaDog is OG Smorgasburg. The crew has been with Smorgasburg since 2008 and its Brooklyn Flea days, and recently relocated to sunny Southern California when founders Steve Porto and Melanie Campbell moved themselves here to start a family. AsiaDog serves up both corn dogs (panko crusted, if you're wondering) and hot dogs. We recommend the Mel And Steve for a sesame-and-cabbage topping that both adds an umami richness and a kick of tang. And how often can you say a hot dog will look great on your Instagram feed?
Shrimp Daddy/Chichi Dango
You'll see plenty of fellow Smorgasburgers walking around with Shrimp Daddy's picturesque pineapple boats before you've finished waiting in line yourself. And what's the draw? A hollowed out pineapple half filled with macaroni salad, spiced pineapple chunks, and buttery-rich fried garlic shrimp. And if you're still craving more, step over to ChiChi Dango, Shrimp Daddy's latest, and grab a heaping mound of Hawaiian shaved ice. The mochi is made fresh and a real fruit puree flavors the ice instead of processed syrups.
Stand Coffee is another vendor with deep Smorgasburg roots. The stall started slinging coffee at the Brooklyn Flea and New York's Smorgasburg before expanding to L.A. Out west, Stand uses beans from Los Angeles-based Take Flight Coffee and Culver City's Bar Nine roasters. Beyond the typical cappuccino and house brew, Stand offers up a seasonal specialty. At LAist's most recent visit, we drank the orange blossom soda. The cardamom and vanilla balance out the sweetness of the soda, and heighten the espresso's nuttier notes.
You might say it's the condensed milk glaze or non-dairy whipped cream that puts Churro Boss over the top. Or maybe it's the guava and strawberry pieces added for brightness. You could say all this as you chew forkful after forkful of this seriously decadent treat, but you'd be wrong. What really sets Churro Boss apart is their batter. The dough is light, crisp, and not too saccharine-sweet. It's turned out on the spot, cut into bite-sized pillows, and served warm. And once that last piece is gone, you'll think it was all over much too quick.
Showing up to Smorgasburg after a long night of partying? Looking for something restorative? Try drinking a cup of bone broth. We know, we didn't expect that either. According to Brothecary, a cup of broth is the perfect way to detox and nurse a hangover, as well as rehydrate without all the sugars of a cold-pressed juice. And if you're looking for something with a bit more substance to it, order up a pork xiao long bao.
Workaholic debuted their flying japchae dish this month, and the result is definitely head-turning. The tangy-sweet japchae (Korean glass noodles) seem to levitate above a cup of chewy meat, julienned veggies, and garlic chips all tossed in a delicious gochujang sauce. And be ready for every single person who passes to ask you, "where did you get that?" If it's something a bit more traditional (and introverted) you're looking for, Workaholic also has a full range of dumplings, including several vegan options. We recommend the fragrant beef bulgogi dumpling. The meat is marinated in a soy and fruit sauce, and potato noodles add balance to the filling.
Porchetta Republic only serves one thing: a porchetta sandwich. The meat is sourced from Harvey's Guss Meats off Fairfax before it's seasoned and cured by the Porchetta Republica guys. The sandwich is prepared on Boulart bread (flown in fresh from Canada), and topped with sundried tomatoes, and a parsley pesto that cuts through the weight of the meat with a sharp, fresh flavor. "We started making sandwiches for our friends," Thomas, one of Porchetta Republic's founders told LAist. "Soon, we were making 400 sandwiches." Porchetta Republic is looking at locations for a brick-and-mortar store to open sometime next year.
Yellow Business specializes in a brand of egg waffle cone traditionally found in Hong Kong. The varying textures of the cone (gooey on the inside, crisp on the outside) keeps it especially malleable. A recent addition has been the black charcoal cone. "The cones are grilled on charcoal, so the idea came from there," Henry Tsang, co-owner of Yellow Business told LAist. Sergio Nunes Chang, fellow co-owner, adds that Yellow Business wanted something different, something with color. The black charcoal cone debuted a few weeks ago, and has already become the most popular item on the menu. Pair with a scoop of matcha green tea ice cream for a particularly exotic combination.
The Jolly Oyster
One thing is immediately clear about Mark Reynolds (co-founder of The Jolly Oyster with Mark Venus) upon first meeting him: you're talking with a master. As we sample plates of seafood, Mark dives into a dizzying tale of sustainable farming, quality, and why Baja California has the best oysters in the world (a conclusion he and his partner have settled on after scouring the globe for two years, looking for the best—"the waters there are cool and unpolluted"). The Jolly Oyster serves up a variety of oysters along with scallop ceviche and Santa Barbara uni. "There are plenty of clever chefs here," Reynolds continues, motioning at the stalls all around. "We're just trying to walk naked; the uni is live, the scallops are diver-caught." And he's right: what the Oyster offers is a refreshing sanctuary at Smorgasburg LA that relies not on novelty or a elevated technique, but on the simplicity and quality of nature itself.