It’s the height of summer in New York.
It’s sunny, warm, and muggy as hell in a hotpot (but not as grossly hot as first led to believe).
The subway is as stinky and steamy as you think, but it’s super efficient, and cost effective enough to make it totally worth the sweat bath. The amount of alcohol I’ve had, I probably should spend a few hours down there sweating it out!
This leg of the trip, I’ve taken a different approach than usual. Taking New York on the fly, with barely any plans. It’s pretty nice to explore the city going on local suggestion, avoiding tourist traps where I can, or exploring on foot willy nilly.
I do know wherever I go, to be on the lookout for food markets and festivals. Turns out my mates were heading to Smorgasburg, right near where I’m staying in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
With high winds, storm and rain forecast I left the house without a hat or sunscreen, sure that I’d be fine in the gloomy and grey skied outdoors without them. What a silly little ginger.
Smorgasburg on a Saturday is located right on the river, with an incredible view across the east river back at the City of Manhattan.
After a lap of the place, it’s clear why folks pack out the place each weekend over the Summer months. There’s a huge variety of food from hundreds of vendors. Anyone will find something to eat here, and would probably never get through all of them in one summer.
Mainly because like every single open air market everywhere, there are crowds.
A friend and I arrived at 11, it wasn’t very busy then but since we were pretty goggle-eyed at the choice and views, we took our time. A rookie move. We should have gone in with a plan and avoided the lines that occurred about an hour later.
We passed stores that had rolled ice-cream, spaghetti donuts, pineapples filled with Thai salad, lots of BBQ meats, meats on a stick and sickly sweet looking cups of lemonade and juice made directly out of the actual fruit.
In our overwhelmed by choice state, we did what any self respecting tourists do. We had a breakfast of freshly shucked oysters from Brooklyn Oyster Party … and beer.
Watching the pro oyster shuckerer* skilfully disembowel the sweet little oysters for us in minutes made me super excited for New Orleans … but I digress.
Enter tourist trap signal 1, $16 for a 1/2 dozen oysters. YEOUCH. I can’t really baulk though, it’s no different to most food markets. You pay a premium to eat food with 40,000 of your closest friends, usually off a stick on a picnic table (if you get there early enough to grab one). It’s the vibe of it really …
Sometime’s you just can’t avoid the tourist traps. I’d found myself smack bang in the middle of one. Between the hours of 12 and 2 that place was teeming with people from all over the place. But I was there with plenty of friends, even more beer and a holiday attitude.
If you’re a long time reader, you know a standard burger, fried chicken or sushi roll isn’t going to pique my interest initially. I was delighted to find that Yakitori Tatsu was offering what they called “rare parts” of neck, tail and knee joint…
Of course I ordered all of them.
Unfortunately due to the large crowds that had amassed by then it took about 20 minutes to get my skewers. Even with the team working that very hot grill so fast and with expert Japanese precision, it was so hard to keep up with the crowd.
You can imagine how tasty those freshly grilled sticks were.
Still hungry, I did what any self respecting famished person would do. I looked for something with a minimal line and fast turnaround.
Enter the Ramen Burger.
Not a stranger to a Ramen Burger myself, I can see how unusual they look to a newcomer’s eye. A bun of noodles, greasy patty, lashings of Shoyu and fried spring onions. Or as those crazy Merican’s call them “scallions”.
It was greasy, tasty and went down perfectly with another pint of beer. By this stage the sun had come out (of course), so I spent most of the time hiding under my flannie like a leper.
With weather changing so much and food like this I could almost move here from Melbourne. Almost.
My take-away from Smorgasburg? Get in early and get out before the crowd, or be sure to grab a picnic table in the beer garden and protect it with your life. Takes heaps of cash and if you’re built like me … a hat and some sunscreen.
NOTE: I’m writing this from SweatShop Cafe in Williamsburg… run by Aussie’s. Thanks for letting me leech off your wifi for a couple of hours guys. Great coffee!
*ERM … whats a pro oyster shuckerer’s actual job title?