One of the reasons I moved to New York was to eat my way through the entire city. Since location is everything, I found an apartment near the waterfront in Williamsburg where the food circus known as Smorgasburg sets up shop every weekend. When I open my blinds on a Saturday morning, my waistline weeps but my stomach sings.
For six months, I have diligently “researched” each food stand to find the crème de la crème. There have been the Smorgasmic moments that have caused passers-by to utter, “I’ll have what’s she’s having.” But I’ve also endured mouthfuls of disappointment (I’m looking at you Cemita’s stand with your watery, bone soup). You can figure out the popular places by the foodie fever around them though a long line does not necessarily indicate good food. For instance, Ramen Burger… the gimmick is the buns. They are actually compressed ramen noodles shaped like buns with a burger sandwiched between. Looks fun but tastewise, it’s just plain boring. Beware the food whose bark is louder than it’s bite!
Brooklyn visitors, you only get one chance at this, two if you own stretchy trousers. So let me save you the tears and the tantrums as I divulge the secrets of Smorgasburg. In no particular order:
1. BeeHive Oven OR Bruffin
I’ll head straight to one of these guys for my “starter”. BeeHive has warm, fluffy, savory and sweet biscuits (us Brits would call it a scone) topped with delights such as brown butter and plum ginger jam. And then Bruffins are like buttery croissants in muffin form with fillings such as chorizo and manchego (The Spanish) and buffalo chicken and blue cheese (The American). I have an inkling the Bruffins are more calorific so it’s best you share one. Then share a biscuit.
2. Bitesize Kitchen
The softest steamed buns filled with either Braised Duck, Red Coconut Chicken Curry or Braised Pork Belly. Quit deciding and get all three.
3. Bolivian Llama Party
The love that goes in to creating their masterpiece Chola sandwiches just adds to the taste. No Llamas involved, just triple pulled pork (that’s pork, crackling and bacon!) sprinkled with numerous toppings including Bolivian cheese, pickles and salsa.
4. Mighty Quinn’s
BBQ brisket in a brioche bun. Say no more. Except I will say more… you generally can’t go wrong if you see brisket on any Smorgasburg menu, but Quinns are king.
There are a few Mexican stalls but this is top of the tacos. Go for the Carnitas (pulled pork) and the Stewed Chicken. The flavours are zingy and fresh and you will need at least three to feel content.
6. Milk Truck
The grilled cheese sandwiches are tasty but it’s the mac n cheese I come for. You can throw whatever ever you like in it (always bacon) and then they top it with homemade rosemary breadcrumbs. Opt for large size as you will feel sad when the small one is over too quickly.
7. Dun-well Doughnuts OR Dough
These two doughnut stands compete for my attention every time so you be the judge. Dun-Well nearly won me over with their Sweet Butter Popcorn flavour but then I thought of all the happy times I’d had with Dough’s Cafe Au Lait. These are the trials we face in Brooklyn.
8. The Good Batch
Whoever invented the Ice-cream Sandwich should be commemorated on the dollar bill. And these guys do it so right with their S’More. That’s chocolate ice-cream smothered with soft meringue, a drizzle of caramel milk chocolate and sandwiched between two cinnamon graham cookies. Thankfully, I still have more combinations to research.
9. Gooey & Co.
Just $1.75 for a small square of Gooey Butter Cake heaven. Don’t ask me the specifics on this St Louis classic but it’s essentially cake topped with some kind of baked, buttery, buttermilky, cream cheese and sprinkled with icing sugar. Such a sweet little tastebomb.
10. Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
Those yanks love a cooling glass of Arnold Palmer but it’s ten times more refreshing in slush puppy form. It’s natural so it must be good for you, right?
My final word of advice: do your food surveillance from 11.30am. At noon, pounce on your prey! Between 1-4pm, the market becomes unpleasantly busy. It’s at this point you should get yourself a post-gluttony brewsky from the outdoor bar and soak in that glorious Manhattan skyline. Who knows, you could be ready for round-two by 4pm.
Smorgasburg is open 11am-6pm. Every Saturday, East River Park in Williamsburg. Every Sunday, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5 in DUMBO.