The return of Smorgasburg is as sure a sign of spring as crocuses poking from the ground. And the season officially kicks off this weekend at a duo of locations (East River State Park on Saturday and Prospect Park on Sunday) as well as with a new school of vendors, all angling to become the next People’s Pops, Yuji Ramen or Mighty Quinn’s. So steel your stomachs and stuff your wallets, for lamb gyro dumplings, churro ice cream sandwiches and fried chicken bao from a member of Mobb Deep.
Baked Cheese Haus
Let the effluvious scent of raclette lure you to this Swiss Alps-inspired stand, where a duo of Wisconsin cheesemakers scrape wheels of molten dairy onto crusted baguettes, layered with ham and cornichons.
The tradition of Haitian culture is to cook better than one’s mother-in-law, in order to keep your husband at home. We can’t imagine chef Rose Michel is having trouble in that department, if her competitive arsenal includes pumpkin “freedom” soup, deep-fried pork belly, and mushroom rice.
These slim, handmade wheat flour tortilla torpedoes—coiled around a scant layer of refried beans and chicken chile stew—have little in common with the rice-bloated Chipotle cannons most of us have come to know.
It’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a patty-slinger at Smorgasburg since Ramen Burger. But instead of gimmicks, this stand will likely draw crowds through sheer simplicity, curtailing toppings to American cheese and mustard, and eschewing dried noodle cakes for good old Martin’s buns.
Albert Johnson (AKA Prodigy from Mobb Deep) has converted culinary skills borne of a three-year prison sentence into an Eddie Huang-endorsed cookbook, as well as this collaborative venture with Baohaus, specializing in curried brothless ramen and BBQ chili pie.
While they’re certainly worth a trip to Smorgasburg, the “destination” moniker refers to the dumpling’s globetrotting fillings, such as jerk chicken with pineapple salsa, and lamb gyro topped with yuzu tzatziki.
This sugared donut outfit has expanded its reach beyond Manhattan’s holiday markets for a summertime residency in Brooklyn, which is why they’ve smartly broadened their repertoire as well, to include horchata and peanut butter ice cream sandwiches.
Expect to find scores of Smorgasburger’s sucking oranges and dragonfruit straight from a straw (they’ve been hollowed, juiced through their skins, and flavored with extras like agave and ginger juice).
Proceeds support the owner’s hometown rice farm—only one reason to purchase a paper boat of ground pork, watermelon radish, baby eggplants, roasted peanuts, fermented fish paste, and the lemongrass relish called kreung.
Ministry of Kaapi
This traditional South Indian filter coffee (made by mixing boiled and frothed milk with a concentrate called decoction) will become your cold brew alternative.
If poke and ceviche can stand up to the sun-exposed stretch of East River-adjacent real estate, why not coarsely-chopped pebbles of raw, mustard and cornichon-mixed beef?
Leftover Italian spaghetti pie is geared towards the Instagram set, by being molded into palm-sized, hand-held donuts (a reliable muse for gastronomic innovation).
Roll Play Viet Noms
Select either classic summer rolls, swollen with herbs, veggies and turmeric and ginger-marinated chicken or beef, or the non-traditional namchos, based on a bed of crunchy shrimp chips.
Rutte’s Dutch Waffles
Stroopwaffel cookies are griddled, pressed, sliced, and filled with caramel syrup on the spot.
Strange Flavor Burger Shack
The Strange Flavor team works magic in their miniscule pop-up kitchen at The Johnson’s in Bushwhick. So expect them to go all out in their palatial-in-comparison Smorgasburg digs, lending an enticing Sichuan bent to all-American eats like burgers (glazed with mala, topped with charred cabbage), hot dogs (corn battered, dipped in spicy mayo and togarashi), and brisket sandwiches, slapped between rounds of deep-fried, sesame-seeded bread.
The purple yam informs an array of Filipino snacks and sweets, such as vegan musubi, dragonfruit bowls and healthy halo-halo, featuring fresh fruit, coconut flakes, and scratch-made ube ice cream.
For more info and locations, visit www.smorgasburg.com
Photos by Valery Rizzo