One of my absolute favorite things about North Carolina is our State Fair, and I have to admit that one of my favorite things about the State Fair is the food. It’s delicious, but it’s greasy, questionable in origin, and basically all tastes the same. If only there were a place with those same rows of food vendors, but they would sell tasty, diverse ethnic food made from local ingredients… add a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline over the East River, and you’ve got the Smorgasburg Market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Smorgasburg calls itself “a Brooklyn flea food market,” but that description really doesn’t do this place justice. It’s in Williamsburg on the waterfront in an empty lot that’s about half a block long, at the East River Ferry North Williamsburg terminal. Smorgasburg is one of the many markets under the umbrella of the Brooklyn Flea (founded 2008), which organizes markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan all year long. Smorgasburg has 75-100 vendors every Saturday from 11am-6pm, all food or food-related items.
|The Manhattan skyline over the East River taken at Smorgasburg.|
I went to Smorgasburg the first time because one of the vendors is the Brooklyn Grange, the largest rooftop farm in NYC and as far as I know, the largest apiary in the city too. Along with bundles of fresh greens and spices, iced tea and salads made from the greens, they were selling honey! 4 oz. jars for $10, 9 oz. jars for $18, and best of all, 8 oz. of comb for $15. I already knew about the comb because they posted about it on their Facebook page (saying they had a very limited amount) so I picked some up as soon as I got there.
The people at the Grange stand were friendly and knowledgeable about their products, and it didn’t hurt that their stall was one of the first you pass when you walk in. I got the impression they all had intimate experience in growing the food or harvesting the honey they were selling, which is a great example of how this new movement of urban farmers is re-forging the connection that’s been lost between the farm and the consumers.
|The Brooklyn Grange stand, during a relatively quiet moment.|
|I bet they sold a lot of iced tea that day (so hot!)|
I came back to Smorgasburg two more times before I left Brooklyn, and here’s a list of the things I ate to give you a sense of the diversity: mini turtle cheesecake, a spicy Thai noodle salad, fresh-squeezed cherimoya juice (a creamy South American fruit), ice cream sandwich made by a local cookie bakery, and Indian curry pancakes with goat cheese and figs baked in. On the last visit I brought my mom and her husband who were visiting, and we took a ride on the East River Ferry.
|How could we resist taking a ride?|
My biggest impression of Smorgasburg is that if people are given the chance, they will be passionate about their food. All three Saturdays I went were during that brutal early July heat wave, but the market was packed each time, especially around 2-4pm. People were standing in lines at least 50 long for some home-made soda or barbecue brisket. The food there tastes good and makes you feel good, because you know what’s in it and where it comes from. It also supports local business and agriculture. A “flea food market” like Smorgasburg could exist anywhere that there’s enough vendors, and people will welcome it with open arms. People will be passionate about their food, and if they’re not already, they should spend an afternoon at Smorgasburg.