Marco Shalma's MASC Hospitality Group is running on all cylinders these days, with the Uptown Night Market in full swing, the huge Harlem Bazaar coming to 125th Street later this month, and various concession gigs popping up around the city (they ran food and beverage for the Botanical Gardens' Orchid Evenings, for example). But last Saturday, Shalma and his team went back to where it all began five years ago with the joyous return of the Bronx Night Market.
"It's so exciting to be back, and we want to keep getting bigger and better here," Shalma told Gothamist around 30 minutes into the opening-day festivities. "Because even though we're spreading out, to bring the love and joy in what we do to the rest of the city, we need to show how we keep supporting Bronx culture, how we keep supporting the Bronx community. This is what started it, and no matter where we go, we're still from the Bronx."
The Bronx Night Market, which actually happens during the day, will take over Fordham Plaza on the last Saturday of every month from now through November. More than 60 vendors were on hand for the season opener last weekend, plus a full slate of performers and DJs on two stages, and a huge crowd turned out, ready to eat, ready to dance, ready to party.
Plenty of familiar favorites were on hand, both from past years here and from the sister market under the arches of Harlem, including the Bronx Burger crew slinging those smashburgers, Treat Yourself firing up their jerk chicken, Hangry Dog serving their irresistibly Instagrammable fried cheese-pulls, Arnie and Ebony rolling up in their soul food truck, and Rellenos filling their two-bite tostone cups with all sorts of Latin-inspired delights.
More pick hits among the MASC Hospitality veterans: Janae Bullock's gooey slabs of chewy pasta at Fried Lasagna Mama, Rach Sabron's terrific Filipino lechon at Patok by Rach, Mexican sausage sandwiches at Sebastian Palafox's Perros Locos, and Britney Moss's sweet and satisfying pastries at Cupcake Me!. Vegan and/or gluten-free dessert desirers should check out Silvia Vidova's cakes at Culiraw.
All of the above serve first-rate festival food, but for the most part I ate my way through all the Bronx Night Market newbies on opening day. The crackling, fiery, fried Bajan Fishcakes at Saundra Crews's beachy-looking Sassy's Fishcakes tent were excellent, probably the best thing I had all day. A close second: Natalie Butler's rich and creamy Buffalo Chicken Mac at the Bites By Buts booth. Next time I'm getting her Banana Bread Pudding, too.
Other newbies of note here include Annalee Schlossberg's Bel-Fries, which you may have had at her lively Ludlow Street spot, here served all crisp in a cone with a handy little dip cup jutting out from the side. And New Jersey pizza legend Tony Boloney's pulled up in a truck serving slices and subs.
It's not all about eating, either. The Bronx Night Market also hosts around 20 merchants, artisans and designers each month, the majority of which, like all the vendors here, "classify themselves as micro-, small-, POC-, immigrant-, LGBTQIA+-, and female-owned businesses," according to a MASC representative.
The hoodies and t-shirts at Sherifa Gayle's black N ugly remain a personal favorite, but two other booths deserve a special shout as well: Germaine and Renatta Owens's Be the People, where you'll find the couple's positive messaging ("Good Humans Still Exist," for example) on quality apparel; and For the Culture NY, owned by fourth-grade teacher Doris Galarza, who started her clothing and accessory line as a counterpoint to the superficial, often overly sexualized stereotypes she saw bombarding her students. "Latinas! You Have the Power to Change the World! Believe In Yourself!" reads a typical For the Culture product.
The Bronx Night Market runs on the last Saturday of every month through November — the next one is on May 28 — and is open from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.