When this spell of September rain and gloom finally lifts and you're ready for some of that sweet autumnal al fresco action, know that Urbanspace has kicked off its fall season with the opening of Mad. Sq. Eats, the lively outdoor food market located just north of the Flatiron Building. The smaller Urbanspace Garment District (which is basically in Times Square) follows on September 17th, and Broadway Bites in Herald Square gets started on the 24th.

All three markets have a lot to offer in the way of variety, pleasant surroundings, friendly people, the opportunity to support small business owners busting their ass out there, and of course some fine food. But Mad. Sq. Eats is kind of the star of the Urbanspace market show. And while the food vendors are the same as you might have seen in the spring (with one exciting exception) many have new menu items worth trying. Here's a look at a few personal highlights from a recent visit.

  • There's a competition all season among three new vendors, one at each of the fall markets, and the winner gets three months free rent within Urbanspace's 570 Lexington food hall. At Mad. Sq. Eats, the tough-to-beat contender is chef Tristan Chin-Fatt's Destination Dumplings which serves, among things like Noodles and Steam Baos, five varieties of its namesake dish. I wolfed down an eight-pack of excellent Korean Beef and Classic Pork and Chive dumplings and will definitely be back for more. The entrants at Garment District and Broadway Bites are Sonya Samuel's Bacchanal Sauce and Jumoke Jackson's Soul-full Sandwiches, respectively. You can vote online and subsequently get a ton of promotional emails, probably, or just eat and enjoy.
  • The incomparable Ice & Vice is back at the Flatiron again, and as usual they've resurrected a couple of classic flavors for the occasion: Poolside (lemon verbana with blackberry jam) and Peach Pit (peach swirl with vanilla sugar cookie). Equally exciting is the all-new Movie Night Pie, based on their best flavor last season on East Broadway and featuring popcorn ice cream in a graham cracker crust with caramel popcorn and crushed whoppers on top. It's a blockbuster!
  • Mayhem Sandwiches makes solid sandwiches to be sure, but it's their Tater Tots, named (by me) to be one of the 11 Best In NYC, that keep me coming to this booth each market. In addition to a straight-up version and the superb Loaded Tots, there's three new varieties this fall, including a Pulled Pork doused in dragon sauce, and Churro Tots, for which the fried potato have been covered in cinnamon sugar, dulce de leche, and chocolate dust, and is sure to cause controversy at your table.

Other good meals, snacks, and treats at Mad. Sq. Eats include the amply-stuffed Cheesesteaks at the Truffelist, Lobster Rolls from Burger and Lobster (in a nicely redesigned booth!), the Duck Confit Fries at Duck Season, Korilla's build-your-own Korean Rice Bowls, the Speckenwolf pie at Roberta's pizza, and the spiked-with-booze juices at Renegade Lemonade. But there are 25 vendors in all, and most have impressively lengthy menus, so really there's no chance you're not going to find something you feel like eating here.

Mad. Sq. Eats runs from now through October 5, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; Garment District will open from September 17 through October 26, and from 11 to 8 p.m. every day; and the Broadway Bites dates are September 24 through November 2, also from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.