After hunkering down in Industry City for the winter, the hugely popular Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg will launch their ninth and sixth outdoor seasons (respectively) this coming weekend, with openings on Saturday in Fort Greene and Williamsburg, and Sunday in DUMBO (new location!) and, returning for the second year, at Breeze Hill in Prospect Park. More than a million people attended the markets in 2015, and there's no reason to think that this summer's numbers won't surpass that total.
All winter the Smorgasburg crew has been auditioning new vendors for the 2016 markets, a process which has become a pretty enormous undertaking; they now receive some 350 applicants, of which about 70 are invited to come in and give a "tasting" of their wares. And of those finalists, only 25 new vendors were given a spot to join the regulars in the Smorg '16 lineup.
Yesterday evening at Berg'n, the beer hall in Crown Heights also owned by Team Flea, most of the new vendors were on hand for a press preview, giving away samples of what they'll be slinging starting this weekend. I managed to try at least a little something from everyone (and good deal more than that from certain favorites), and while it was all good, I obviously enjoyed some dishes more than others. Here's a look at a few of the highlights from my ridiculously generous feast:
• The Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwich by 2nd City Beef. This was spectacular, the chopped beef served on a roll with melted provolone, sweet and spicy giardiniera, and several splashes of intense jus. If these Chicago boys can pull this off consistently all summer, this is potentially a sandwich for the ages.
• Big Mozz Mozzarella Sticks. It's going to a big summer for Big Mozz. Not only are they serving these wonderful fried snacks—the cheese, dipping sauce, and seasoned breading is all handmade, with considerable skill and lots of love—they've also taken over the entire Smorgasburg pizza business. Look for their brand new portable pizza oven and 12-seat "dining bar" at each location.
• The Doner Kebab, an apparent Berlin street food staple made by a company called Kotti. This monster sandwich includes juicy, marinated chicken roasted on a spit, a salad's-worth of vegetables (lettuce and tomato, sure, but also corn and lima beans), a soft, salty cheese, all bursting from a nice chewy focaccia. This is a full meal by itself, and it is excellent.
• The strangest, most simple and beautiful new dish is definitely the Raindrop Cake, which is literally just a mound of water, barely solidified with a bit of agar. You get a dusting of Kinako (roasted soy flour, which is weird stuff in and of itself) on the left of your Drop, a puddle of Kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) to the right, and the best Japanese-minimalist Instagram opportunity of the day.
• The Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, and Chicken Thigh skewers from Yakitori Tatsu. Simply prepared—the heart just gets a bit of salt; the liver and thigh a light glaze of sauce—and perfectly cooked, these were just three of the many fine-looking offerings from this Japanese outfit.
• Fedoroff's South Philly Cheesesteak, wiz wit, of course. This is the real deal. And Fedoroff's Roast Pork and Rabe sandwich is maybe even better.
Other newbies worth seeking out this weekend: the Espresso Banana Pudding at #Baonanas; the Epic Hero, a full English Breakfast (blood pudding, bacon, mushroom, beans, eggs, etc.) in sandwich format, from Heros and Villains; the Mushroom Coffee by Four Sigmatic, which sounds a bit like hippie nonsense, but is actually really different and good; and the first-rate cookies at Rubyzaar Baked, all of which are named after classic rock jams (the Midnight Train to Georgia, for example, features peaches, pecans, dark chocolate and maple). Rubyzaar also serves righteous Egg Creams.
And Wowfulls, home of the magnificent Hong King Egg Waffle Ice Cream treats, is making the leap from Industry City to both Smorgasburg venues all summer long. Expect long-ass lines for these oh-so-photogenic sweet treats.
Smorgasburg will be open starting this weekend in Williamsburg on Saturday and Prospect Park on Sunday. The Brooklyn Flea will be in Fort Greene on Saturday, and DUMBO on Sunday.