It felt a bit like a soft opening in Seward Park yesterday afternoon as the Hester Street Fair kicked off its seventh season on the Lower East Side. "Soft" because several key new food vendors, including En Japanese Brasserie (with their promised fried chicken) and the excellent Scarr's Pizza, were not in attendance.
But no matter! LES locals seemed to be enjoying themselves picnicking in the intermittent sunshine, browsing the various vintage-item and hand-crafted-goods booths, playing some ping-pong. If you're weary of the crushing crowds and non-stop selfies at Smorgasburg, Hester Street is an excellent low(er)-key way to spend a couple of summertime Saturday hours.
And just because some vendors didn't show doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of good things to eat. Gordo's Cantina, for example, had a messy but delicious Gucamaya, which is essentially a chicharron sandwich with chunks of avocado, piles of salsa, and ribbons of crema. The Okonomiyaki Slider at Osaka Grub isn't quite there yet--the "bun" is more mushy than you'd like, and because they were getting slammed they skipped the cheese-melting part of the process--but it has potential.
Flan fans should definitely get one of the varieties at Claudy's Gourmet, a literal mom-and-pop operation out of the Bronx. I had the coffee flan, and it was superb: thick, sweet, and creamy with just the right amount of bite. And all of cute pastries at The Awkward Scone tea-time booth looked good, but I went with the most gimmicky creation, a Bernie doughnut (vanilla glazed with Thai chili, to "feel the burn"), and it was much better than expected. These guys may be cheeky, but it seems like they also really know how to bake.
The organizers, who are new this year, told me there would be several special events throughout the season, including a return of the Ice Cream Social, Indie Record Day, and a mini Grub Street Food Festival.
The Hester Street Fair is located in Seward Park at Essex Street and runs on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m through October 29.