May is inarguably the best month of the year to eat outside, so it’s super handy that Urbanspace just opened two of their big springtime outdoor markets, Mad Sq Eats and Broadway Bites. The concept is the same at both: a busy plaza is filled with dozens of small-business food booths, along with tables and chairs and shade umbrellas providing communal seating. Also, there's alcohol. Urbanspace always signs on high quality vendors and there are plenty of great options at both markets, for all kinds of food moods and degrees of pickiness. Here’s a quick look at each.
Surrounded by the mob scenes of Penn Station, Macy’s, and the Empire State Building, Greeley Square is, let's be honest, not exactly a destination spot for most New Yorkers. Amazingly though, rather than adding to the chaos of the area, the two-block-long Broadway Bites creates an oasis of chill vibes and happy people amid the usual scene of touristy, commercial, and/or commuter madness. There are 29 different vendors here this year, including longtime favorites like Arepa Factory, Boa by Kaya, Latino street-food booth Chiflez, Keizo Shimamoto's Ramen Burger, Indian Project, Stout Sausage and Tots, and Silly Chilly Dumplings, upon which you can add a roasted grasshopper. Three notable sweets round out the options:
- Cryo Cream, which serves up very cool "liquid nitrogen ice cream and cryogenic creations," including an outrageous s'mores-based sundae called the Glampfire. These sort of things can be dismissible gimmicks, but not only is it fun to watch chef Matt Marotta make your dessert here—dramatic blasts of frozen gas clouds are involved—but the pair of chocolate "syrup injectors" make it fun to eat and the all-organic ingredients add up to an Instragrammable dish that also tastes really good.
- First seen at Smorgasburg earlier this season, the insanely rich Big Mozz and Cookie DO collab is also on Broadway, deep frying and powdering up their attractively-presented six-packs of cookie dough for all comers. The booth also sells the incomparable Big Mozz fried cheese sticks and so, really, here's dinner and dessert in one handy location.
- For a much more reasonably-sized treat, hit up the friendly folks at the Mochidoki stand for a delightfully chewy ice cream creation, served on a stick. I tried the Mochi-Charron (salted caramel mochi with a dulce de leche drizzle and a chunk of crackling chicharron on top), and the Pop On the Rocks (passionfruit mochi finished with condensed milk and strawberry Pop Rocks), and both were wholly satisfying.
Broadway Bites is located on Broadway between 32nd and 34th Streets, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through June 15.
MAD SQ EATS
Located in the heart of the tony Flatiron District, the bi-annual Mad Sq Eats more than holds its own amid the area's other attractions, drawing large, happy crowds to eat and drink under their floral Marimekko umbrellas. And if you can't find a table in Worth Square proper, just pop across Fifth Avenue with your food (though not your booze) to the exceedingly pleasant Madison Square Park.
There are 25 different vendors at this spring's edition of the now-venerable market, including The Trufflist and his fungi-infused cheesesteaks; Gotham Poke; pizza by Roberta's; wings and other fowl delights at Duck Season; Russian dumplings at Daa!; quality suds at Top Hops Beer Shop; and stinky raclette sandwiches at newcomer Baked Cheese Haus. But this is what I ate on opening day:
- Ice and Vice, the single best ice cream parlor in all of NYC, is here once again with a jaw-droppingly good lineup featuring remixes of their greatest hits over the past few years. The Pie Felicia, for example, takes peanut butter swirl ice cream, puts it into a pretzel crust, and tops it with Nutella-dipped potato chips. It is pure heaven. On Saturday they also brought back their legendary B&W Sammie, an extremely NYC creation that rolls a disc of Basic B (the greatest vanilla ice cream you'll ever eat) in "everything-bagel" seeds and puts it between two black and white cookies. There are several straight-up scoop flavors available every day as well.
- London-based chain Burger and Lobster has taken over lobster roll duty here, and their "original" is a solid version of that warm-weather staple. The lightly-toasted brioche bun is stuffed with generous amounts of chilled crustacean, with a swipe or two of mayo, a squirt of lemon, and a sprinkling of chives the only accoutrements.
- If you're looking for something hearty and easily shared, head straight for the Jicama stand and get any of their enormous platters of Loaded Nachos. The Steak version held an entree's-worth of tender, grilled, seasoned beef piled onto the thick, crunchy tortilla chips, a bit of crema and cilantro on top.
Mad Sq Eats is located at Worth Square, which is flanked by Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and 25th Streets, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through June 1.