Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn-based summer weekend food market, opened its first West Coast location on Sunday at the Alameda Produce Market in downtown Los Angeles.
It happened to be the first triple-digit-temperature day of the year, and potential blacktop-induced heatstroke be darned, it got crowded. Angelenos are a hardy people, at least when meats on sticks, smothered fries and other culinary delights are promised.
Here’s what you need to know to optimize your visit.
How to hit it: Smorgasburg is open only on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the week, it's still a wholesale produce market. A huge parking garage has been built (enter at Alameda and Bay), though as of opening day it’s definitely not done: The exit signs have nothing to do with reality. Parking is free for two hours. Dogs are not allowed. Humans who aren’t into food are, though. Send them to the center aisle, which is full of furniture, clothes, jewelry and knick knacks. For the rest of us, here’s the important stuff.
Longest lines (aka cooling crowd pleasers):
Amazebowls: Smoothie bowls! Sometimes served in a coconut! They’re good, but you know everyone’s ordering them at least partly for the Instagram likes.
PopdUp: Exotic juices, coffees and teas, served ice-cold in big glass jars you can keep. You know this one’s going to be a slam-dunk all summer.
Jolly Oyster: This Ventura-based shellfish operation has made a good name for itself on two fronts: charming locations and a commitment to sustainability. The oysters come with a choice of spicy or herbal sauces, and little slices of caviar limes adorn every ice-filled paper plate.
Paloma’s Paletas: Brightly colored popsicles served by cheerful people wearing bow ties. Try the pink lemonade or the toasted coconut.
Belly & Snout: The heart of the menu is hot dogs topped with peanut-braised oxtail and pork adobo, as well as grilled cheese with the same Filipino ingredients, paired with white bread and American chese slices. For more traditional Filipino plates, check out Kalan Kitchen, next to the beer garden. (Side note: We’re glad that Filipino food, which has long had a bad or nonexistent reputation in white American food circles, is getting big in LA. We can add it to our “yeah huh, we are sophisticated!” list.)
Red Hook Lobster Pound: One of New York’s more popular lobster-roll vendors is hitting L.A. at peak zeitgeist. (If you want a whole grilled lobster, head across the lot to Lobsterdamus.) It’s also right next to Raindrop Cake — which seems like a recipe for a savory-sweet stampede.
Raindrop Cake: If you liked squirting Jell-O between your teeth as a kid, you’ll find pleasure in this. The cake itself, which has rightfully been compared to a breast implant, doesn’t have much flavor (it is just water and agar), so choose your topping carefully: currently, green tea powder or sugar sauce.
What we’ll come back for when it cools down about 20 degrees:
Porridge + Puffs: The best food is simple stuff made with pristine ingredients, and Minh Phan’s concept proves that — yes, it's porridge, but made with different rices, mixed with fermented sauces and topped with locally foraged and pickled vegetables.
Calo Provisions: Tamales, and pozole, the Mexican hominy stew that Calo Provisions makes with a Japanese-meets–Central American dashi. And a soft-boiled egg, if you like. You wanna check this stew out: see more about it right here.
Good Gravy Bakes: Owner Beth Kellerhals’ Instagram bio reads “The answer is butter. Always,” so we were already huge fans, and these biscuits made us maniacs. (Plus, a design firm in Georgia did all the graphics. You gotta imagine true Southerners wouldn’t work for just any biscuit company.)
Rucker’s Pie: Nicole Rucker may currently be best known for her doughnuts at Cofax, but her talents extend across the whole pastry genre. Here she’ll be focusing on pies. Snag a slice of blackberry/blood orange, Nicole’s current favorite, if you can. Or just take the whole thing to go.