Co-founded in the summer 2017 by Marco Shalma, the Bronx Night Market had been serving up excellent food and a party-like vibe until the pandemic canceled the fun last spring. Shalma and his team made a brief go of it late last fall, but with cases climbing again and the weather getting cold, it wasn’t the same at Fordham Plaza.
Last Saturday, though, marked the start of a new era for the popular market, with a festive spirit once again in the air, and pandemic protocols in place–timed reservations for capacity limits and contact tracing, masks required, distanced tables, temperature checks at the gate.
Shalma told Gothamist on (re)opening day, “it’s just an amazing experience and feeling to be doing this again after last year’s lockdown. We’re still in the pandemic, and we’ll make sure that we keep the public safe, but it feels really good to see our fellow Bronxites out here today.”
It felt great to be there too, especially with so much good food being served up. And because of capacity restrictions, even though every time slot the entire day was sold out, you never had to wait on line for anything. Prices are all kept low, too, so it was easy to try a variety of offerings.
Every Saturday the Bronx Night Market will feature about 20 different vendors, and this first time around was filled with stars. The best thing I ate was practically the entire menu from an excellent newish outfit called 2 Belize Girls, whose homemade, fried-to-order tortillas come stuffed with fish as Panades, smeared with delicious coconut refried beans as Garnaches, or piled high with shredded chicken as Salbutes. Their Habanero Chicken Slider was pretty fantastic as well. Someone give these folks a storefront!
The two-bite Tostones at the Rellenos booth were packed with flavor, particularly the well-seasoned Picadillo and the Pernil with garlic sauce. And the spiraling spud from Twisted Potato was a satisfying fried snack. You may know the latter from the Queens Night Market, and there were at least two other vendors from that market’s Rockefeller Center outpost last summer now up in the Bronx — the very good Treat Yourself, specializing in jerk chicken, and The Fried Kitchen, purveyors of crazy chicken-and-waffle sandwiches.
Other savory selections included lobster rolls and sliders from Downeast Lobstah, skewers from Yakitori Tatsu, smash bacon burgers from BX Burger, Caribbean-inspired tacos from Wah Gwaan, fat sausage sandwiches from German Bratwurst, and all sorts of cheesy griddled delights from Mozzarrepas. Also of note, Gai Chicken and Rice, the excellent Hainanese restaurant in Midtown, had a booth here on Saturday, and plans on returning as often as possible.
There are plenty of sweets on hand as well, like the wonderfully gooey red velvet cupcake (in my case, topped with a chocolate bunny) at Britney Moss’s superb Cupcake Me! booth, and the impressively smooth frozen treats from Dre’s Water Ice, who made the trip all the way from Philadelphia. The crowd-pleasing Sam’s Fried Ice Cream and cups of banana pudding from Chictreatz round out your dessert options.
In addition to all of the food and drink (yes, you can get boozy beverages), the Bronx Night Market provides a showcase for local artisans and other small businesses, selling goods like jewelry, soaps and scrubs, fashion accessories, and candles.
A DJ played a loud and lively mix while I was there on Saturday, and there was even some dancing going on in the early afternoon. After all, said Shalma, “What’s not to be happy about? It’s a beautiful day, there’s great food, the smell is intoxicating, we have some amazing people, an amazing vendor community, small businesses owners that really needed this to happen sooner rather than later. People just need to see other people and feel normal again.”
The Bronx Night Market is located at One Fordham Plaza, at the corner of East Fordham Road and Third Avenue, about a ten-minute walk from the D train, and will be open every Saturday through November 13th from noon to 7 p.m., with nighttime hours coming as soon as it’s allowed by the state. Admission is free, but timed-entry reservations are required (thebronxnightmarket.com)