When Smorgasburg packed it up on that last day in the fall of 2019, after another successful run feeding tens of thousands of people through the summer on Breeze Hill in Prospect Park, no one realized, of course, that it would be almost two years before everyone–the vendors, the picnickers–would be able to gather again. Finally, though, Smorgasburg season has officially begun in Brooklyn, on Sundays adjacent to Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Prospect Park, and (starting on June 26th) on Saturdays in Williamsburg at Marsha P. Johnson State Park.
“It feels amazing,” Eric Denby, the co-founder of Smorgasburg, told Gothamist on Sunday. “It feels like a real culmination of months and months of collective action, by us and our vendors, but also by all New Yorkers to get the city back to this point. Being able to have an event with so many people, everyone feeling comfortable, eating food outdoors, when so recently we were in the muck, all the loss and grief and anxiety and boredom… everyone has just so quickly embraced this, and it feels almost normal again, and then you have these moments of clarity when you’re like, I am so grateful for this moment.”
There were only 25 vendors on Sunday in Prospect Park, about a third of the usual number, but it definitely didn’t feel like Smorgasburg Lite. It helped that the roster read like a greatest hits list, featuring perennial crowd-pleasers like Home Frites with their cones overflowing with fries and dipping sauce; Big Mozz, still making the best fried mozzarella sticks on the planet (probably); and Bon Chovie, one of the longest-running Smorgasburg vendors with their incredible Fried Whole Anchovies served to a dance party soundtrack.
Destination Dumplings added a new item to their already packed-with-pleasures menu, a pair of excellent Homemade Pork Bao, which you should order “spicy.” Vegan champs Monk’s Smokehouse grilled up BBQ Seitan and meaty Mushroom sliders and sandwiches, and ATM Vegan served a C.H.P. that looked to be as satisfying a chopped cheese sandwich that you’d find anywhere. For those of you looking for actual meat drenched in actual cheese (whiz), I’m happy to report that the Cheesesteak at Federoff’s remains a stellar version of that too often bungled sandwich.
Lobsterdamus was back as well, selling that most unlikely picnic dish, a whole grilled lobster, and Carlito’s was cranking out plates of loaded-up Smoked Brisket, Pulled Pork, and Grilled Chicken Tacos. Mao’s Bao had their usual colorful array of plump dumplings, Rooster Boy had fried chicken, Parish was back with Po’ Boys and Crawfish Mac and Cheese, and Noodle Lane brought bowls of Dan Dan to the party. And one of the most consistently long lines of the day was at the Vermont Maple Lemonade stand, debuting a Coffee flavor among their usual colorful array of options.
There were lots of great dessert options as well, including Bona Bona’s meringue-topped ice cream cones, toasted to order; those refreshing (and cool-looking) Kombucha Pops at The Better Pop; fat ice cream sandwiches at the Good Batch booth, and tricked out banana pudding cups at Baonanas. And don’t miss the Venezulean Quesillo at Vayalo Cocina, which is like an airy flan and among the best things I ate all day. Next time I want to try their arepas.
It’s a lot of great stuff, and you can count on the market to grow in the coming weeks. As Denby said, “The state really only issued guidelines that allowed us to be confident about reopening maybe three or four weeks ago, so we were as ready as we could be but it wasn’t a lot of time for our vendors, some of whom shut down their business during the pandemic, or moved away, or now can’t find enough people to work. Plus we’re spending a huge amount of time and resources finding new vendors, encouraging people from different backgrounds, and different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, to apply. That new energy is what people love about Smorgasburg, so having folks join each week is really going to be special.”
Smorgasburg Prospect Park is now open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday into the fall, and is located at Breeze Hill near East Drive and Lincoln Road. Starting June 26th, Smorgasburg Williamsburg will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday at 90 Kent Avenue in Marsha P. Johnson State Park. Smorgasburg WTC is also open, on Fridays at the Oculus Plaza, and the new Smorgasburg Jersey City has been a big hit across the river, running on Saturdays at Exchange Place (smorgasburg.com)