This Saturday, November 19, is the last day to experience Smorgasburg under open skies along the picturesque Williamsburg waterfront before the fest, named Top Artisanal Food Market in America by Bon Appétit, moves indoors to its equally stunning winter location at Skylight One Hanson. This season’s finale market, expected to draw the best of the best artisanal vendors of the year, is the perfect opportunity to place your orders for Thanksgiving, and pick up some less well known specialty products direct from local Brooklyn purveyors that are guaranteed to impress your guests and tantalize their taste buds. Don’t miss it!
I must confess, Smorgasburg quickly became my favorite (not so) guilty pleasure this past summer. I went back for more a total of 4 times, and never ate the same thing twice. The rotating roster of different vendors makes it a unique experience every weekend, and a terrific way to sample a variety of notable, up-and-coming BK eateries, all in one convenient spot.
Once I’ve had my fill, I love to take the East River Ferry back home. You can hop on board right next to the market. It’s a wonderful way to cap off a Saturday afternoon, with a bit of fresh air on the water, and gorgeous sunset views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts. For a mere $4, it’s a must!
So, if you’ve still not ventured over to the market yet and want to make a bee line for the best eats on hand this weekend, be sure to check out my personal picks for “The Best of Smorgasburg”:
Best vendor: Sunday Gravy
Sunday Gravy won my heart from the get-go with their out-of-this-world, slow braised, tomato meat sauce. Using a combination of both pork and beef, this thick-as-thieves homemade gravy is divine served in a hollowed out sandwich roll, or poured liberally over pasta. I fell head over heels though, after my first bite of their roasted vegetable sandwich. Fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and squash are marinated in balsamic vinegar, heaped on rustic bread, slathered with tangy goat cheese, and topped with micro greens. I loved every morsel! Steven Smith and family are simply the nicest vendors in the market. They proudly hand out samples and are more than happy to lovingly chat about their saucy gravy. My hands down favorite at Smorg!
Best sandwich: 18NY
I8NY really won me over with their crispy chicken, fried green tomato, salsa verde sandwich, though their watermelon, eggplant, mozzarella sammie is a sure-fire winner too. Most recently, their lamb sausage with rosemary, pickled swiss chard, and yogurt creation has captured my attention. Will Griffin and Jon Meyer epitomize the DIY, local/seasonal, Brooklyn food scene and I can’t wait to see what other sandwich and side combinations they think of next.
Best meaty treat: Mighty Quinn’s
The smell in the air wafting from Hugh Mangum’s stand makes Mighty Quinn’s such a popular attraction that I wasn’t actually able to get to the front of the line before he ran out of ribs and brisket – on 3 separate visits to Smorgasburg. That’s a very good sign, so on my last venture, I made sure to get in line early, determined to get a taste of this meaty magic. I was not disappointed. I opted for the brisket sandwich – a literal mountain of thick sliced beef, slow cooked for over 20 hours, slathered in bbq sauce. Hugh cooks the brisket off site, wraps it for transport, sealing in all the juices, and slices it right before your eyes, just seconds before it’s piled on a slightly sweet country white roll (delivered fresh to their kitchen from a secret source in Philly), and topped with pickled onions and a dash of coarse sea salt. It’s an eye-popping amount of beef, a mouth-watering taste of real southern barbeque, and completely worth waiting in the longest line at Smorg. DO IT.
An honorable mention must go to: Asia Dog. When I found out what was in a hot dog at the age of 10, I stopped eating them then and there. Until I met Asia Dog some 25 years later. Their grass-fed, nitrate-free, organic beef dogs sounded safe enough to warrant a try, and the unusual Asian toppings are a real selling point. I especially love “The Sidney” topped with mango chutney, cucumber, and peanuts, as well as “The Mel & Steve” topped with purple cabbage sesame slaw. “The Wangding”, a dog topped with bbq pork belly in plum sauce, is kind of meat overkill, but worth a taste when you’re in the mood to throw caution to the wind. Word to the wise: don’t pass up their limeade. It’s the perfect tart and bubbly beverage companion with a dog or two.
Best veggie treat: Skytown
It’s pretty simple. They use really fresh seasonal ingredients, procured at the local farmers market, and they make amazingly flavorful salads. In the sea of meat and sweets that is Smorgasburg, it’s a pleasure to mix it up with a little something green from Skytown. I can’t explain it exactly, but there’s clearly love in these salads. They just feel good to eat. Love doesn’t come cheap at Skytown, but if you’re craving some vegetables, especially a really tasty and satisfying kale salad, this is a no brainer.
These might just be the best yeast doughnuts in the land. I hate to be a traitor, Doughnut Plant, but Dough gives you a serious run for your money! I particularly like their citrus-y flavors – passion fruit topped with cacao nibs, lemon poppy seed, and my absolute favorite, blood orange. Nothing else compares. The great thing about these doughnuts is that they’re not overly sweet. The café au lait topped with almonds, and the chocolate topped with cacao nibs, are flawless. Go for the coconut or dulce de leche, if you’ve got an aching sweet tooth. While they have a super eye-catching hot pink color, the hibiscus falls a little flat for me, and the berry tastes like your average jelly doughnut. Their doughnut holes, simply dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, make for a delightful snack, especially when paired with a cup of Blue Bottle’s chickory coffee (conveniently located at the stand to their left). Don’t let the line stop you. It moves fast and they will sell out. I always get in their line first, grab my doughnuts for tomorrow’s breakfast and take them home with me. The biggest challenge? Waiting until morning to eat them! I admit, I’ve failed on more than one occasion, but hey, they make a great dessert too.
Honorable mentions to: S’more Bakery for their incredibly ooey-gooey handmade vanilla bean marshmallow, cinnamon clover-honey graham cracker, chocolate ganache S’moregasm; The Good Batch’s array of ice cream sandwiches and whoopie pies on a stroopwafel; and the seasonal fruit popsicle masters, People’s Pops!
Best drink: Float
Float serves up the absolutely prettiest, most inventive drinks I stumbled across at Smorg. Their combination of sparkling sodas and fruit juices, fresh muddled herbs, a frothy dollop of ice cream or sorbet on top, AND a pretzel rod, make for one extremely very refreshing and attractive beverage. My favorite is probably the watermelon mint float, though the blueberry hibiscus, and bloody mary were both phenomenal.
Honorable mention to: Brooklyn Soda Works for their grapefruit, jalapeno, honey and pomegranate, pear, cinnamon sodas!
I found it near impossible to stop sampling all the different flavors that Maiden Preserves and Granola Lab had on offer, and even more impossible to pick a favorite, so I propose a tie between the two. Maiden Preserves are the most delicious jams I’ve had in recent memory. With flavors like rhubarb, lemon vanilla bean, strawberry verbena, and orange bourbon, can you blame me for being indecisive? I love their big wallop of fruity flavor, chased with the perfect hint of herb, spice, or booze; and the gorgeous natural color you can see right through the traditional glass jar they come packaged in, wrapped simply with twine and a homemade label. Maiden Preserves make breakfast sing. Your morning will burn that much brighter and your toast will thank you.
Granola Lab’s variations also make choosing a favorite incredibly challenging. With flavor combos like coffee, chocolate, hazelnut; orange, pecan, maple; and tamarind, walnut, banana; there’s no wrong choice here. Alex Crosier makes small batches of granola that have maximum crunch and texture, bursting with layers of flavor and spice. It’s the best granola I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly, as one of my all-time favorite breakfasts is granola over Greek yogurt, topped with seasonal fruit. (It’s second only to Nancy Silverton’s legendary La Brea Bakery granola, maybe.) I look forward to nibbling my way through a bag of each of her “quasi-science” flavor experiments in the months to come.
Honorable mention to: McClure’s Pickles for the prettiest jar of pickled veggies and seriously kick-ass bloody mary mix I’ve ever tasted!
Best thing in a bottle: Morris Kitchen
Morris Kitchen’s ginger syrup is to die for. Upon first glance, I kind of questioned why someone would make just this one product, but I was intrigued and immediately had to try it. As soon as I did – sweet spicy taste explosion! My wheels started spinning about all the ways I’d want to use it – over ice cream, in cocktails, soda, straight from the bottle! Major cool points could be scored at a dinner party or given as a gift. You don’t find a product like this very often. You have to admire someone who specializes in just one rather unusual ingredient and Kari Morris pulls it off expertly. I look forward to sampling her new apple cider syrup and any other variety she dreams up next.
Honorable mention to: Brooklyn Bitters for their line-up of stimulating flavors, including mission fig, sriracha, meyon lemon, and rhubarb, which undoubtedly contributes a nice complexity and kick to any classic, artisanal cocktail. And do be sure to check out their website, for great drink recipes utilizing their unique little tonics.
Now, if I’ve done my job right, your appetite has officially been whet and you can’t wait to eat your heart out at Smorgasburg this weekend. Luckily, it’s only a hop, skip, and jump away on the L train or East River Ferry. So, save lots of room in that belly and go relish the best of culinary Brooklyn. Enjoy, food lovers!