The tradition of Street Food Markets and Fairs is relatively recent in New York. Outdoor life in the Summer used to happen mostly in the numerous parks all over the city and in few public areas.
Thanks to the massive restorations and developments that took place in Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, especially along the banks of the Hudson and East Rivers, the way New Yorkers enjoy the nice weather during the sunny season has changed dramatically: the long compelling effort of the local administration along with law enforcement and the Fire Department surely shows its fruits.
We went gradually from few sporadic events mostly about street-food and finger food to the recent dozens and dozens of different initiatives spread over the five Boroughs, with stands, vendors and exhibitors that sell all kinds of goods, food, clothes, vintage objects, accessories, local handcrafters works, jewelry as well as artistic souvenirs.
Over the last few years, thanks to the new, large, areas that have been renewed and given back to the community, we have witnessed the exponential expansion in terms of time, size and number of attendees of a growing number of major events, which nowadays last for weeks or months, and are able to gather hundreds of thousands of people.
Another probable cause of the above mentioned expansion is linked to the demographic of the city, which has also drastically changed over the last 15-20 years, with an increasing presence especially of people from South America.
These communities have contributed to enrich these experiences, bringing over and mixing in their own traditions.
A very recent example of this new enriched events is the pop-up food market at the World Trade Center, Downtown Manhattan, where P.A.N., a Miami, FL based company that produces healthy versatile food, run a free tasting event, distributing many different samples of their wide range of products.
For your amusement, here follows an updated list of outdoor food markets:
Queens International Night Market
This brand new market is probably the most exciting addition to NYC’s outdoor food market scene. They’re offering up an eclectic mix of international street foods like Korean fried chicken, takoyaki, empanadas, Peruvian steak sandwiches, Colombian hot dogs, and a lot more.
Founder John Wang has long envisioned bringing a night market resembling the massive bustling ones you can find all over the world to NYC, and while those plans had to be scaled down a bit due to funding constraints, he’s already doubled the food lineup to over 40 vendors for the second iteration of the market last Saturday. Opening night of the market drew huge crowds, and equally huge lines. At this rate, it seems like his grand dreams aren’t too far off.
Red Hook Food Vendors
The Red Hook Food Vendors have been feeding the masses in the Brooklyn neighborhood it’s named after for 41 years now, so it’s an understatement to say that they know their way around super authentic Latin American food like pupusas and salchipapas.
Created by the folks at Brooklyn Flea, NYC’s beloved Smorgasburg returned for 2015 in early April featuring a huge lineup of favorites like Ramen Burger, Home Frite, Dan & John’s Wings, and over 200 other great food stands along with a bunch of great newcomers. Picture what seems like endless delicious food options, cool people, and panoramic views of Manhattan from across the East River. It’s a thing of beauty, except for the lines, but if you’re strategic about it those won’t even phase you.
UrbanSpace Garment District
With awesome food offerings from over 30 vendors like paella, Lebanese pizza, lobster rolls, empanadas, and more, this outdoor food market is one of the few good reasons to venture near Times Square. Newcomers include refreshing slushie maker Kelvin Slush Co., and modern American fare from food truck concept Yankee Doodle Dandy’s. So while the market’s proximity is dangerously close to the throngs tourists, the bright side is that it’s also close to Bryant Park where you can hopefully score a table and chairs or a patch of lawn while you chow down.
Hester Street Fair
This market draws hungry New Yorkers from all over the city with its winning combination of crazy good food vendors and a bustling stretch of shopping. Walking some of the Lower East Side’s historic streets and eating things like Pan Asian street food from Zhà, or mini Dutch pancakes from Poffees, or Thai street food from Khao Man Gai, is pretty much the ideal day.
LIC Flea & Food
While this outdoor flea and food market is bit more under the radar than, say, Smorgasburg, LIC Flea & Food returned for its 2015 season boasting all kinds of locally-produced goods, and of course, tons of food to gorge on while haggling for some handmade jewelry. You’ll find things like Italian beef sandwiches, lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster, barbecue brisket from Butcher Bar, and even an all-day Queens beer garden here.
Madison Square Eats
Advantageously located steps away from the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, and Eataly, you can count on this outdoor food market to be pretty damn crowded most of the time, but don’t let that scare you away. Our best advice is to dive right in, make a loop around the vendors, and then attack mouth first at stands like Calexico with its delicious Mexican fare, Red Hook Lobster Pound and its lobster rolls and lobster mac & cheese, and Asia Dog, which serves a giant watermelon soju cocktail in a freaking carved out watermelon.
Several new additions to the market this year bring fresh options like cheesesteaks, paella, fresh sushi, and more. Grab your food and ditch the crowds of people circling like sharks for one of the few high-top or picnic tables within the market’s confines and grab a seat in the shade across the street.
Coney Smorgasburg
With the wild success and popularity of the aforementioned Smorgasburg markets in Brooklyn, it’s no surprise that Brooklyn Flea is expanding to the summer destination/tourist trap that is Coney Island with a mini Smorgasburg market made out of retrofitted shipping containers, which is pretty cool alone. While it’s not slated to open until later this month (and you can’t go there right now), it’s worth planning an adventure to Coney for about a dozen Smorgasburg vendors like Mofongo, Home Frite, Dan & John’s Wings, Bon Chovie, and Mile End as well as an obligatory whirl on the Wonder Wheel.

Article and photos by Joseph Ralph Fraia


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