The iconic 12-foot red and white “626 Night Market” cube welcomes guests as they wait in line to pay their $3 fee to enter the weekend-long summer event. As soon as they step past the entrance, the aroma of Asian cooking fills the air.
“626 Night Market is a place where different types of Asians like Koreans, FIlipinos and Taiwanese come together to form a nice [and] friendly hospitality and environment,” said sophomore Melissa Valerio. The 626 Night Market is special because of the Asian-American culture, said Barbara Choe, the events manager of Boba Bear.
The night market takes place in the parking lot of Westfield Santa Anita. The event officially begins at 4 p.m. but many people don’t start arriving until the sun goes down. Tents for food are lined up in two rows right next to one another, making it feel like the options are endless.
There are more than 200 vendors and 55,000 people that come to experience the fun, according to LA Weekly. 626 is the mother of all the Asian-influenced night markets in the United States. Now in its fifth year, the night market is continuing to grow and attracts different people from across Southern California. The last event for this summer took place on Sept. 4 and the event will return in the summer of 2017, according to the official Twitter of 626.
Many musical artists — Asian and non-Asian alike —take the stage each night, performing in front of the 626 audience. The audience has the opportunity to listen to many of the talented musicians while enjoying their Asian-based food.
The majority of foods at 626 come from Asia. Valerio tried Ramen Burger (a typical burger with ramen substituting the bread) for the first time at 626. She had mixed feelings about it. At first she wasn’t sure about the taste, but then came to the conclusion that it was worth her money. Sophomore Deena Dandachi tried pork barbeque for the first time as well and said that it was different but that she really liked it.
Sophomore Bryan Han, who is well-educated about the Vietnamese culture, introduced his friends to takoyaki, fried octopus in a circular shape. One friend said that it was peculiar and different. The texture was soft, reminding her of mozzarella sticks. At the end, she really liked it, and she said that takoyaki is now her favorite food. 626 gives many people the opportunity to expand their horizons and try new things.
“The experience was great and reminded me a lot of home,” said Cecilia DeGuzman, a mother and first-timer at 626. As a native of the Philippines, she grew up eating all different types of Asian food, specifically Filipino food. Her aunt owned a very popular restaurant that she started working at when she was just 15 years old. The night market serves as a postcard to those who are away from their hometowns. DeGuzman said that the night market was a postcard sent to her from her aunt’s restaurant in the Philippines.
DeGuzman said that 626 is also a great opportunity for the younger Asian generation to get a taste of their culture. Valerio said that the 626 night market helped educate her more about the Asian food. She was born and raised in the United States, with both parents being Philippine natives. Valerio said, “It  makes you realize how close [the Asian cultures] are. The food and flavors are all similar.”
Whether someone is born and raised in Asia or “Asian-at-heart,” anybody can learn more about the Asian community at this event. Dandachi, born to a Lebanese family, said that the food was very different compared to that of her culture. “They [the Asian culture] use a lot of different ingredients that I am not used to”, she said.
626 is social media friendly. Many people actually find out about this night market through friends posting pictures on their Instagram or putting it on their SnapChat stories. Lobster Damus, a vendor at the night market, found out about 626 online and was curious as to what all the talk was about. Valerio saw her friends post about it. DeGuzman’s Facebook friend was bragging about how delicious the food was and how much fun they had. This use of social media has attracted those to the Asian culture and beliefs.
“[The 626 Night Market] is a good opportunity for small stores to be able to kind of jump at and introduce [themselves] to a different customer basis that otherwise [they] wouldn’t be able to reach with just [their] stores”. According to Loni, one out of four co-owners of Lobster Damus, 626 is the event where they make the most income. Many small business are given a chance to to showcase their food to a broader audience and bring in loyal customers through their doors.
Mustafa, owner of Mu’s Lobster Roll, said that 626 is filled with nice, kind people. The atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming, Valerio said. Although Valerio, DeGuzman and Dandachi came from different backgrounds and cultures, all of them had one thing in common: they each loved 626 and would want to go back.
“626 was filled with so many different foods; one night just isn’t enough,” DeGuzman said.