Exploring Smorgasburg L.A.

Local vendors bring Angelenos the world’s flavors with a twist

May 25, 2017

In the heart of Downtown Los Angeles and adjacent to the Fashion District is the Alameda Produce Market, where every Sunday the five-acre lot is occupied by a plethora of tents. Under these tents are various vendors, some selling small accessories and others bringing cuisine from all over the world to the bustling city.

Originating from Brooklyn, New York, in 2008, Smorgasburg has approximately 100 vendors with 20,000 to 30,000 people attending weekly according to their website. As a result of its success on the East Coast, small businesses have taken off, the food festival’s included. Smorgasburg debuted in Los Angeles in the summer of 2016. Not only do you get to learn about the history and culture of various nations, but you also get to learn about the rich history of Los Angeles.

With recent changes in Downtown Los Angeles such as the opening of The Broad museum and Grand Park, renovations are migrating south toward the Arts District. ROW DTLA, where the flea-market type of food festival Smorgasburg takes place, is an historic area of Los Angeles that has been refurbished as an area for creative minds to thrive.

Trisha Gomez

It was formerly known as the Los Angeles Terminal Market and was built in 1917 along the Southern Pacific Railroad to serve as a large produce marketplace. After serving its time, renovators changed its streets names, even giving the buildings new themes. With these new attractions, foot traffic across L.A. will increase.

As our Uber pulled up to the address on a recent Sunday, there was an empty lot with no sign of life. At first we were confused, double-checking the address. As we drove further into the lot, we came across a security guard who directed us to a parking structure. For a well-known event, there seemed to be a small number of people. When we spotted the area where people were passing through, we got out of our Uber and headed toward the commotion.

When we entered, there were hundreds of people, music blaring, with different aromas surrounding us from all directions. I felt as if we were part of a secret club, since we were not able to see or hear anything from outside of the venue. “The festival seemed to be isolated from the desolateness of the area,” said junior Stephanie Chung. “But once we walked through the gate, it gave off a chill vibe, which is great to just hang out with your friends.”

Mama Musubi was the first to catch our eye, as it was one of the more popular vendors at the market. Due to its popularity I expected the line to be long, but surprisingly it wasn’t. Musubi is a Japanese rice ball, consisting of usually spam or a type of mean, all wrapped in seaweed. We ordered the Mama Special and a basic spam musubi. The Mama Special consisted of rice, imitation crab, bay shrimp and a yuzu aioli sauce, which gave off a creamy texture with a hint of sweetness. The Spam musubi on the other hand, was not your typical Spam, rice and musubi sauce. This musubi didn’t seem to have any sauce, however, letting the Spam’s flavor shine through.

Afterward, we headed to the next tent: Amazebowls. This franchise definitely lived up to its name. Acai bowls were part of the hype in 2015, but I never gave into it. The company began when three USC students wanted to open up a food truck geared toward healthy eating, but at the same time appeal to a younger crowd. A year and a half ago, the company went through rebranding. During this time, they set up their tent at Smorgasburg.

Trisha Gomez

“We loved being a part of food events,” said Stephanie Wang, a marketing team member of Amazebowls. “You get to really grow the community. Smorgasburg is great because you go on a weekly basis and it’s constantly growing, especially our relationship with other vendors. We learn so much about feedback and it allows us to better the company.”

I heard about this place through social media, where they are most popular for their acai bowls served in a fresh coconut. I came solely for this item, but unfortunately, they were all sold out. The acai concoction was sweet, and it was topped with granola, sliced bananas, strawberries and blueberries. The ingredients were fresh, perfect for a refreshing treat on a hot day.

Junior Tiana Hovsepians was also a fan of these. “The acai bowls were really healthy and they filled me up,” Hovsepians said. “It’s also really healthy, so if you’re on a diet it’s a good choice.”

Brothecary was also one of the numerous vendors set up at the market. This one, however, is exclusive to the market. The founders, Allison and Janice So, have a Cantonese upbringing, upping the cultural aspects on the American take on their foods. I ended up getting an XLB, which is essentially a giant dumpling. The XLB consisted of chicken coconut bone broth inside a extra large xiao long bao. The dish, in my opinion, was a cool take on the mediocre soup dumpling, but wasn’t very filling.

Shrimp Daddy was the last stop on our trip and had one of the longest lines on the lot. Originating in Fremont, California, the duo that started the franchise wanted to bring a new type of flavor to Taiwan. This place, just like Amazebowls, served their food in a fruit, which this place is also popular for, and again was the sole reason for going to their stand (and once again, sold out).

We ordered the Hawaiian garlic shrimp, which came along with rice, macaroni salad and pineapple chunks. This was one of the most filling items I tried at the festival. Even two people couldn’t finish a plate. “I felt as if the dish was a Korean, Hawaiian and Chinese fusion,” Chung said. “It gave off an umami flavor and made the texture unique. It still had the shrimp skin which is present in many Korean dishes.”

“Being at Smorgasburg was like being at the 626 Night Market,” Chung said. The 626 Night Market located in the San Gabriel Valley is another well-known food market that only takes place for a few weekends in the summer. But unlike Smorgasburg, the 626 Night Market is limited to Asian cuisine. “It’s cool that Smorgasburg isn’t limited to just one culture, it gives you a chance to try things you’ve never even heard of,” Chung said.

Clark Chronicle • Copyright 2023 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Comments (0)

All Clark Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.