It's been nearly a year since an offshoot of New York's wildly popular food market, Smorgasburg, opened in downtown Los Angeles, and the weekly nosh-fest is still going strong. "L.A. is not New York and downtown L.A. is not Brooklyn, but yeah, it's been really, really good. For a weekly L.A. market we bring in anywhere from 5 to 8,000 people every Sunday, which for L.A. is enormous," Smorgasburg LA market manager Zach Brooks told The Feast in an interview.
The market is held every Sunday and features about 40 food vendors, along with 10 to 20 vendors selling flea market-type goods like clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings. And while old standbys like Amazebowl's flower-garnished acai bowls (served in a coconut shell) and Goa Tacos' overstuffed paratha tacos remain perennial favorites—based on both taste and Instagrammability—some newcomers are generating a lot of buzz.
Serving up a signature dish of Hawaiian-style garlic butter shrimp in a pineapple boat, Shimp Daddy is "definitely the vendor du jour," said Brooks. The popular vendor currently generates the longest lines—sometimes up to 40 or 50 people deep—and can command waits of up to half an hour.
What makes Shrimp Daddy worth the wait? "I think they hit every mark of the perfect Smorgasburg vendor," Brooks declared. "Their food looks good on Instagram—cue the eye rolls—and it's just a very crowd-pleasing dish. If you've ever had garlic butter shrimp from Hawaii, you know, it's shrimp, and butter, and a little bit of sugar, it's a little bit sweet and gets all caramelized."
"And then they hustle," he added. "They work so hard, they never miss a week. They're constantly marketing their business."
And all that hard work pays off. "You wait in line, it looks great, you post it on Instagram, you hear about it, whatever—it tastes really freakin' good, which is obviously the most important thing, so people keep coming back and they get new fans. You know, lines make longer lines," Brooks explained.
Workaholic, which serves up Korean-inspired fare like dumplings stuffed with pork and kimchi, is another new vendor that's getting a lot of love. It's known for its huge dumplings in an array of bright colors, along with its flying japchae—Korean noodles that seem to be levitating in the bowl. Flying noodles started popping up in Japan and are starting to hit the U.S. (and Instagram feeds everywhere).
"It's a noodle bowl, and they do this little trick where they serve it to you and a bunch of the noodles are suspended in air being held up by a pair of chopsticks, so it looks like a possessed pair of chopsticks up on the air and the noodles hang down from it," Brooks explained. "It's one of those crazy-looking Instagram things."
Other vendors to keep an eye out for? Porchetta Republic, which serves a pork sandwich topped with sundried tomatoes and pesto that's sliced to order. And AsiaDog, which originally debuted at New York's Smorgasburg in 2008 and has jumped to the West Coast. AsiaDog offers hot dogs with Asian-inspired toppings like kimchi, fish sauce, and sesame slaw.
One thing you won't be Instagramming at Smorgasburg LA is the spaghetti donut, which got a ton of press when it debuted at Smorgasburg NY this spring. "I think Shrimp Daddy is our spaghetti donut," Brooks said, chuckling. "I have no comment about the spaghetti donut."
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