Now would be a good time to read all about Smorgasburg if you haven’t yet. Read it? Ok, good. Read on. Now that you’re familiar with Smorgasburg, let me talk about Madison Square Eats. Apparently the proper term for these kind of places is “pop-up market”. One day it’s there and another it’s not. It’s trendy. I don’t like trendy. I do like a variety of dishes from a variety of cuisines prepared by people who are trying to do something big in a small space. I like to think that’s what these “pop-up markets” are really all about. It’s a safe place to take risks – whether you are there to eat or there to cook. Something comes out bad? Try the next booth(or customer). So then, is Madison Square Eats a risk worth taking?
Well, yes! (but then if you ask me trying any dish is worth the risk, even Fugu) Granted the same warnings that came with my Smorgasburg post still apply, but so do all the great things about it. Madison Square Eats is a little bit smaller than Smorgasburg with maybe 20-30 vendors as opposed to the maybe 75 at Smorgasburg, but instead of looking over at Manhattan from across the river, you get to be right in the heart of it. As far as I’m concerned that’s a big win (and I think the legions of people who think the East River is harder to cross than the Atlantic would agree). If convenience wasn’t enough, many of the booths here serve alcohol. It’s spring in NY with plenty of good food, good drink and sunshine all contained within half a block – you won’t find me asking for much more!
I’m hoping my more intelligent readers have already surmised that it is located near Madison Square Park by 25th and Broadway in New York City (right next to Eataly and across the park from Eleven Madison Park for those with the more refined tastes). The good news is its open EVERY DAY!!! The bad news is it only runs from May 1st to May 28th, although there is a Fall edition planned to start September 4th.
I was able to make 2 trips here this month (and maybe a 3rd and final one this weekend if I’m lucky). The vendors are pretty much what you would expect if you’ve ever been to one of these “pop-up” markets before(now you’ve got me using the phrase). The food is definitely “trendy” and many of the booths are a “fusion” of one kind or another, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t delicious. Ok, enough of my babbling – time for the food:
Cheesesteaks by The Truffleist
My first stop was Cheesesteaks by The Tuffleist. Now, full disclaimer, I went to college in Philly, so I may be a bit opinionated as to what a real cheesesteak should taste like. Anyone who knows Philly knows that something as pretentious as a truffle or its oil has no place in a cheesesteak. I’d agree, but I mentioned this was the place to take risks, so why not? I went for the signature menu item – The Truffleist Cheesesteak.
There are some foods in this world that are great because they are so simple and uncomplicated. They are perfect in their most basic form. The cheesesteak is but one example. While I enjoyed my sandwich here (sandwhich being the key word as this was not a cheesesteak), I would have preferred a whiz wit from Tony Luke’s (in case you wondered where my cheesesteak loyalties lay) any day of the week. I don’t need a toasted artisan roll, truffle oil or gourmet cheese. I want a soft deli roll, some cheap steak and onions cooked just right and topped with a canned “cheese” product that will take more time to digest than nuclear waste. Now, it was a good sandwhich, don’t get me wrong, but it was not a cheesesteak. Now obviously I was still pretty hungry after my tuffley snack. Next stop:
Red Hook Lobster Pound
For those who like to know how the meat is made, I’ll share a little secret. When I posted about Smorgasburg last time, I did so after having visited for the sole purpose of getting a Connecticut style (eww, mayo) lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound. Close readers may be scratching their heads saying, “I don’t remember you writing about any lobster rolls!?!”. That would be because their booth was towards the back and by the time I got there I was about 3 dishes deep and pretty full. 100 different food options between me and my goal chances are I’m going to get distracted. Thanks to that I didn’t write about the lobster roll from Smorgasburg then – but I should have.
It also turns out that the one thing I forgot to take a picture of was the one I would most like to share (so just use your imagination). I really only discovered the lobster roll about 3 months ago (which unfortunately was at the Neptune Oyster House in Boston, home of arguably the best lobster roll out there and the reason I was hunting after lobster rolls on my last visit to Smorgasburg). Since then I’ve tried a handful of different rolls across the Northeast, but it seemed the bar was set too high by Neptune and each roll seemed to disappoint more than the last. I was ready to give up on finding another good lobster roll, but like I said, this was the place for risk taking. I ordered 1 Connecticut (slightly icky warm drawn butter instead totally gross and disgusting mayonnaise – have I mentioned I don’t like butter or mayo or pretty much any condiment for that matter) style roll. Delicious! It may have been prepared out of a small, temporary booth, but you’d never know. This lobster roll was perfection! I would love to try this alongside the Neptune roll (which for the record was almost twice the price) because I’m not sure which one would win (other than the person who got to try both in a single sitting). If you enjoy a lobster roll (or think you would) then you need to try this roll. I don’t say that lightly.
On a side note, their booth sold Narragansett (a New England beer), which is consistently the cheapest beer I have ever seen(and dare I say actually tastes quite good). Ok, next stop:
Hong Kong Street Cart
After a thorough tour of all options (and having decided I didn’t need really any food at the moment), I decided to order from the Hong Kong Street Cart. Something you should understand about me – I have a weakness for pork buns. One day, I’ll write about why.
All you need to know for now is that if I see a pork bun, I must have it. Hong Kong Street Cart was happy to oblige. At $4 a bun, it wasn’t cheap, but like I said, I’m weak. At this point, I’ve had my fair share of pork buns and this one was firmly in the middle. That’s really all I have to say about this one. It was good, not great.
That’s all I’ve got for Madison Square Eats for now. If I make it there again before it closes for the summer I’ll head to one of the several Mexican booths (or I may cave and get another lobster roll). Hopefully y’all will have the chance to give it a shot. No excuses for having to cross the river this time!