By Jason Rothhauser
For both the hip and hungry, Brooklyn has been host to a growing new trend over the past few years: the food festival. The idea is simple: take the fun and novelty of a music festival or a craft fair, mix it with the kind of gourmet delights that foodies hunt the city for, and stir vigorously.
You may already be familiar with the Great Googamooga (a seasonal food and music festival in Prospect Park) or Smorgasburg (an indoor/outdoor “flea food market” in Williamsburg). Both invite restaurants and vendors from all over Brooklyn to set up individual booths and allow visitors to sample some of the borough’s brightest culinary hot spots in one shot. The newest is Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Night Bazaar, and it’s easily worth a visit.
Unlike the Great Googamooga and some similar offerings, the Night Bazaar is open year-round in a permanent indoor space, but only open from 6 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays. Entrance is free, with no cover for the musical acts. If you’re a local, it’s a great place to wander around and show to a few friends. If you don’t usually find yourself walking the quiet streets of Greenpoint, it’s a solid weekend destination that pairs perfectly with the nearby bars and restaurants on Franklin Street.
On a recent trip, I sampled four or five dishes from a range of venues. My first choice, a fried rice ball from Arancini Bros., lived up to the hype. The ragu ball boasted a perfectly crisp exterior yielding to a rich, tender filling. The dish reminded me of the addictive ragout croquettes popular in the Netherlands. Lobster sliders from the nearby Lobster Joint did not disappoint either, and survived the trip down Manhattan Avenue without losing any of their appeal (which comes in the form of a generous portion of claw meat and a perfectly toasted Martin’s potato roll). The highlight though was the delicately spicy steamed pork bun I tried at another vendor (who I am unfortunately unable to credit by name, as the various vendors rotate, and I neglected to write this one down). There’s also a bar, offering a decent selection of beer and wine, with an emphasis on New York breweries.
Sharing space with the food is a larger-still selection of vendors selling handcrafted items, knick-knacks, t-shirts, art prints, and the like. A stage for performances is situated at the rear of the hall, and live acts play from about 9 o’clock onward. (Expect some hit and miss.) There is also mini-golf. In short, the vibe is decidedly eclectic.
Food was my focus on my previous visit, but it’s the kind of place that’s fun because you never know what you might find. On my last visit, I was about to leave, assuming I’d seen everything, when something caught my eye: an art library, complete with free membership cards. I turned around and headed back.
Brooklyn Night Bazaar
165 Banker Street, Brooklyn