Most Queens residents are familiar with learning new words, but no matter how you say it, the opening of Queens Smorgasburg had the attention of more than 5,000 people July 11.
Jonathan Butler, cofounder of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, was very happy with the turnout for the borough’s first Smorgasburg. The Long Island City location housed 25 vendors who sold every last morsel of food.
“This is the kind of problem we like to have, and I’m sure everyone will show up with more food next week,” Butler said in a statement.
Between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. every Saturday, a range of vendors whose diversity matches the diversity of the people who live in Queens will be selling their wares at 43-29 Crescent St. Butler said that the Queens community welcomed the new festival and that the Crescent Street location was ideal, as it provided indoor and outdoor space as well as being close to public transportation. In the effort to provide just the right foods, Butler said that Smorgasburg was aided by Joe DiStefano, a writer and tour guide with a deep knowledge of unique foods in Queens.
Meg Cotner, food connoisseur and author of “Food Lovers’ Guide to Queens” showed up at Smorgasburg on Saturday at 11 a.m. to get her bearings. She said while some vendors were not ready to serve food when she arrived, there were many redeeming qualities. Cortner said that the fact there was an indoor space was great because there wasn’t too much shade in the open lot.
“I ate a bunch of things I never had tried before,” Cotner said. She talked about the fun of seeing what known restaurants from Queens have to offer as well as exploring ones that are unfamiliar. One of her favorites, from Son Foods, was the hallaca, a Latino dish made of a smooth corn-meal outside wrapped around chicken and olives. She says it was sweet and evenly textured. Cortner also enjoyed a roti taco, curry chicken bound in roti, from Roosevelt Avenue Fare.
While Brooklyn Smorgasburg focuses on new food inventions, the Queens Smorgasburg celebrates various cultures with foods from regions that include North America, Latin America and South Asia. There were also vegan options. Butler said while he encourages chefs to be original, ethnic food will remain the market’s selling point. It’s not a clone of its Brooklyn sibling, but a distinct place for people in Queens to enjoy food together.