Photos: Noam Bleiweiss
Forget tightly-packed crowds and the sense that even if you made it to the front of some endless line, the thing you wanted to eat would be gone by then anyway. Instead, the first annual DTLA Night Market was as spacious as any festival-goer could hope for.
Held at Lot 7 across the street from Staples Center on both Friday and Saturday nights, DTLA Night Market comes from the same folks as the popular 626 Night Market, which worked out its early kinks a few years ago to become one of the best food festivals in town. The DTLA version, of course, wasn't quite as Asian food-centric as 626 — there were fried chicken sandwiches, funnel cakes, kebab wraps and more, alongside the usual skewers, seafood and steaming bowls of ramen. Here are some of the most notable observations from this past weekend's DTLA Night Market.
Enjoying ramen from Mattou Seimen.
The Ramen Burger.
Spicy lamb skewers from Beijing Tasty House.
Chef Brian Huskey.
· There's room to grow. The bountiful space left plenty of acreage for hungry eaters to queue up at their favorite stalls; the issue was customers. Most vendors noted that Friday night was particularly slow, with almost no one wandering between the stalls after 9:30pm.
· Like always with summertime outdoor festivals in LA, the heat was an issue. A 4pm start time came and went without many folks (if any) waiting to get in, and crowds didn't really start to converge on the parking lot until 7pm.
· Foodwise, mash-ups were the order of the day. Beyond the Ramen Burger, there were ramen pizzas by Umaya Ramen out of Cerritos, currywurst rice balls from Mama Musubi and a tent from the Boba Bear team that featured the popular teas alongside two dozen different flavors of hookah, all for $5.
· Chef Brian Huskey was on hand himself to fry up chicken sandwiches with sweet potato puree and sambal for the crowd. While lines were short for the Top Chef star's eats, he seemed happy to be showing off his new menu from Formosa Cafe.
· The OG Ramen Burger team, which drew huge lines all weekend, let rumors fly about an upcoming brick and mortar at 3rd and Vermont, which "should arrive in August" adjacent to the the current Lock & Key space. The plan is to soft-open Thursday through Sunday nights, before expanding hours later on.
· Much like their early festivals in Pasadena, the 626 Night Market team needs to improve their logistics. Trash cans were hard to come by, there was little shade and even less in the way of places to sit. Most families ended up huddling near fences so little ones could hide in the shadows while they sat on the pavement to eat.
· Japadog, which only recently began cooking up street-side in LA, was another one of the weekend's big draws, giving locals a taste of their offbeat hotdogs from Vancouver.
· Mattou Seimen, the Japanese ramen import that has been showing up quite a bit at festivals here in LA as of late, made a big show with their black mapo ramen, a Sichuan-styled bowl with chewy noodles and plenty of slightly spicy ground pork. Perhaps most famously, the ramen shop is the work of a collaboration involving Iron Chef Chen Kenichi.
· The most popular celebrity at the night market, hands down, was Bobasaurus Rex, the world's largest boba tea. Not really one for talking or moving or being anything other than being six feet of pure boba drink, Bobasaurus Rex nevertheless commanded an unending string of photos all weekend long. —Farley Elliott
· 626 Night Market Grows to Downtown LA, OC in 2014 [~ELA~]