626 Night Market is finally making its return for a ninth season at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia after the pandemic put events on hold for the past year. The popular food event typically takes place 10 times from May to September and attracts up to 100,000 people each weekend. Although 626 Night Market has made a name for itself as an must-stop in SGV with more than 250 food, merchandise, and craft vendors, it’s also solidified itself as an incubator for highlighting upcoming culinary talent.
Many food operations that had humble beginnings at 626 Night Market have gone on to open their own permanent restaurants. “Those with less capital can test the waters here before trying to open a brick and mortar. Those that do well here can grow their fan base and go on to be very successful,” says Annika Yip, 626 Night Market Marketing Coordinator.
Some of the most successful 626 Night Market alumni include siblings Philip and Carol Kwan, who made their stand Mama Musubi a household name throughout LA farmers markets and at Smorgasburg. The Kwans also opened at Kitchen United in Pasadena, a cloud kitchen that allows customers to order meals from many of LA’s most popular restaurants. Philip Kwan went on to create many other successful food ventures such as Mission Control, Twisted Tiki, Mcfadden Public Market, and Amazebowls. The creator of the viral Ramen Burger, Keizo Shimamoto, took part in 626 Night Markets and opened in New York and LA’s Smorgasburg. Shimamoto later opened a Ramen Burger restaurant in Los Angeles’s Koreatown and a ramen restaurant in New York that closed last year. He is currently awaiting the opening of his new restaurant, Ramen Shack, in San Juan Capistrano, slated to open later this summer.
Other 626 Night Market vendors that have gone on to open physical locations include: Jichan’s Onigiri-ya, Milk Tea Company, Takoyaki Tanota, Drunken Cake Pops, Cafe 949, Main Squeeze, Sushi with Attitude, to name a few. Although new vendors are being added constantly, here are five new vendors to keep an eye on at this year’s 626 Night Market.
Move over kombucha, there’s a new fermented drink in town. Kefir drinks are currently all the rage in Asia and Kefir Mix owner Quyna Nguyen is the first to bring the Asian flavored kefir drinks to California. The drinks are popular in Asia for being a healthier alternative to boba drinks. Kefir is a healthy, fermented food with a consistency comparable to yogurt, and research shows it could help boost immunity, aid in digestive problems, and control blood sugar, among many other health benefits.
Cultured and fermented using kefir grains, the drink has been consumed around the world for centuries. As a result of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in kefir. All the kefir is freshly made daily and served with purple rice, mango, strawberry, and even Oreo. Nguyen opened her store in Santa Ana in May 2021, and will be at 626 Night Market this summer.
WezzArepas brings traditional Colombian street food to the 626 Night Market. The stand is a new twist on the classic Columbian dish made using ground maize dough. Arepas are typically served with accompaniments such as cheese, meats, and avocado. While traditional arepas use white corn, WezzArepas uses a yellow, sweet corn cake with a mozzarella cheese center stuffing. There’s also the option of adding jalapeño or pepperoni to the arepas. In addition, the stand serves Columbian-style hot dogs cooked with shredded mozzarella cheese and bacon, then topped with three kinds of sauces: creamy cilantro aioli, pink, and pineapple sauces. Each hot dog is then topped off with potato chip bits for a crunch.
Vegano by Stick Station specializes in quality vegan popsicles designed for those with lactose intolerance and casein protein-related allergies in mind. The creamy popsicles flavors are made with rice milk which in turn produces a creamy tasting flavor using less than half the sugar other popsicles use on the market. Flavors include: cafe choco chip, matcha, rocky road, coconut, mango chili, mojito, and strawberry lemon. This will be Vegano by Stick Station’s first foray into the 626 Night Market. It operates at Hermosa Beach, South Pasadena, Playa Vista, Long Beach, Mar Vista, and Torrance Farmers Markets.
Mason’s Den will be serving up the TikTok-famous mini pancake cereal. The pandemic has led to some interesting cooking trends like sourdough bread, Dalgona Coffee, and feta pasta, but people on TikTok have made a bowl of mini pancakes covered in syrup and milk that you eat with a spoon into a viral sensation. Customers can choose between original and matcha pancake dough before rummaging through the number of potential toppings, including sour gummy worms, Fruity Pebbles, Teddy Grahams, Oreo crumbs, strawberries, blueberries, and maple/caramel/chocolate syrups, among a plethora of other cereal and breakfast toppings. In addition to the viral mini pancakes, Mason’s Den will also serve funnel cakes, corn, and other fried fair food. Owner Jerman Arteaga has already been booked for next year’s Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.
Sandoitchi is a Texas-based Japanese sando restaurant that will travel into 626 Night Market debut this year. Japanese sandos aremade on thick, fluffy milk bread aka shokupan. Sandoitchi, which is Japanese for sandwich, serves versions with egg salad, pork katsu, hot chicken katsu, and fruit with cream. The sandos are known for selling out within minutes in Texas and at all the various pop up locations. Chef Stevie Nguyen gained social media fame with a ridiculous $75 wagyu sando topped with black truffles and gold leaf in the past.
The first 626 Night Market of the year will be July 9 to 11, followed by July 16 to 18, August 27 to 29, and September 3 to 5 with hours from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday and until 11 p.m. on Sunday.