Los Angeles’s most popular weekly food gathering, Smorgasburg, returns on January 14, 2024, with a crop of 10 new vendors serving a wide swath of compelling dishes and cuisines. Notable newcomers include Battambong BBQ serving Cambodian Texas barbecue, Softies with smash burgers, tacos de canasta specialist the Basket Taco Co., and Miya Miya with Jordanian-style shawarma.
Coming out of the three-week holiday hiatus, a few vendors have graduated out of Smorgasburg, including Love Hour, which is open on Sundays in Koreatown, and Smoke Queen, which will open a permanent restaurant in Garden Grove later this year. Avocado Mama, one of the market’s original vegan vendors, will discontinue pop-ups for the foreseeable future to focus on packaged food, while flauta vendor Los Dorados will likely not return to Smorgasburg in 2024 to focus on its permanent El Sereno restaurant.
General manager Zach Brooks says that Smorgasburg has looked for a shawarma vendor for years but wanted to wait until an operator could properly execute the popular Levantine street food every week. Miya Miya comes from Yazeed “Chef Yaz” Soudani, who perfected his chicken shawarma working in Amman, Jordan. It is assembled with pickles and creamy garlic sauce into saj bread before getting a quick toasting on a flat-top grill.
Popular smash burger pop-up Softies, which draws dozens of eager fans wherever it sets up shop, takes over the former Love Hour slot. Founded in August 2022 by Sam Hong and Josh Kim, the stand drew some of the longest lines for Smorgasburg’s Burger Day last year. Using classic Oklahoma-style burgers as a template, Hong and Kim weave in other Asian-influenced touches like a tempura-fried enoki mushroom burger.
Brooks says he’s particularly excited about Abe Mota and Karla Ramirez’s Basket Taco Co. serving traditional tacos de canasta (basket tacos) with classic fillings of chicharron, beans, potatoes, and chorizo with potatoes. Some modern flourishes like lobster will help “bridge the gap” for those trying the popular Mexican street food for the first time. “The flavors are completely traditional but the branding and presentation are modern,” says Brooks.
Other new vendors include Glad from chef Cihan Kaymakcalan who worked with Nancy Silverton and draws inspiration from Chi Spacca’s famed focaccia di recco. Kaymakcalan’s take on the cheesy flatbreads comes topped with ingredients like spinach, bok choy, and goat cheese; mozzarella, semi-dried tomatoes, and salsa verde; and sweet cheese with pistachio, honey, and mascarpone. Also on board is HGG Tangjulu serving traditional Chinese candied fruit skewers and House of Empanadas bringing over 40 different kinds of Puerto Rican empanadas and other dishes.
Moon Maam, the breakout star of Smorgasburg’s summertime Ice Cream Alley, will serve Thai Japanese street fare like Japanese rice curry with beef cheeks, karaage, and a stewed pork leg over rice. Taste of the Pacific, which drew long lines at Smorgasbar (a weekly cocktail pop-up at Row DTLA), serves sweet fried shrimp, grilled Korean short ribs, and other Hawaiian Filipino dishes. Budding kava vendor Kavahana is selling the 3,000-year-old South Pacific and Hawaiian drink made with mouth-numbing kava nectar tea presented in both traditional and modern flavors.
Brooks says this year’s 10 new operators nearly rival the new entries from 2022, while plenty of other longtime vendors such as Black Sugar Ribs Co., Broad Street Oyster, Goat Mafia, and Tacos 1986 will continue to operate at the Sunday events.
Smorgasburg takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Row DTLA at 777 S. Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90021.