World

When the Best Part of Going Out Is the Late-Night Snack

This story is part of an occasional series exploring nightlife in New York.

Neal Bakshi and Oliver Griffiths were sitting on stationary Citi Bikes in Brooklyn last Saturday night, using them as makeshift tables and chairs as they ate their dinner.

Mr. Bakshi, 29, was eating fajitas from a truck parked to their right while Mr. Griffiths, 37, was eating tacos from a truck just to their left.

“As a drunk food establishment, I am perplexed with the idea that I have an open container of very hot liquid,” Mr. Griffiths said, pointing to his birria tacos and a small plastic container of consomé.

“I only have two hands, and I’m lucky that I have a ‘table,’” he said, gesturing to the bike’s basket. “Maybe this is why they positioned themselves here.”

The bike station, which is on Wyckoff Avenue by Jefferson Street in Bushwick, is at the end of a three-block stretch of nearly a dozen late-night food trucks, which often park there on weekends until nearby clubs and parties disperse in the early morning.

And while some people grab late night tacos or halal food before heading home at 4 a.m., others stop by the trucks before and between parties, like Mr. Bakshi and Mr. Griffiths, who were en route to a D.J. set at Elsewhere.

Yet for thousands of people at the Queens Night Market in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, eating was their Saturday night plan.

At the Queens Night Market, Wrinkle the duck was a guest of honor.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

Sure, the market also had a friendly duck named Wrinkle making the rounds, and a makeshift dance floor where people loyally stomped along to the “Cha Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle.”

But first and foremost, the people who descended on the park were there to try the market’s more than 50 food vendors.

And the Queens Night Market isn’t the only place in New York where people spend the night sampling a range of cuisines. Other night markets have popped up in recent years in the Bronx, Harlem and Chinatown, with their own sets of vendors.

Noodles from Hong Kong Street Food.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times
An edible bunny from Cotton Candy Art.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

Dense nightlife areas, like the stretch of Wyckoff Avenue by Jefferson Street and the Lower East Side, also attract dozens of late-night vendors that serve pizza, smash burgers and chicken over rice until sunrise.

Mattos Paschal, 30, came to the Queens Night Market from Astoria to meet up with friends and try a varied mix of foods from around the world.

Along with the food vendors, there are stalls selling art, merchandise, beer and wine at the Queens Night Market.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

“On the train out here I was like, ‘Do we want to hit as many continents as possible? Do I want something on a stick?’” she said with a laugh.

“The yak cheese is very good,” she added, describing a potato patty that she bought at a Tibetan stand. “I have not had it before, but I’m into it!”

John Wang, 40, founded the market in 2015 and is still the main point person for the seasonal event.

As he ran around putting out logistical fires on Saturday night, he said that he had been inspired by the night markets that he visited in Taiwan as a child.

Twisted potatoes from Twisted Potato.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times
Boozy gummy bears from Di Lena’s Dolcini.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

“Some of these food festivals and concerts have a very specific target demographic that either has disposable income, or they like this kind of music, or they live in this neighborhood,” he said. “To me, the night market in Taiwan really represented the whole city.”

Part of the market’s pull is certainly the community aspect — as Mr. Wang said, “you don’t know who you’re sitting next to.”

But the market’s price cap, which requires vendors to keep their prices below $5 per item (with a few $6 exceptions), is likely one of the main reasons many people flock there week after week.

“I talk all about the diversity and stuff, but I think so much of this is just about the price cap,” Mr. Wang said. “It’s the only place in New York City you can still get a meal for five bucks.”

Andrew Manning and Anna Kim said they had already tried blintzes, bubble tea and donuts at the Queens Night Market.Credit…Lanna Apisukh for The New York Times

And coordinating the Queens Night Market, which involves choosing dozens of vendors each year to fill up an increasingly tight space, is no easy feat.

Mr. Wang said that the market averaged 15,000 visitors each week, which adds up to more than a quarter million people over the course of the season.

“Six days a week, I’m stressed and it’s crazy and I’m not sure I want to do it,” Mr. Wang said. “But then there’s Saturday nights.”

Where to Go

Queens

  • Queens Night Market, Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight starting May 7, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, next to the New York Hall of Science at 47-01 111th Street, queensnightmarket.com

Manhattan

  • Uptown Night Market, Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. starting May 12, 701 West 133rd Street in Harlem, uptownnightmarket.com

  • Chinatown Night Market, Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. starting May 20, Forsyth Plaza (at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge), thinkchinatown.org/nightmarket

  • Smorgasburg World Trade Center, Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., The Oculus at Fulton and Church Street, smorgasburg.com

The Bronx

  • Bronx Night Market, Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. starting April 30, 1 Fordham Plaza, thebronxnightmarket.com

Brooklyn

  • Smorgasburg Prospect Park, Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Breeze Hill in Prospect Park, smorgasburg.com

  • Smorgasburg Williamsburg, opening in June, hours and dates T.B.A., Marsha P. Johnson State Park, smorgasburg.com

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