Review: Smorgasburg LA highlights diverse cultures, worth the Sunday trip Downtown


Photo credit: Cat Oriel

The Stoked! platter from Stoked! California BBQ features three different kind of meat, corn, beans and bread. The platter can be purchased for $20.

When I think of trendy, outdoor food markets, a few things come to mind: terrible, expensive parking, ridiculously long lines and overpriced, overrated food.

After hearing about the open-air Smorgasburg LA, I was expecting it to be more of same. But during my excursion Downtown, I found the exact opposite to be true.

Smorgasburg LA is a weekly market on the five-acre site of the weekday Alameda Produce Market, which is part of a new development called ROW DTLA. Each Sunday, dozens of food, drink, clothing, wellness and other craft vendors set up shop and welcome hundreds of visitors.

Craving Hawaiian food served inside a “pineapple boat” from Shrimp Daddy? How about fresh sea urchin and oysters from The Jolly Oyster? Smorgasburg LA offers all of that plus tacos, acai bowls, spam musubi and more.

I was first surprised how there was no traffic getting into the event, and that the parking lot was huge. It accommodates more than 4,000 cars and was very easily accessible. There were plenty of vacant spaces, and most importantly, they offer free parking for the first two hours. The parking lot overlooks the old, pink American Apparel building, which is a two minute walk from the the front gates.

I was expecting there to be an admission fee at the gate, but I was surprised when no one was charging us to come in. Overwhelmed by the vibrant colored umbrellas, tables and booths, my mom and I began to walk around, surveying the massive array of food selections.

Photo by Cat Oriel
Two extra large xiaolongbaos and a lobster roll sit on the table ready to be eaten. The dumplings are from Brothecary, one of the many vendors that can only be found at Smorgasburg LA.

We first tried an adorable, extra-large xiaolongbao — a Chinese soup dumpling — from Brothecary, which cost $10. I waited for about 15 minutes for our order, but I used that time to walk around and look at the other vendors.

The xiaolongbao arrived in a cute wooden steamer. They gave us a small straw to sip the refreshing, tasty broth. I then used chopsticks to dig into the skin, and inside there was plenty of meat. After I was done, I made sure to return the little wooden steamer to their booth to be recycled. It’s admittedly a bit pricey for a dumpling, but I was really satisfied with it.

Next, we split a lobster roll from a bright yellow food truck called Batterfish. The lobster roll was good, but definitely not worth $16. However, I would consider going back to try their their fish and chips, since that is what they are known for.

I was grateful I decided not to wear skinny jeans that day, because we finished off the feast with a barbecue platter from Stoked! California BBQ.

For $20 dollars this platter came with tri-tip, pork belly, linguiça, bone marrow, baked beans, corn, cheesy bread and slaw. Everything on this platter was so delicious — the meat was seasoned and cooked perfectly. Well worth its price, I would definitely recommend this platter for any meat-lover.

I never thought I’d ever be able to say I’ve eaten a soup dumpling, half a lobster roll and barbecue tray in one sitting, but I guess I can check that off my bucket list now.

Aside from food, I also looked at the clothing, books and art booths. One that really stood out to me was Capricorn Press. According to their website, Capricorn Press is a line of original artworks made in LA and released as fine art archival prints. Their art is influenced by antiquarian books and illustrations, art deco styles of the 1920’s, the zodiac and constellations.

Photo by Cat Oriel
Besides food and beverages, vendors also sell different crafts, clothing, books and plants. This table sold succulents that matched the market’s colorful umbrellas.

Smorgasburg LA is an extremely fun experience. I’m surprised it is not more popular or talked about amongst my fellow Angelenos.  What I love about Los Angeles is the rich culture found throughout the city, and Smorgasburg LA captures everything I love about my hometown. This market is a snapshot of all of the diversity, amazing food and life our wonderful city has to offer. You’ll leave feeling happy, full and grateful you went.

Perhaps you’ll make a new friend while eating a donut from Donut Friend and bond over your shared love for carbs. Perhaps you’ll discover a food that you would never have tried before. But I can guarantee you that you’ll leave with a perfect picture to post on the ‘gram. I’m so excited to go back to Smorgasburg LA soon, but remind me to leave room for dessert.

Smorgasburg LA is open every Sunday between 10am and 4pm the Alameda Produce Market. The parking garage is located at ROW DTLA, 785 Bay St., Los Angeles, CA 90021.