When it comes to artisan food in New York City, summer means one thing: a myriad of open air food markets, [our favorite is Madison Square Eats, visit #MadSqEats for more info] where small batch food purveyors and local chefs serve up everything from ice cream sandwiches and wood-fired pizza to charcuterie and macaroons. But you'd better get there fast: just like the warm weather, these temporary markets only last so long. Here are five tips to help you fill your plate this season.
Be Part of the Crowd
Since each of the city's outdoor food markets is a showcase for several dozen different food vendors, deciding which to choose can be a real challenge. However, don't be afraid to follow the crowd. When it comes to food, New Yorkers have seen it all, so if a particular vendor boasts a lengthy line, there is probably good reason. After all, some things in life—especially savory bites and sweet treats—really are worth the wait.
Paper or Plastic
Many of us don't think twice about swiping our debit cards. However, be sure to visit the ATM before making a market trip. While some vendors are equipped to accept plastic, many run cash-only operations. Having cash in hand will ensure you avoid a worthless wait in line. Plus, you'll have a few spare dollars to add to the tip jars (you'll want to after tasting the delicious food!).
The only real problem with open air food markets is that there is so much excellent food to try! Avoid the temptation of purchasing a full meal and instead give yourself the space to sample a variety of offerings. Many vendors offer half sizes of their well-known menu items, or single servings of their most popular specialties (think one cookie versus a package of three). There's no need to choose when you can have a small bite of it all!
When eating out, diners do not often have the chance to step inside a restaurant's kitchen. However, at the city's open air food markets, the kitchen is on full display, and the chef is typically the one serving your food. While you wait and watch him assemble your order, don't be shy about striking up a conversation and asking questions related to the dish, the ingredients, or even the chef's inspiration for his menu. Embrace the opportunity to learn something new about your food and the people preparing it.
Think of the city's open air food markets like playgrounds for chefs: unlike at their brick and mortar storefronts, these temporary markets are an opportunity for them to experiment with new menu offerings with very little risk. Say so long to all your culinary inhibitions and take advantage of unusual seasonal ingredients, new cooking traditions, and eclectic menu offerings while they last! Who knows: you may just be biting into the next big thing!
This article was written by Angela Brown, a freelance writer and a co-owner of Mayhem & Stout, a New York City-based artisan sandwich company. She is the voice behind the food blog The-Chefs-Wife.com, where she writes weekly narratives inspired by her experiences owning and operating a piece of the NYC food community.