Food markets are a great place to sample trending local cuisine, often with a range of international flavors. The competitive environment fuels culinary innovation, with vendors starting their first business or carrying on cultural or family traditions and making them their own.
Because of the diverse range of food options available, these locations present a great opportunity for those in the established food industry to pinpoint the start of new trends, see what’s popular, and even post pop-ups to try out new food styles or dishes on an eager audience.
What’s showing up at some of the biggest and best food markets across the U.S. in 2022?
Smorgasburg Los Angeles
This Sunday market, with locations in downtown L.A., NYC, Miami, and more, is billed as the largest open-air food market in America, reportedly serving as many as 50,000 people each weekend.
There are food vendors galore, many offering innovative culinary creations to tempt diners and, in some cases, drum up business for their off-site, brick-and-mortar locations.
At Smorgasburg Los Angeles, vegan options abound, perhaps best exemplified by Say It Ain’t So, which offers burgers, fried chicken, and other beloved fast food staples made with zero meat or animal byproducts. They’re so good that they could easily be mistaken for the real deal.
B’ivrit goes vegan with Israeli street food faves like falafel and shawarma pitas, while Happy Ice makes colorful, flavorful vegan ice cream that’s to die for on a hot summer day. Beverage-wise, Sweetgrass delivers outstanding, fresh pressed sugarcane juice.
Queens Night Market NYC
Open Saturday nights throughout the warmer months, the open-air Queens Night Market typically features around 100 vendors selling art, merchandise, and, of course, food. What stands out in this diverse market is the astonishing variety of international cuisine.
You can nosh on Polish pierogies at Matylda’s Foods and grab duck buns at C Bao Asian Buns one booth over. Vendors offering Brazilian steak sandwiches and Venezuelan cachapas (corn pancakes) compete with Vietnamese pork belly, Persian stew, and Cambodian fish amok, among other delectable savory dishes.
Of course, there’s plenty to satisfy a sweet tooth, as well, from the Romanian chimney cakes at Twister Cake Bakery to the Haitian chocolates at Askanya to the mouthwatering delights at Sam’s Fried Ice Cream. For a parched throat, Anda Café serves up delightful bubble tea.
The takeaway is that there’s something for everyone, with international flavor to spare.
Pike Place Market Seattle
This Seattle market, in operation since 1907, is best known for the fish throwing, which apparently started as a prank but was so popular that it stuck. While tourists may come for the show, they stay for the food.
Among the most popular food vendors at Pike Place Market is Mee Sum Pastry, where the BBQ pork bao is the stuff of legend (and long lines). For something sweeter, The Crumpet Shop doesn’t disappoint, with delightfully delicate scones and crumpets that keep breakfast extra British.
Of course, you can’t visit Seattle without sipping some of the best local coffee around – after all, it is the birthplace of Starbucks. Venturing under the market’s main entrance reveals Ghost Alley Espresso, where freshly roasted beans are brewed into strong espresso on a local, hand-made machine and served with house-made syrups.
The takeaway here is that authenticity abounds.
West Side Market Cleveland
Dating back to 1840, the West Side Market is home to international cuisine ranging from falafel to empanadas to perfectly-cooked gnocchi. What really stands out, though, is the selection of magnificent baked goods.
Artisan-style bread featuring simple ingredients and outstanding crust is served at Mediterra Bakehouse. Bohar Bakery offers European-style cakes, pastries, pretzels, and more, made from scratch by a trade baker from Budapest.
Spanos features Greek pastries and was handed down to the owner from her father. The tarts, biscuits, and triple chocolate Guinness Stout Cake at Reilly’s Irish Bakery are born from family tradition. If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s a bounty of traditional recipes.
Food markets reflect the flavor of local culture and cuisine but also new trends and techniques in the making. With a keen eye, industry professionals can learn valuable lessons from popular food market vendors.
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