Now is the perfect time to visit New York City. The weather is warming up, restaurants are releasing their spring/summer menus, and things are popping up all over the city—literally. Farmers markets have come out of the woodwork and pop-up food markets are slowly coming out of hibernation.
The latest of these to return to the city is Mad. Sq. Eats, a biannual market put on by UrbanSpace. This pop-up food market has booths from some of the most popular eateries in NYC, making it easy to sample the best of the best in one space. The pop-up food market is in Worth Square, which is across the street from Madison Square Park.
I scored a media pass to Mad. Sq. Eats and did my best to sample a little of everything. Here are some of the standout eateries to put on your list when you visit.
Make Sandwich is one of those places that I can’t quite pinpoint why its food is so good, it just is, you know? The chicken and chorizo sandwich is my personal favorite—thickly sliced chicken, spicy chorizo, and smoky mayo are some of the incredible flavors here. The steak and salsa verde is also fab, and it’s kept quite simple with super thick tri-tip steak, salsa verde, and a crunchy baguette. The sandwiches here are $10+ but are definitely gourmet.
Say hello to my newest food obsession. Arancini are an Italian street food that mean “little oranges” because of their golden color. They’re essentially deep fried risotto balls stuffed with various fillings. I chose a mozzarella and pesto-stuffed arancini and am seriously regretting not trying a Nutella-stuffed one (seriously, what was I thinking??). As a bonus, the employees at this booth are super nice, so don’t hesitate to ask for their recommendations!
Melt makes some of the best ice cream sandwiches in the city. They’re known for their classic chocolate chip and walnut cookie with vanilla ice cream, but I usually go for the chocolate ice cream-stuffed sandwich. These babies are pretty hefty, so don’t be afraid to split one with your bestie.
Bao are tiny steamed buns with various fillings (they’re folded up taco-style). If you’ve never had a steamed bun, it’s about time you did. The texture is quite unusual if you’re used to western-style cooking, but the flavors are phenomenal. The Szechuan fried chicken bao is tasty, but isn’t super spicy. The popcorn chicken here is also quite good, but I personally couldn’t eat both a bao and a serving of popcorn chicken.
JARS took social media by storm last year, and it’s grown immensely since then. Essentially, JARS are layered desserts in Mason jars. Some of them are much too sweet for my taste, but the chocolate chip cookie dough jar is amazing—fudge brownie, whipped cream, chocolate mousse, and cookie dough bites all layered in an adorable Mason jar. Be still my clogged arteries.
A bing is a street crepe from Northern China. Picture a delicate French crepe filled with Nutella…now forget all about that and prepare yourself to the jumbo sandwich crepe that is a bing. The process of making these bings is a bit intense (you can watch how it’s made on their website), but in a nutshell you wind up with a rice flour crepe covered in scrambled egg, hoisin sauce, scallions, and other goodies that’s been stuffed with duck, pork, or chicken. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, but it’s darn good.
This is a Mexican eatery unlike all others. On the surface, it serves the typical fare—burritos, tortas, and the like. But their burritos are next level. Whatever magic they do when they’re seasoning their dishes sets them apart from any other Mexican place I’ve tried in the city. Their Mexican street corn is also amazing (grilled corn slathered with mayo and spices), but is a touch expensive at $6 for an ear.
Is it really a New York food market without pizza? I think not. Roberta’s is a solid place to go if you’re looking for a wood fired pizza. Their pizza is no-frills, but looks like something you’d find in Italy. The pizza could easily be a generous single serving, but I’d say share it with a friend (or take home the leftovers!) and then hit up another booth for dessert.
I told myself I was going to share an order of French fries with my friend, and then I ended up eating the whole thing myself because it was so good. I went for the curry fries (piping hot fries with a dash of curry powder served with spicy curry ketchup) and darn near inhaled them. The salteñas are also delicious here. They’re essentially baked empanadas filled with all sorts of yummy things. The beef-filled salteña is incredible—it seems so simply filled but packs a major flavor punch.
To be perfectly honest, I can’t even remember what food they serve here, because I was laser focused on the gelato. Exceptionally creamy and ultra rich, it’s utterly delicious. Go for the bacio flavor—chocolate hazelnut is always a good call.
Red Hook is one of the main lobster roll places in the city. Its competitior, Luke’s Lobster, isn’t at Mad. Sq. Eats, so you won’t have to worry about choosing between them. The Maine-style lobster roll here is really good—a hot buttery roll stuffed with just the right amount of lobster filling (and not too much mayo either!). The price of one of these might knock the wind out of you though. But if you have $20 that’s weighing your pocket down, it’s a great lunch option.
Gourmet grilled cheese, only in New York, am I right? I sampled the Valley Thunder sandwich—brisket, cheddar cheese, and homemade mac and cheese between two slices of bread. Terribly tasty and terribly bad for you! Their sandwiches are all very rich, so this is another spot I’d recommend hitting up with a friend.
Pop by Mad. Sq. Eats if you get the chance! It ends June 9th and won’t return until later this year, so definitely sample some good eats while you can. It’s the perfect place to stop for a midafternoon snack. Plus, you’ll be right next to Madison Square Park and the Flatiron building—hoorah for multiple tourist attractions in one spot!
Which eatery would you be most likely to try?