Sure, we entered 2020 a few days ago, but it doesn’t feel like the L.A. food world’s year begins until the annual relaunch of Smorgasburg. The city’s biggest weekly food event returns from its holiday-season slumber this Sunday, and in 2020 we can expect more than 90 food and shopping vendors popping up in the ROW DTLA complex each week.
Most of the fest’s heavy hitters are returning this year, which means we can still find some of the best BBQ in the city from Moo’s Craft Barbecue, some of the top pastrami in town from Ugly Drum, some of our favorite Tijuana-style tacos from Tacos 1986, and some of L.A.’s best—if not the best—vegan Mexican food from Cena Vegan, as well as a handful of new stands. The 2020 newcomers include a diverse and mouth-watering mix of cuisines, whether they’re some of our favorite pop-ups around or completely new ventures from Smorgasburg vets. Here’s our guide to what to expect in 2020’s Smorgasburg, so you can really start the year off right.
For the most part, you could really only find Jessie Nicely’s fantastic Burmese curries and tea salads once a month: when she cropped up during Chinatown After Dark in Far East Plaza. Thankfully, now you can get a taste of one of our favorite pop-ups every Sunday, with flaky roti and herbaceous curries galore. This isn’t Nicely’s first rodeo; Burmese, Please! tried out a two-month residency at the food fair last summer, but beginning this weekend, she’ll be a permanent vendor.
Textural, bright, fragrant and fun, Burmese, Please! makes some of our favorite food in town—and the tray-lunch sampler was one of our favorite dishes in 2019. Look for the likes of cold chicken noodle salads, Burmese tea leaf salads, khao swe noodle soups, pumpkin paratha curry, and fried bits and bobs served with Nicely’s always-craveable tamarind sauce.
For those who like a meal and a show, this one’s for you. Chinese Laundry actually kicked off Smorgasburg L.A. as one of the weekly fest’s first West Coast vendors, and in the years since have not only been cruising the streets with a bright pink and totally popular food truck, but more recently popping up in Highland Park for hand-pulled, hyper-fresh noodles.
Crowds swarm to see Leo Lamprides—a kitchen vet of chfs David LeFevre and Michael Hung—flip, pull, slap and boil fresh noodles made in Beijing’s traditional La Mian style, then slurp them up in sesame-topped soups and leek-oil bowls. As of this Sunday, you can catch Lamprides and his Chinese Laundry partner and wife, Helen, serving up their Live Noodz as well as roast duck and other traditional and inspired Chinese plates.
Dante Gonzales fries a mean bird, and both coasts know it. The frymaster launched his DFC fried-chicken delivery service in Brooklyn some 15-plus years ago, grew it to a cooking show, and eventually made its way to L.A. where you can currently find it operating as the delivery-only DFC Ghost Kitchen in K-town. Thanks to Smorgasburg, you’ll finally be able to visit Gonzales’s virtual chicken shack, made real, and see some of the wildest chicken tenders in town get made.
Ever creative, Gonzales coats his fried chicken with seeds, oats, Chex Mix, cereal and a ton of spices to create some totally unique and ultra-flavorful chicken, but he doesn’t stop there: You can also stop by his Smorgasburg stand for tofu nuggets, not to mention fresh biscuits.
Turning out Michoacan-style carnitas since 2017, this Mexican-food stand is all about pork. Simmering massive vats of meat in its own lard for hours until the pork is tender and practically falls apart, Los Cochinitos then tosses the stewed goods into tacos, loaded fries, Mexico City-style enchiladas, tortas and even Guadalajaran specialty tortas ahogadas, a sandwich that comes smothered in spicy sauce.
A staple of Vernon’s El Faro Plaza shopping mall, now you can find them in the Arts District each weekend—and you’ll get your choice of pork butt, pork skin, tripe, snout, stomach, ear, heart, tongue, kidney and more when you visit.
Color us beyond excited: The team from one of our favorite Smorgasburg stands is launching an all-new concept this year, and while we’ll always love the flayed-and-grilled lobster and the lobster garlic noodles from Lobsterdamus, we can’t wait to see what Mano Po has in store for us. Their latest is all about the flavor of the Philippines, taking its name from a Filipino tradition wherein elders bestow their blessings onto the younger generation.
At Smorgasburg, you’ll be able to try the founders’ generational cuisine with dishes like chicken inasal, made with ginger, lemongrass, brown sugar and coconut vinegar; Manila BBQ chicken with banana ketchup, calamansi and pickled green papaya; and longanisa lumpia. Wash it all down with Filipino boba or fresh young coconut water.
Colorful in every way imaginable, this modern Desi food truck is setting up its first ever stand at Smorgasburg and bringing its vibrant Indian and Pakistani food along with it. Look for the bright pinks and blues and you’ll soon find their street rolls, their signature, flaky house-made paratta wrapped around sour-yogurt–marinated chicken, grilled steak, and paneer tikka.
It’s also where you’ll find desserts like jalebi (Desi funnel cake) with ice cream, snacks like masala fries, and drinks like lassi in a range of flavors.
Smorgasburg returns to the ROW DTLA complex this Sunday, January 12, from 10am to 4pm at 777 Alameda Street in the Arts District.