Outdoor market food guide: The season's best new artisans

Don't miss these gourmet vendors at the city's summer markets and alfresco food fairs, including Smorgasburg and Hester Street Fair

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Gourmet Sorbet at Dekalb Market

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Hash Bar at Smorgasburg

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Kingleche Creams at Smorgasburg

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Kitty Lee Thomas Sweets at Hester Street Fair

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Madhouse at Dekalb Market

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Mayhem and Stout at Dekalb Market

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Mozz Shop at Smorgasburg

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Rockaway Brewing Company

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Runner and Stone at Smorgasburg

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Takumi Taco at Smorgasburg

Photograph: Noah Devereaux

Gourmet Sorbet at Dekalb Market

Outdoor markets and street-food destinations have exploded in NYC in recent years, driven by the groundswell of gourmet artisans hand-crafting everything from local mayonnaise to ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches. Last summer, the launch of Smorgasburg—a grubcentric spinoff of the Brooklyn Flea—brought even more buzz to the alfresco eating circuit, and now the choices are more robust than ever. To help you sort through the offerings, we've highlighted the standout newcomers at some of the most popular destinations for sun-seeking food lovers.

Kitty Lee Thomas Sweets

Marshmallows are the latest treat to get an artisanal upgrade at the Hester Street market, courtesy of investment-banker-turned-pastry-ace Kristin Godburn. She debuted the puffy creations in 2011 at cult cupcakery Robicelli’s, where she earned her chops working as a sous chef. At her first solo stall, she highlights a rotating selection of 20 flavors ($2 each, five for $9) every week. We recommend the snickerdoo—a fluffy, spongy caramel mallow covered in chocolate and salty peanut crumbs. The fruitier riffs, like banana fluffernaut and a lime-infused brown-sugar version doused in coconut and grated lime zest, are equally addictive. Hester Street Fair, Hester St at Essex St (kittyleethomassweets.com)

Runner & Stone

New Amsterdam Market has built a reputation as a bread lover’s paradise, hosting pedigreed producers like Orwasher’s during its seasonal weekly bazaars. Runner & Stone, which first set up shop here in 2011, has quickly earned a following of its own, turning out long-fermented loaves made from locally sourced grains and flour. Peter Endriss and Chris Pizzulli have a Gowanus bakery and restaurant in the works for fall 2012, but for now they’re slinging an array of their goods at the market—look out for the crusty olive-studded ciabatta ($6), toothsome Brooklyn Summer Ale barley bread ($6) and rye miche ($5), in addition to daintier pastries, like buttery almond croissants ($4) with feather light layers and mini buckwheat-walnut financiers ($1.50). If you can’t make it to South Street Seaport on Sundays, you can also find Runner & Stone breads at Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea. New Amsterdam Market, South St between Beekmam St and Peck Slip (runnerandstone.com)

Gourmet Sorbet

Artisanal ice creams still hold sway among the overheated masses at Gotham’s outdoor markets, but these seasonal sorbets come up trumps for intense mouth-buzzing flavors, without the stomach-sitting heaviness of traditional creams. Find former L.A.-based pastry chef Deborah Gorman (L&E Oyster Bar) and finance refugee Nicole Cardone on weekends at Dekalb Market, where they shovel out ever-changing scoops (two for $5). Nuttier flavors, such as organic pistachio, reach a creaminess akin to yogurt, while a tangerine-cantaloupe variety captures the fruits’ sweet and mellow flavors in one velvety sphere. Equally cleansing is their brewed-in-the-sun tea sorbet float, featuring a scoop of herby lemon-thyme melting into the iced quaff. Dekalb Market, 138 Willoughby St at Flatbush Ave Ext, Downtown Brooklyn (follow on Twitter @gourmetsorbet)

Mayhem & Stout

While some flea-market fare is built for extended grazing, these colossal braised sandwiches will tame even the most voracious appetites. Jay Brown and Steve Applegate—vets of Ana Beall’s Tea Room (Westfield, New Jersey) and Chelsea Market’s Bar Suzette Creperie, respectively—first set up digs as weekend vendors in 2011, before finding their permanent home in one of Dekalb’s reused shipping containers this past April. Meaty sandwiches ($7–$9), served on lightly toasted rolls from Caputo’s Bakery, include the braised-until-tender Berkshire and Duroc pork shoulder, the shredded meat piled high. Match the proteins—other options include short rib and lamb—with homemade condiments like fragrant blueberry sriracha and the signature Asian BBQ Dragon sauce, made with pungent chili, garlic, umami-rich fish sauce and more than 30 other ingredients. Dekalb Market (mayhemandstout.com)

Mozz Shop

Two Smorgasburg vets—Matthew Lief of Landhaus and Danny Lyu of Cemita’s—join forces for this new venture, which focuses on fresh mozzarella that the duo works into a variety of ready-to-eat snacks. Lief and Lyu make the creamy curds daily, occasionally hand-pulling fresh batches at the market. It’s milky and voluptuous, with a high moisture content that bursts out of lightly fried bread-crumb shells in the signature Mozz balls ($5). Carnivores will also enjoy the Italian corn dog ($5): A fennel-and-chili–spiced heritage pork sausage is deep-fried in a crispy polenta batter that traps in a molten layer of gooey mozzarella. Smorgasburg, 27 North 6th St between Kent Ave and East River, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (follow on Twitter @MozzShop)

Hash Bar

George Weld, the brains behind Billyburg’s Egg and Parish Hall, avoids any gimmickry at his hyperseasonal Smorgasburg stand, where super-fresh produce elevates the humble potato hash (plain $4). We love the weekly special “hash with a fork” ($7), which allows the complexity of each element to shine, as cubes of roasted fingerling potatoes rub shoulders with ingredients like crunchy asparagus, sweet-yet-tart rhubarb and fresh mint, all gleaming in oil. But you can also create your own combos, piling on seasonally changing meats ($3), cheeses ($2) and vegetables ($2), some sourced from Weld’s Goatfell Farm upstate. Smorgasburg (follow on Twitter @Hash_Bar)

Rockaway Brewing Company

Rockaway Beach has established itself as an outdoor-eats mecca over the past two summers, with seasonal snack shacks like Rippers (a collaboration between the Meat Hook and Roberta’s) and Steve’s Ice Cream joining Rockaway Taco along the boardwalk. Now, beach bums who make the trek to Queens can wash down the grub with pints from one of New York’s newest nanobreweries, Rockaway Brewing Company. The outfit is the brainchild of pals Ethan Long and Marcus Burnett, who first started home-brewing together out of their bungalows in the Rockaways. Today, they’re handcrafting tiny batches of their suds—including the debut Summer Ale, which drinks like a hybrid of malty English-style ESB and floral pale ale—out of a warehouse in Long Island City. While they build out their brewery, develop new recipes and seek distribution at NYC bars, committed brewhounds can find RBC Summer Ale on tap exclusively at the Low Tide Bar on the boardwalk. Available at the Low Tide Bar, 96th St and Boardwalk, the Rockaways, Queens (rbco.wordpress.com)

Kingleche Cremes

Walter M. Youngblood’s lactose intolerance led him to experiment with goat’s-milk ice cream in the kitchen at wd~50, where he was allowed to tinker while working as a server at the restaurant. Over the past year, he has tested out developing flavors at sporadic tastings (including the New Amsterdam Market’s ice-cream social), but the organic and fair-trade delicacies finally get a platform of their own this summer at Smorgasburg. The treats have a creamy yet firm texture, somewhere between that of regular soft serve and a frozen pop. The goat’s milk contributes a slightly nutty tang to offbeat flavors such as the subtle “honey with herbs” (rosemary and thyme), bourbon-spiked chocolate and a seasonal red-velvet riff made with beets (all $4). Smorgasburg (follow on Twitter at @kingleche1)

Takumi Taco

Fusion tacos have proliferated in recent years, but this quirky stand is the first we’ve seen to play on the delicate flavors of the sushi bar. Marc Spitzer (Bond St executive chef) and partner Derek Kaye create artful hybrids like spicy tuna ($6)—silky cubes of sashimi-grade big eye mixed with creamy avocado, thinly sliced cucumber and Japanese yam—tucked into a crunchy taco shell fashioned from fried gyoza dough. Other variations play with sushi’s traditional accompaniments, such as beer-braised short rib ($5) gussied up with squirt of tongue-cooling wasabi crema, then encased in a pliant corn tortilla with napa cabbage. Smorgasburg (takumitaco.com)

Madhouse Bakery

Finance worker Christian Matthäus bakes a range of European loaves at his Dekalb outpost, but its the breads inspired by his youth in southern Germany that are the real draw. On weekends, find him turning out fresh batches of German-style pretzel rolls, which he dips in a lye solution before they hit the oven to develop their glossy, beautifully browned exterior and chewy center. A bit of honey in the dough adds a subtly sweet counterpoint to the crunchy, coarse salt on top. Get the rolls plain or as a sandwich—fillings range from German staples, such as Schaller & Weber bratwurst ($5), to simple European classics, like mozzarella with homemade basil pesto ($5). During the week, Madhouse also serves ready-to-eat sandwiches on house-baked rye, milk rolls and Italian bread ($5.51). Dekalb Market (madhousebakery.com)