Smorgasburg, the country's biggest weekly open-air food market, started in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood in 2011, and now, it's celebrating its 10th anniversary in a big way — by heading across the Hudson River to Jersey City.
The popular foodie destination will make its New Jersey debut on Saturday, May 29, at 195 Hudson Street in a space that's currently a 40,000-square-foot parking lot owned by Mack-Cali, just a block from the waterfront with sprawling views of downtown Manhattan. The market will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday through at least October.
"We and our vendors — many of whom are located in or have roots in New Jersey — are just so happy to be excited about something new right now, as there's nothing like building a new community around food, particularly as we all get used to seeing one another in public again," Smorgasburg cofounder Eric Demby tells Travel + Leisure.
It's a major step for the market, as its other locations have been closed since the fall of 2019 because of the pandemic. Currently, New Jersey has a limit of 500 people on general or catered outdoor gatherings, with a possibility of the cap being lifted on May 19, according to the state's COVID-19 site. Physical distancing will be required, and there will be waterfront seating for 500 people.
Opening day will feature about 30 vendors, including Berg's Pastrami, Big Mozz, Bona Bona Ice Cream, Bisska, C Bao, Carlitos Barbecue Taqueria, D'Abruzzo, The Good Batch, Oyster Party, Tojo's Kitchen, and more.
"Being a vendor has given us the opportunity to serve our fresh and homemade Asian dishes to visitors from all around the world," C Bao owner Annie Ye tells T+L. "We are excited for Smorgasburg to launch in Jersey City this summer, which will allow us to reach even more people and bring thousands of New Yorkers and tourists to the area that is easily accessible via the PATH train."
Indeed, it's the accessibility that will be a big differentiator for the location, with PATH trains running east to west from Newark to Manhattan, as well as the NJ Light Rail running north and south with stations in Bayonne, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City, and North Bergen. Additionally, there's easy ferry service, bikeshares, and car parking in the area. "[This] allows Smorgasburg to become a regional destination, which is vital to our long-term success," says Demby.
The idea to bring Smorgasburg across the river first came from Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who contacted the team about it seven years ago. "I'm a big believer that if you want Jersey City to grow into one of the best midsized cities in the country, you need to invest in arts and culture, entertainment, restaurants, and nightlife," he told T+L on a call yesterday. "We saw what was happening in Brooklyn, so we reached out and I had them come over here for a tour."
Things didn't go exactly as planned at first. "The day that they came over here, we were unlucky with terrible weather, so I don't think the city showed its best that particular day," he admitted. But the visit did make an impression.
"We loved it at the time, but the stars didn't quite align for us to expand," Demby said. "They aligned this year: great partners in Mack-Cali, New Jersey, and the city and mayor working with us to make it happen quickly and safely. It's a location where we feel welcome and could hit the ground running with lots of folks in the area already being fans of Smorg."
Fulop is thrilled that the Jersey City market will be a landmark moment for Smorgasburg, too. "I'm really excited that they've chosen to expand in Jersey City and that it's their first location outside of L.A. or New York," he said. "Mack-Cali was looking to energize the waterfront with more activity and vibrancy over the weekends — and one of the things they thought of was making it a food destination with a lot of open space in a very scenic environment with unparalleled views of the New York City skyline."
That was a big draw for Demby, too. "The waterfront is almost a mirror of our Williamsburg flagship, which takes in the east side skyline from Lower Manhattan on up," he said. But another major factor was that Jersey City has already long been growing its food scene. Demby added, "I'd be lying if I didn't mention that eating our way through Jersey City has been a pleasure as we look for folks to invite to the new market — a process we've only just begun."
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