Credit: Credit: Lobsterdamus

12 Mouthwatering Must-Try Eats at Smorgasburg LA

From BBQ to Burgers, Here’s What to Sample at This Epic Open-Air Food Market in Los Angeles

Food nourishes the body and feeds the soul, and there is no better place to try a variety of new bites and sips than Smorgasburg LA, an open-air market held every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Row DTLA. Packed with hundreds of exciting vendors showcasing flavors from all over the world plus the latest LA creations, trying to decide what to devour is half the fun. Curate your own foodie tour by starting with these must-try vendors. You’ll get a perfect taste of Los Angeles—one of the best culinary destinations in the world.

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Battambong BBQ

Must-try food item: 17-Hour Smoked Brisket and Spare Ribs

Best Eats Smorgasburg LA
Credit: Chad Phuong

Chad Phuong is a Cambodian cowboy pitmaster from Long Beach who adds his own flair to Texas smoked BBQ. A former refugee who fled Cambodia in the 1970s, Chad once worked at a slaughterhouse in the Texas Panhandle and never lost his love for meat. He pivoted during the pandemic from working at a surgery center and now uses his skills slicing juicy ribs, tri-tip, chicken, pulled pork, twako (Cambodian sausage) and brisket smoked with red oak and world-renowned black pepper from Cambodia.

 

Softies Burger 

Must-try food item: Classic Cali or Ahi Verde Burger

Credit: Smorgasburg LA

Josh Kim and Sam Hong left the tech world behind during the pandemic and set up two griddles as a pop-up in a coffee shop, serving burgers flattened with a mound of stringy onions. While they don’t want to be called smash burgers, the juicy patties and soft buns are drawing long lines. Asian flavors are celebrated in creative sauces like the Shroom Burger with yuzu mayo and the Aji Verde Burger—inspired by Peruvian aji verde—with cilantro mayo, pickled jalapeños and a spicy kick.

 

ManEatingPlant

Must-try food item: Fried Shroom Bao and Char Siu BBQ Bao Combo

In 2018, Phil Kwan and Candice Tzeng began exploring a vegan lifestyle and noticed a lack of Asian representation in vegetarian options. They started with a book of recipes inspired by their grandparents’ and parents’ cooking, with a vision to share it with the community—starting first at Cosmic Brewery in Torrance in a humble little tent pop-up. At Smorgasburg LA, dive into a bao bun loaded with crisp beer-battered king oyster mushrooms or their popular garlic noods, and wash either down with a bottle of Oolong Arnold Palmer.

 

Miya Miya Shawarma

Must-try food item: Chicken Shawarma Wrap, the Yaz Way

Bite into a shawarma wrap with chicken marinated for 48+ hours in a sacred Jordanian spice blend imported from Amman. This creation is served with housemade creamy garlic sauce and pickles and comes tightly wrapped in a long stick of handmade saj bread. Amp up your bite the “Yaz Way” with a dripping of Jordanian pomegranate molasses. Miya miya means “100%” or “very good” in Arabic, and this new vendor was one of our favorite discoveries at Smorgasburg LA.

 

Glad 

Must-try food item: Leek ‘Nduja Focaccia di Recco

Best Eats Smorgasburg LA
Credit: Glad

Freshly stretched and made to order, this crispy, thin focaccia with a bubbly, cheesy interior originates from the small town of Recco, Italy. While the Original is a delicious blend of stracchino, olive oil and sea salt, turn up the flavor with Leek ‘Nduja featuring spreadable pork salami, Calabrian chili, pecorino Toscano and braised leeks. The dough is their own variation with influences from Albania, Greece, Turkey and Balkan cuisine because the couple missed byreks (pastries) from Turkey and couldn’t find good options in the States. 

 

Sweet Grass Sugarcane Juice

Must-try food item: Calamansi Cane Juice 

Watch the sugarcane press at Sweet Grass extract the liquid gold that enhances a variety of freshly pressed real fruit juices. All drinks are made with sugarcane shipped regularly from Southeast Asia. The most popular flavors are watermelon, passionfruit and lychee, but other standouts are strawberry, dragon fruit and calamansi (orange and lime mix). “Phin Filter” Iced Coffee can be blended with sweet cream, ube cream or egg mixtures. Cambodian-owned, the concept of Sweet Grass materialized during the pandemic with a food truck and evolved into its own storefront in Long Beach.  

 

Evil Cooks

Must-try food item: Unhappy Meal

Kill your appetite with these amped street tacos. Known for marinated black al pastor octopus, new additions include The McSatan—a tortilla topped with mozzarella cheese, beef patty, American cheese, caramelized onions, bacon and guac—which was inspired by a vendor in Mexico City that the owner frequented as a kid. Make it an Unhappy Meal box with one of their standout dessert tacos and a prize! Try the S’more Taco, the Churro Cheesecake Taco with strawberries and mint, or the Flan Taco with coconut candy, orange peels, mint and polvorón. Choose from the carnivore’s Hell Menu, the Secret Menu or the vegan Heaven Menu.  

 

MuMu Bakery

Must-try food item: Croissant Taiyaki with apple and mango chunks

The special croissant dough (not made from flour) is what makes these fish-imprinted Croissant Taiyaki pastries so divine. The light pastry dough is crunchy on the outside with a hint of Japanese rock sugar and stuffed with gooey goodness. Select a filling like traditional red bean or cream cheese, custard, cheese, mochi, Nutella, pizza, crunchy cookie or apple mango. More Korean delicacies, decadent ice creams and flavored milks and teas are served at their Koreatown cafe.

 

Mama Musubi

Must-try food item: Mama Sando

Crafting traditional Japanese flavors for over 10 years, Spam Musubi is a bestseller that plays with different flavors and textures. Order the Mamo Sando with a layer of housemade crab mix, thick Spam and kewpie mayo sealed with nori. The sweet crab with the rich salty Spam is a heavenly flavor combo! Another filling option is the mix-and-match Rice Ball Combo with rice hugged in seaweed and stuffed with fillings like salmon, spicy tuna, miso chicken, eggplant chili miso and spicy kelp, all topped with furikake.

 

Lobsterdamus

Must-try food item: Lobster Nest

Satiate those crustacean cravings with a crowd favorite: a whole Maine lobster grilled over Mesquite, cracked open, then brushed with salt and Cajun butter—all atop a generous portion of garlic noodles. Try the Lobster Fries or their newest item, buttery lobster over mac and cheese. Cousins Johnny Angeles and Francis Reyes grew up in a Filipino family eating lobster for holidays thanks to a family member in the lobster business. That sparked the idea to use their culinary backgrounds to bring loaded lobster dishes to Smorgasburg LA.

 

All About the Cinnamon

Must-try food item: The Missy Elliott Cinnamon Bun

These hot or cold hip-hop-inspired organic cinnamon rolls—stuffed with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon—were inspired by the need for a comforting classic during the pandemic. Two high school sweethearts created decadent flavor options inspired by their favorite rap artists. Choose from more than 15 topping styles; there’s the fan-favorite Missy Elliott, covered with their signature cream cheese frosting, strawberry shortcake crumbles and fresh strawberries, or Lil Kim, doused with Fruity Pebbles and strawberries. Coffee lovers will adore Salt-N-Pepa, with coffee-infused cream cheese and a caramel drizzle. 

 

Rice Gang

Must-try food item: Meatball atop Sticky Rice floating in Thai Marinara

Smorgasburg LA staple Moom Maam, known for specialty Thai gelato with flavors like smoked cookie and Vanilla of SouthEast Asia, is expanding thanks to former software engineer Saran Wai. He flavor-experimented with Thai rice bowls featuring various global stews, adapting a similar street food concept from Thailand. “Gang” means curry or stew in Thai. Try the half-pound meatball served with sticky rice and Thai marinara or Japanese curry rice with Tonkatsu served with a beef cheek roux sauce.

 

Smorgasburg LA
When: Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
@smorgasburgla

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Melisa Curtin is a Connecticut girl madly in love with California. She is an L.A.-based travel and food writer who has documented her adventures for over 10 years. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet, USA Today10Best, LA Weekly, Fodor’s, AAA, many SoCal print publications, and more. Melissa’s passion for globetrotting and learning about other cultures was fueled after traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and teaching in England on a Fulbright. Melissa is always on the hunt for the best local bites and destinations with few tourists. Get to know the Best of L.A. by checking out her website LaLaScoop.com or follow her on @lalascoop. Now as a travel advisor with Fora, she books clients on cruises, family vacations, and hotel stays with mega perks. She splits her time between Malibu and Palm Springs with her husband and her ever-growing collection of plants and travel decor.

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