L.A.'s New Weekly, Outdoor, Semi-Permananent(?), Organized Food Festival - Smorgasburg [Thoughts + Pics]

It was there–I didn’t get it because I was trying to save room to try a buncha stuff. The pizzas coming out looked quite good though.

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The Pomegranate-Glazed Pork Belly tacos from Little Llama are not to be missed.

Darn it @ipsedixit. Why didn’t you tell us before it got to be 95 degrees outside? :stuck_out_tongue: Thanks for the tip, I’ll be sure to try it next time (when it’s slightly cooler).

Anyone go to Ponchos Tlayudas?


I went. Hate to say it but I was a little bit underwhelmed. I liked the blood sausage, but otherwise found it a little dry. I’ve also just never been the biggest Tlayudas fan. On the other hand, I love the mandu place at Smorgasburg and had some great stuff from there.

Update 3:

It had been well over 1.5 years since we last stopped by Smorgasburg L.A., the now permanent Weekly Food Festival at ROW DTLA. When they first opened up, Smorgasburg had smartly lined up some top talent during its Grand Opening wave (e.g., Nicole Rucker Pies, Porridge & Puffs and Guerrilla Tacos).

Once they all left for more steady operations, we thought Smorgasburg might not last much longer, but as we walked in, imagine our surprise but there were even more people than during that initial Grand Opening period.

Moo’s Craft Barbecue

By far the longest line at Smorgasburg on this visit was for Moo’s Craft Barbecue. There were over 80 people in line(!). :open_mouth:

We had heard about Moo’s Craft Barbecue from some Eater L.A. articles, as they mentioned Moo’s was an underground sensation. We were excited to see what their BBQ was like and quickly joined the line.

Pulled Pork:

Their Pulled Pork was decent: A bit stringy, moist yet lacking unctuousness.

BBQ Spare Ribs:

Dry, overly salty, there was a bit of smokiness but it was so overwhelmed by the dried out Pork and Salt that it was just a disappointment. :frowning:


They claim to be doing a Texas-style BBQ Brisket. Taking a bite: Chewy, salty, one-note. :sob: There was a bit of moisture from the bits that had some fat in it, but most of the Brisket we all tried was mainly chewy and one-note. :frowning:

Potato Salad:

Their Potato Salad leaned on the Mustard-Vinegary side, but was decent.

I’ll defer to our FTC BBQ experts (@Ns1 @A5KOBE @Hungrydrunk @ebethsdad @js76wisco @frommtron @Srsly @TheCookie and others), but Moo’s Craft Barbecue was so poorly executed that at this point, we’re in no hurry to return.

Another Visit:

With the Summer heat still not dying down, Smorgasburg L.A. wisely opened up the left side of the open lot where Smorgasburg is held, creating an “Ice Cream Alley” with vendors specializing in Frozen Desserts. (More on this later.)

Meathead BBQ

A new vendor to Smorgasburg L.A., Meathead BBQ’s claim to fame is using Australian Wagyu Beef for its BBQ.

Australian Wagyu Brisket - 1/2 Pound:

Besides the very top edge where there’s some fat, the Australian Wagyu Brisket was totally dried out. :sob: Chewy, too lean, this was a huge disappointment. :frowning:

Katsu Sando

As its name suggests, Katsu Sando specializes in Japanese Katsu (Fried Cutlet) Sandwiches. Looking over the menu, they offer Pork, Chicken and Menchi (Ground Beef) Fried Cutlets, along with a total marketing gimmick / for ballers only type of offering: An A5 Wagyu Beef Cutlet Sandwich for $75. :open_mouth: :roll_eyes: We decided to start with the basics, because if they can’t get the basics right, then there’s no hope for any of their fancier offerings.

Kurobuta Pork Katsu Sando (Kurobuta Pork Fried Cutlet Sandwich):

An odd thing struck me immediately: After the initial outer crunch, it suddenly felt hollow(!). Taking a look inside, it turns out Katsu Sando decided to take slices of Pork Bacon / Pork Belly and batter it up and fry it:

It’s like some hamfisted, clumsy wanna-be version of Kimukatsu Japan’s Mille-feuille Pork Cutlet that was famous in Japan, where they super thinly slice Kurobuta Pork, but then layer it back together and then batter and deep fry it. There, it’s a cohesive, super tender amazing product. Here, you get hollow gaps, and thick, “steamed” Pork Belly slices stuffed in a crunchy outer shell. :frowning: This was pretty disappointing.

Super Frites

We wanted to try Super Frites, a new French Fry specialist, but the line was always a bit too long (around 10 people at various times), and it moved really slowly, so we skipped it this time.

Daddy’s Chicken Shack

Seemingly yet another vendor / restaurant trying to cash in on the Fried Chicken Sandwich craze, Daddy’s Chicken Shack felt like their attempt to copy Howlin’ Ray’s. We figured it would fall short, but we had to give it a shot.

Big Daddy (Napa Slaw, Sriracha Mayo, Brioche Bun):

Oily, soggy with no crispiness, nor any crunchiness at all. :sob: The Chicken meat itself was juicy, but that was about it. It was also too salty. Avoid (@TheCookie @PorkyBelly).

Sip Matcha

Sip Matcha is a Matcha Green Tea specialist offering a variety of drinks all based on Matcha, from pure Matcha offerings to those catered totally towards the Instagram-crowd (“Magic Matcha” features Beet, Turmeric and Matcha layered in a blend of Coconut and Soy Milks (as seen in the signage above)).

Ceremonial (Our Highest Grade Matcha fit for Geishas and Samurais):

Their Ceremonial Matcha was grassy, earthy, and so refreshing on this insanely hot day: The only taste was of pure Matcha Tea and Water, and that was all I needed. :slight_smile:


One of our Vegan friends joined us on this trip. Note for Vegans: Smorgasburg has done an good job of adding a bunch of Vegan Only food stalls, and many of the regular food stalls also had Vegan options, definitely a step up from the Grand Opening period.

Avocadomama specializes in a variety of Vegan Mac and Cheese dishes, and they state that they make their own Vegan Cheese out of an Almond Milk base with Nutritional Yeast and a proprietary Spice Blend.

OG Mac (Our Original Cheese Over Rigatoni Pasta Topped with Bread Crumbs):

I was pleasantly surprised by Avocadomama’s OG Mac: It indeed was creamy and cheesy, perhaps a touch more liquidy than I would’ve liked, but still it was quite tasty. :slight_smile: My Vegan friend said she loved the dish.

Their other selections are all variations on their Mac & Cheese with toppings like Shredded BBQ Jackfruit, or a Taco Jalapeno mix.

URBN Pizza (Revisit)

One of the vendors that I was most looking forward to trying again from the early days was URBN Pizza. They specialize in New Haven-style Pizzas, which is rather rare in these parts. In the early days, they had some pretty tasty flavor combinations that we tried, all out of a high heat Pizza Oven the owner built on wheels, to make a portable version of his oven at his brick and mortar store (in San Diego).

White Clam Pizza (Fresh Shucked Clams, Bacon Garlic, Oregano, Parm, Olive Oil):

There was a massive burst of Sodium on the first bite, a total Salt Bomb! :sob: We were shocked. URBN’s White Clam Pizza was one of our favorite pies they served during the early days of Smorgasburg and it was nowhere near this salty before. It was to the point of being inedible. :frowning:

Looking at the booth, we noticed the owner wasn’t there, and the staff looked new. Maybe that’s the reason? Either way, I can no longer recommend URBN Pizza at Smorgasburg (@lapizzamaven and others). Disappointing.

Tacos 1986 (Revisit)

I broke my own rule (accidentally) by stopping by Tacos 1986 when both Owners (Victor Delgado and Taquero El Joy) were not around. I was joining one of our friends in line and we placed an order before I remembered to look for either of them (they weren’t there). We were bracing for the worst.

Look at the sad trompo (above): The fire was turned down to really low, and it wasn’t even spinning. The Pork meat was just sitting there (in 95+ degree heat, not really being cooked).

Mushroom Taco:

Just look at the sad, dried out Mushrooms (above) and you’ll start to understand how awful this was: Dried out, chewy, rubbery Mushrooms, a shell of the former glory of Tacos 1986’s early days when they were on the street, slinging late night Tacos. It seems like just a few months ago, but look no further than Tacos 1986 for one of the biggest falls from grace in recent memory. :cry:

It’s like they’re just resting on their reputation and previous good will and mailing it in. On our earlier Smorgasburg Sunday visit, there were about 40 people in line for Tacos 1986 (before they opened up their brick and mortar store).

Today? There were 5 people.

Adobada Taco:

Their Adobada was decent. It had most of the marinade and flavor that made their original Adobada great, but as pictured above, with very few people, low turnover, and no “El Joy” in sight manning the spit, today’s Taco lacked the nice searing from the flames, the proper cooked texture and flavor and care. It was probably about ~60% of the greatness of their OG Adobada Taco when El Joy was manning it with pizzazz and turnover was high.

Ugly Drum Pastrami (Revisit)

Ugly Drum Pastrami has been one of those love-hate relationships. In the early days, when they debuted, the quality of the Pastrami meat itself was definitely there. However, the Bread they served it on was basically a desiccant, sucking all the moisture out of your mouth, making for a truly dismal Pastrami Sandwich. :frowning:

We tried them 3 times and they were all awful.

Later on, reports from bulavinaka and others talked about them changing Bread but it was still not a success. But we heard they changed their Bread yet again, so we decided to give it a try.

Pastrami Sandwich - Short Stack (1/4 Pound Pastrami):

Just lifting it up, we could tell the Bread was really different: Soft, fluffy; could they finally do it? Taking a bite…

A beautiful, soft, not-dry Bread gave way to tender, succulent, nicely seasoned Pastrami! :open_mouth: It was delicious! :heart:

It turns out Ugly Drum finally found a decent purveyor: Bub and Grandma’s Bread! However, if there’s one minor quibble, they are using their Country Sourdough Loaf, made fresh that day.

I’ll leave it up to our Pastrami Sandwich experts, but there was something slightly “off” about eating a Pastrami Sandwich with a huge Sourdough tang in every bite. (And note, I love Sourdough Bread, but in a Pastrami Sandwich? I don’t know.) :thinking:

Maybe I’m just used to / spoiled on Langer’s legendary Pastrami Sandwich on their twice-baked, amazing Rye Bread.

But overall, finally! By using freshly baked Bub and Grandma’s Bread for their specialty Pastrami meat, Ugly Drum has finally overcome they last hurdle that was holding them back for so long. This is a delicious Pastrami Sandwich, and probably our 3rd favorite in L.A., easily surpassing so many restaurants in the process. It doesn’t topple Langer’s legendary Pastrami Sandwich, but I’d gladly eat Ugly Drum again on our next visit to Smorgasburg. :blush:

Time for Dessert down Ice Cream Alley! :slight_smile:

I never knew there could be so many Food Stalls based on Frozen Desserts before. Some examples:

Madame Shugah

My friend was happy there were 2 or 3 Frozen Dessert vendors that were Vegan or had Vegan options. I joined her to try Madame Shugah (neither of us had heard of this vendor before), which specializes in Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches, Shakes and more.

Pistachio Vegan Ice Cream Sandwich:

Firstly, this was deep frozen, probably to keep them from melting in this weather (they were stored in a giant ice chest), because we had to actually let it thaw slightly before taking a bite (it was frozen rock solid). :sweat_smile:

It’s really hard to see “Pistachio” in any type of Ice Cream / Gelato and not immediately think about comparing it to Leo Bulgarini’s amazing version at Bulgarini Gelato. But I tried to separate that out, and taking a bite, it was sort of tasting of Pistachios (barely), with a lightly sweet, Ice Cream-like flavor and texture, maybe a bit chalkier than I would’ve liked.

Sweet Rose Creamery

And a nice surprise: Pastry Chef Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb’s (of Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Cafe fame) delicious Westside Ice Cream specialty shop is now appearing at Smorgasburg L.A. :slight_smile: I had to try one of my all-time favorites from Sweet Rose on the Westside:

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream:

Gorgeous Dark Chocolate pieces (not just tiny little specks), bold, cooling fresh Mint, you could taste the purity of each bite. It was so refreshing like a minty Winter morning, except we were roasting in 100 degree heat! :smile: But it was as delicious as always! :heart:

Smorgasburg L.A. has changed quite a bit since we last visited. Almost all of their OG vendors are gone now with a few exceptions, and while they lost their A-listers like Nicole Rucker Pies, Porridge & Puffs and Guerrilla Tacos, they have a whole new lineup and a lot more vendors than before.

The new lineup is decent, but there are some standouts that we’d be glad to revisit time and again such as Ugly Drum Pastrami now that they’ve fixed their Bread problem, Sip Matcha for some refreshing Iced Matcha Tea and some Sweet Rose Creamery (although only if in the area, since the OG location is already close to us).

I’d be curious to return and try Super Frites to see if their French Fries are really great (or not), and maybe a few other vendors like Spoon & Pork (Modern Filipino cuisine), and the Tamale specialist.

Every Sunday:
10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Smorgasburg L.A.
(at the Alameda Produce Market)
S. Alameda Street & Bay Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021


I was recently very disappointed with Katsu sando as well. A bit dry, should have brought some bulldog sauce from home. Like you the meat wasn’t what i was expecting, If you are going to be different I wish it was a happy surprise :frowning:

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I will say it again your reports are always a delight! I love that you give places multiple chances.
Brisket is the most difficult cut to pull off. It is very easy to end up with a dry, tough hunk of meat. Apart from the original Bludso’s the best briskets I have found in LA are the weekend bbq at Hardy’s Market on Coldwater and Moorpark, and the Blackbottom Kitchen, https://blackbottomkitchen.com/ in North Hollywood. Sorry your experience at Smorgasburg was so dismal.


Fun place to people watch and get a little sun…

The only thing I’ll get is Ugly Drum Pastrami and Wanderlust Ice Cream. Burritos La Palma is always solid but I can get that in El Monte and Santa Ana. I still have to try Ponchos Tlayudas!

I pretty much have given up on American BBQ here. The best we had was probably Bludso’s Compton. From what I hear from my friends (very small sample FYI) who had Central Texas BBQ brisket, Bludso’s would be average in that neck of the woods.

Disappointing to hear about Urbn Pizza. One of my friends absolutely loves Frank Pepe’s in New Haven and was curious about this place.

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Hi @ebethsdad,

Thank you! :slight_smile: I loved Bludso’s original with their Brisket back in the day! Thanks for the recommendation on Hardy’s Market and Blackbottom, I’ll have to check them out. Do you like them more than the original Bludso’s?

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Hi @JeetKuneBao,

Yes! Ugly Drum is now worthwhile with that bread change. :slight_smile: We haven’t tried Ponchos Tlayudas either; so please report back if you get to try it first. :wink:

Yah I had a couple friends who’ve been to various places in Central Texas for BBQ and they said the same thing: That Bludso’s OG was decent at best when compared to those places.

Yes, it’s gotten more crowded because of INstagram food/foodies.

only thing we ever get are the the drinks because it’s always so gd hot—we like the base co. Delicious drinks and you get the jar that allows you to go straight to refill line for discounted price.

Anarchy seafood is in the vein of guerilla tacos. Sara, the chef used to work for him and it’s pretty good.

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Chowseeker, major food workout…im pretty disappointed but glad to be able to avoid places that you tried…UrBN is a disappointment…yeah, when the owner/pizzaiolo aint there, watch out…one of these days Ill have to get to San Diego to check em out…and the pastrami sandwich was terrifying in its diminutivity! Damn, I will admit that the old school traditional Jewish deli pastrami, or any meet, sandwich was obscene in size…the “short stack” pictured here is soul wrenching…if the image in Orwell’s 1984 is of a big boot crushing someone’s head, the pastrami image of your sandwich should be image of the coming Depression…jeez, thats pathetic…looks like a slider to me, not a sandwich


No, but they are good. Hardy’s is always moist, but often not smokey enough. Blackbottom is complicated. Its a soul food cafe (no indoor seating) with pretensions of health food - an unfortunate fusion choice. What are greens without smoked pork of some sort? However their brisket has always been both moist and smokey. Their smoked yardbird (chicken) is great as well.
To be honest I think there are a number of us here who can outdo almost every bbq place in town. If we ever find a place and time to do it I think @Nemroz, myself, and several others can throw a FTC bbq that will put even Bludso’s to shame. Maybe we reserve a spot in Griffith Park? Or Sycamore Cove? Just a thought. I can do two whole packer briskets in my smoker. Enough for twenty or more. God forbid they turn out dry…


Lets. The weather is letting up now

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Yikes @Chowseeker1999 that BBQ looks terribly dried out. Nothing worse than a piece of salty drying brisket. That turned me away for good from Maple Block. Literally the worst brisket I’ve ever had. As you mentioned in your thread there isn’t great BBQ overall in SoCal so we’re left trying to find the best of the mediocre.

The brisket sandwich seems really meager but maybe that is the right amount of meat. The proportion seems off and so does the idea of sourdough.

I’m definitely not rushing back to Smorgasburg based on your report. It seems like a lot of food fairs and festivals are catering to people posting on IG vs. serving tasty food.

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Hi @hppzz,

Yah, it seemed so many people were there snapping photos, especially of the crazier items like big, showy Acai Bowls, the multi-colored layered Drinks, etc.

Thanks for the tip about Anarchy Seafood! A former chef who worked at Guerrilla for Wes opened that up? Good to know.

Hi @lapizzamaven,

Thanks. Yah, Ugly Drum’s basic Pastrami Sandwich (Short Stack) is listed as a 1/4 pounder, but it was so thin and sparse, and that was $12. Their next option was a 1/2 pound Pastrami Sandwich for $20, but we didn’t want to risk it because we weren’t sure if they fixed their bread yet (and $20 for a Sandwich at a food stall seemed a bit excessive).

And at that price it’s more expensive than Langer’s and Brent’s Deli’s great Pastrami Sandwiches / Pastrami Reuben, which is insane (and you get more food and better food at both of those OG places).


thanks for the confirmation, Chowseeker! yeah, figured more bullshit…looks like you had to lift the bread to find the pastrami…they should call it the “hide & go seek” pastrami! :rofl:


Or the “You’re Fucking Kidding”

(Please forgive my language but it was needed to convey my true feelings. )