Ninth Ave. International Food Festival
The Ninth Ave. International Food Festival is being held May 17-18 during my 4 day visit to the city. Is this worth checking out? We hope to see a lot during our visit and want to make sure this is as awesome as it sounds. Any thoughts?
I went yesterday. Also surprised that it started on 42nd street. Maybe Saturday stretched to 40th(?). Fortunately, based on the website I stopped at International Foods behind the Port Authority and bagged two of the feta stuffed quails which were perhaps some of the greatest birds I've eaten (though a bloody mess). I then opted for the ubiquitous Colombian roast pork and chorizo rather than Dalton's pulled pork which was just setting up. Then a very good pork braciole from a sausage vendor before tucking in to a wonderful huge crawfish boil from Delta Grill (passersby thought I was eating cockroaches).
I should've gotten a mini key lime pie for dessert but went with the Kyotofu vanilla yuzu cupcake that wasn't bad. Poseidon, Empanada Mama and Hallo Berlin I eat at whenever I'm on Ninth. Don't forget to add the new offshoot of Lazzara's pizza to the list. The festival can be great if you search out the quality.
International Foods is GREAT. There are a few gems right around there. Stiles Market (cheapest produce I've found in the city besides a few of the greenmarket vendors), International foods, the meat market (back in the back they have some less typical options like tripe for cheap prices) and the West African store. If you can deal with being right by the sketchier side of the PA, it's highly worth it to go to that area, during the festival or otherwise.
Yes, there was a Greek stand around high 40s, low 50s that had it.
The festival was smaller compared to last year. I think I may have a shorter attention span than Ora as I got bored after less than an hour. New notable stand was Lazzara's pizza. They had a pizza oven on site so they could reheat your slices. I also had a decent tamale at a stand with no prices -- but it was kind of expensive at $4 for one tamale (about the size of the tamales that you can get in front of the Mexican embassy for $1). I do wish these stands would serve more lower-cost sample size items as opposed to plates of food for $7 or $8 so you can try more things. Most of the stands consisted of standard street vendor fare (sausage and peppers, sham wow, socks, etc.). If you've never been to it, I can see one having fun as it is a larger festival than the other ones out there and you do have some local restaurants in addition to the standard fair stuff. But if you have gone in the past, you'll probably be very disappointed.
re: Miss Needle
This is by no means a complete list. But off the top of my head, I remember
Old San Juan
Bali Nusa Indah
Little Pie Company
couple of Greek restaurants (in addition to Posiedon; forgot name)
couple of Thai restaurants (forgot name)
one Argentinian restaurant (forgot name)
one or two Brazilian restaurants (forgot name)
couple of soul food restaurants (don't think they're from the area)
three pie stands from Harlem (don't remember name)
a Carribbean restaurant (don't think they're from area)
one more Indian restaurant (forgot name)
a couple of organizations (eg. West 46th Street Block Association)
No Mexican stands this year -- the tamale I had was not from a Mexican stand. Wishing for places like Sullivan Street Bakery, Tehuitzingo and Azuri (though they would be closed on Saturday) to set up stands. Also missed the wonderful jerk chicken (I believe restaurant was from Brooklyn) they had about five years ago. And I really wish a lot more places would have $2-$3 small tastings instead of charging for larger meals. And a big gripe I have about some of the food is that some things need to be cooked to order. For example, the Thai stands have noodle dishes like pad thai and noodles with basil prepared in the restaurant and brought out in aluminum trays. By the time you get them, they are tasteless and cold. They prepare noodle dishes to order in Thailand on the street. It would be great if they could do the same here. If they don't want to bother cooking things to order, I think they should stick to things like curries that stand up better to sitting around in steam trays.
re: Miss Needle
i agree.there are way too many street fairs in all of nyc with most selling the same generic junk. id prefer a street fair with local crafts and resident made items but i wonder if thats doable in a big city like ny.
I wonder if either the hells kitchen assoc and or the block associations would consider re-doing the 9th avenue festival more along the lines of a "taste of times square" in future years.
We too went to the festival yesterday. It is not what it was in the past and so many empty spots is just sad.
We did spend quite a lot of time speaking with the owner of Hallo Berlin who told us about the rules changes that went into effect. Most important of which is that none of the restaurants were allowed to have beer service out on the street anymore. Along with other changes (fees, etc.) it seems that this may be the explanation for the decreasing participation of the local restaurants. (Dalton's told us the same thing, hence their ridiculous ticket thing; as did Coppersmith's.) I don't know who makes up these rules (the Community Board? the City?) but it seems that it works to keep the local places out of things in favor of the horrid ubiquitous set-ups that just go from fair to fair.
Anyway ... what we had to eat & drink:
-- sangria from Eatery (I think - it was the place selling the "asian chicken salad"). Okay, but too much orange (slices) for my taste.
-- cheese empanada from the place next to Empanada Mama (I think it was Old San Juan). They said it was halloumi cheese (I thought that was Greek?). It was good. The dough was a bit thick, crisp, not greasy and the cheese was melted, a bit salty. It was perfect for walking -- served in a paper square. I liked it.
-- I got a sangria from Empanada Mama. Much better than Eatery's. And best of all they served it in a soda cup with lid and straw so that you could walk around with it.
-- mimosa from Riposo (sp?). Very nice. They had fresh-squeezed orange juice. A generous pour too.
-- potato and cheese pierogies from Millie's. I know others have said they don't like them, but I do. Yes, they are fried in butter and bit gloppy. But to me they hit the spot. The exterior was nicely browned. The dough was a bit heavy but that's okay for me. I like that the interior is more potato-y than cheese-y.
-- DH and BIL got beers at Dalton's. Not a greatly organized place - yes, the one bartender was completely harried. BUT (and this is important) they had a relatively clean bathroom and no line and they didn't care if you had purchased anything. Sister and I took advantage! :)
-- Sister got the crawfish boil bowl at Delta Grill. She liked them and said it reminded her of their trip to NOLA. BUT she did not like the dried spice mixture they sprinkled on top.
-- Sister also was intent on having a "mozz-arepa". Ugh. I told her these were the bad-pennies of street fairs. She wanted one anyway. She said it was dense and largely flavorless. And we did notice that there were at least two different vendors selling them (not just the same green-sign vendors; but two different *types* of arepas vendors) and that the prices varied depending on the vendor (we were told $3, $4, and $5).
-- the pie truck next to Delta Grill (mentioned in other posts) was Steve's key lime. As always, Steve's is a major winner. Sweet-tart and refreshing.
-- I also had a chocolate soufflee cupcake at Kyotofu (according to them "the winner of the best cupcake in NYC"). And it really was good. It had the fudge-y flavor of a brownie but the soft, moist texture of a good cake. It was rich. The size was perfect.
Final thoughts ... too many non-food vendors; too many street-fair "chains"; not enough variety anymore. Sigh.
We're off to the Amsterdam fair today. George Keeley's is having a pig roast and other stuff too. Maybe it will be better? One can hope.
I am wondering if anyone who posts here went to this years fair. I had a family emergency and couldnt get to it.
I did have my car radio tuned to WCBS FM and the DJ started talking about all the day's events in manhattan. He said," I went to 9th avenue and all i saw were lots of spaces,vendors selling socks,sheets and funnel cakes.WHERE WAS THE FOOD"?
Maybe I didnt miss much this year.
I went. There was food. But it was a different food festival in 2009 than other years. Clearly toned down--and fewer blocks. It ran from 57 to 42 st this year. While it was fun for a couple of hours, it wasn't like the past--and this was very visible. There was food and we sampled a few great items (empanadas, burgers, little pie co pie for $2 a piece etc.), but the depth and diversity wasn't there as much as in the past. There was also less entertainment than in the past.
Such a shame. What used to be such a fun way to spend the day noshing thru all the different cuisines of nyc has now become just another generic street fair.
I have a feeling that at least 75% of what you tasted is available at all times of the year. I'll probably take a day and walk around the area-from little pie-to poseidon-to uncle nicks and more and have my own festival.
Here's our report from today:
-Sea Breeze Coconut Shrimp. Not pre-packaged (we were concerned), but the shrimp was overpowered by the coconut.
-Dalton's Pig Sandwich. THE WORST. I'm not 100% sure that it was fresh. It was dry and cold. Also, for those partaking in beer, they give you a ticket to go in to Dalton's to give to the bartender. The problem is that when we went in, at a slow time in the festival, the line was ten deep, and the sole (?!) bartender was ignoring ticketholders in favor of cash-paying customers.
-Delta Grill. Alligator Sausage was just okay. Jambalaya looked greasy and there wasn't any protein in them that we could see. The crawfish etoufee looked like it wasnt made from fresh crawfish.
-Old San Juan. Good seafood empanadas.
Honestly, the food was only okay this year. I missed Esposito's, which I buy from all the time. Maybe I'll hit some of the dessert places tomorrow.
Also got back from earlier, and since I live in the neighborhood, I'm actually going back out to grab an early dinner before heading out. Yay! Thus far for me, random thoughts in no order:
--Kyotofu. I've been longing for their cupcakes and little chocolate miso cakes since last year, and they didn't disappoint. Still warm, very moist, and chocolatey. They also had a green tea cupcake they didn't have last year that I'll pick up tomorrow.
--Amy's Bread. Had a lovely, fresh, warm sourdough rosemary bread twist, which was perfect. Crispy crust, very soft chewy interior, and very subtle rosemary taste, which was actually intriguing. I'm going back tomorrow probably to try other varieties: onion, garlic, and parmesean all looked promising.
--Mitchel London Foods. Had a perfectly cooked, perfect food-fest-sized mini burger, and a small mozzarella and tomato sandwich, both on soft brioche. The mozz could have used some salt or balsamic, but the burger was perfect. They also had some lovely looking mini quiches and pizza that looked good too.
--Mama's Empanadas. Warm, but kind of soggy, and I'm actually annoyed I let them take up room in my stomach. I usually just grab one waiting for laundry, but today they were nothing too great.
--Piergogies from the little cart whose name I forget. Very tasty, though I only had a bite.
--Key Lime Truck in front of Delta Grill. Excellent. $4 for a mini-pie, but tart and creamy, with a decent graham crust that didn't taste like the too-powdery Keebler.
--The new Hallo Berlin had a cart out that looked promising.
--Uncle Sparky's (Spanky's?) BBQ looked good, and I may grab a sandwich for dinner.
--Little Pie Co. looked ok, but they had a lot of stuff out that looked pre-cut, and a little dried out.
--I too wanted to check out the frozen yogurt place, and may tomorrow too.
--I didn't go south of 40th, but I'm told there is good seafood at 38th and chorizo sandwiches around 39th(?) as mentioned on the official website. I may go back tomorrow.
Also, today was a lot nicer weather-wise than last year, so as we headed out back home (around 1) it was starting to get crowded, with really slow and loud people, but I may have just been too full and a bit cranky, but I recommend getting out around 1 or 2 at the latest.
I also recommend sunblock for the fair who have been inside all winter. Learn from my folly.
Ok. Just came back from the festival. It looks smaller this year. Not sure if it was because we were there too early but there were a lot of empty spots. More standard street vendors -- seems like those Colombian places are becoming as common as the Italian sausage vendors. The best things we had were Posiedon Bakery's meat and dill pie and Empanada Mama's empanadas. They were both still warm and tasty. Make sure not to miss those offerings. Pretty disappointed with San Juan's pasteles (too cold and rubbery) and Tacocina's tamales (masa too firm with very stringy pork and chicken). I didn't see Wondee Siam this year. And no make-up stands either (where am I going to get my discounted Borghese mud?) There weren't as many of those Chinese-owned fruit smoothie places as well and no tui na places. There was one of those Red Mango clone stands this year -- I was wondering when those stands would start hitting the street fairs, and the seveal usual suspects -- fried oreos, sausage, Colomiban stands, crepes, etc. I didn't try any of the stands where they served big meals because I wouldn't be able to eat anything else after those things. So I just noshed throughout the festival. I also finally stopped by Piece of Chicken and tried some chicken. Not sure why they get a lot of raves because I didn't think they were very tasty. My chicken piece was way too salty and soggy. DH's wings were way too soggy with not enough salt. Perhaps we got some bad pieces. It is cheap, though. Too bad they were out of chicken livers.
The highlight of the festival for us was spotting Top Chef's Hung and Marcel hanging out. I was walking down the block and hear this guy loudly stating that he used to work at Dos Caminos -- like he was kind of name dropping or something. I turn around and who do I see? Marcel! And with Hung right next to him! Apparently Hung wasn't impresesd by Dalton's pig as he shook his head and said, "Not impressed."
re: Miss Needle
I also agree that it seemed the fair was smaller this year. a lot of empty spaces and it ended at 40th street. among the items i wanted to try but were absent were:
1- paella and chlorizos-costa del sol really is gone :(
2- no jerk chicken this year.
3- alligator and shark-not offered again this year :(
4- i wish that both espositos and manganaro's or some really good italian place would set up a stand.
so heres my reviews in no particular order:
1- lobster balls from the fish market at 40th ;right side of 9th avenue were very tasty.probably the best dish we had all day.their coconut shrimp was quite good.
2- key lime pie and pumpkin pie from the little pie company. we passed on their table and went to their store on west 43rd between 9th and 10th -sat outside. i thought that both were very good;however my friend said that their key lime pie "wasnt made with key limes".
3- kyotofu-excellent cupcakes.
4- amy's bread-once again excellent bread twists. we picked parmesan,garlic & i especially enjoyed their cinnamon raisin twist. it was the next best thing of the day.
5- mitchel london-had a mini burger and a cream brulee both of which were very tasty. highlight #3 of the day.
6- uncle nicks-had pig on a spit but again were told would not be ready until between 5-6 pm. so we had two lamb sticks and cokes and sat at their tables.
7- dalton's-terrible,awful,mediocre pig sandwhich.had to slather it in bbq sauce in order to eat it. a waste of $5.
8- delta grill-the alligator sandwhich was ok to good;not great. tried the key lime pie from the truck next to delta. im a big key lime pie guy and i judged it to be very good. agree with the reviewers who said it was tart and tasty.
9- spanky's -had a very good bbq sandwich.
10- poseidon bakery- delicious baklava;pineapple and cherry cheese strudel.
we passed on mama's empanadas after hearing they werent good. i also wish i had found the pierogi cart,as millie's pierogis are mediocre.silly me; i shouldve stopped at old san juan-oh well.
i also noticed that there were fewer non-food vendors than previous years,and no stages set up for the different dances.
at the suggestion of a friend we ran into, we went back to uncle nicks tapas bar ,and after a while went to wondee siam 2 at 54th and 9th i had just enough room for their pineapple fried rice which was excellent.
It seems that noshing a little here and there and ending the day at a place like either uncle nicks or wondee siam ( or siam 2) is the way to go given that quality has slipped and prices have risen quite a bit since last year.I also agree that there were too many "generic" stands that seem to be at every street fair in recent years.i wish there was a way to restore the "uniqueness" that 9th avenue has had in past years.
The weather was great-not too hot,not too cold,wasnt humid. We did follow our own advice and took a break at worldwide plaza park and sat next to the fountain. Didnt use sunblock,but wore a polo shirt and baseball cap to ward off the sun.
Go early and leave early. I live on 9th avenue in the 40's. Trust me, it gets filthy and really smelly by noon. Don't get me wrong. I love NYC street food but generally speaking, this is not the best of it. See other posts on this board for best nyc street food. I like 46th between 5th and 6th avenue - Moshe's falafel as well as the asian fish sandwich cart - can't remember the name.
not sure if anyone posted this yet, but from the offficial website, a partial list of offerings:
Working up from the south end of Ninth Avenue, you will be enticed by:
chorizo sandwiches - from Esposito Pork Shop, at 38th
the best sausage and pepper hero ever - from Giovanni Esposito & Sons at 38th
clams and oysters on the half shell at the seafood stands (Central Fish and Sea Breeze) around 38th Street
soupy, spicy gumbos, crab cakes and chicken curry - from Chantale's Cajun Kitchen near 38th
suckling pig and quail stuffed with fresh Greek spices and feta cheese - from Ninth Avenue International Foods, near 40th
peppery crisp squid - from Siam Grill, near 42nd
iced coffee and iced cappuccino - from the Empire Coffee & Tea Company near 42nd
bourbon ham sandwiches, Texas chili with corn bread, mango barbecue wings and macaroni and cheese - from Good And Plenty To Go, at 43rd
carrot cake and apple pie - from the Little Pie Company at 43rd
chicken salad made with corn, black beans and jicama, and barbecued pork tostadas - from Zuni, at 43rd
meatball hero - at The Holy Cross church stand on 43rd
corn fritters gently flavored with shrimp, crisp spring rolls and nasi goreng - from Bali Nusa Indah, near 45th
spanakopita and tiropita surrounded by the most delicate phyllo pastry that you will ever find, and then baklava or strudel - from Poseidon Greek Bakery, near 45th
breads, brownies, cookies and cinnamon-raisin, garlic, rosemary or black olive fresh bread twists - from Amy's Bread, near 47th
jambalaya - from Delta Grill at 48th
pork in mole sauce, wrapped in a corn tortilla - from Tacocina at 49th
huge, inexpensive portions of Brazilian foods like bolinho bacalhau, a fried salt-cod casserole - at Rice 'N' Beans, near 50th
Greek barbeque, octopus, lamb and chicken souvlaki - from Uncle Nick's, near 50th Street
pad thai, dumplings - from Wondee Siam, at 54th
roast pork - at Ned Kelly's bar on 55th
second Kyotofu. I had one of their chocolate brownies (made with tofu of course) and after that I was determined to go to the restaurant. Other spots like Empanada Mama and Uncle Nicks to name a few are worth checking out. If it's nice out go for it, if it isn't you won't miss too much by staying at home.
its good but not as awesome as youd been led to believe. its worth visting but not as good as it was years ago. i agree with the replies and recommendtions; would like to add a few things:
1- avoid the professional street carts like the plague.only patronize either the restaurants or the stands they set up for the festival.
2- arrive by bus or subway as its way easier-and much cheaper- than driving and going into a garage.
3- wear comfortable shoes and a shirt,etc that you dont mind getting stained.
4-a nice place to take a break during the festival is worldwide plaza park from 49-50 st between 8 and 9th avenues.plenty of seats,a fountain to sit by if its a hot day,and public bathrooms in the office tower,if you ask the security people.
5- the hours are from 9-930 am to around 630-7 pm.
6- you can probably do the whole fair in 2 to 3 hours tops.
The 9th Ave Festival is worth checking out for a couple hours, especially if you aren't familiar with a NY street fair. It is the one of the largest, if not the largest fair for the season. I wouldn't plan to spend the whole day there however. Personally, I prefer "A Taste of Times Square" in terms of food quality and restaurant sampling.http://www.timessquarenyc.org/about_u...
Nowhere near awesome anymore, but there are still a few things well worth the trek: west side of the street, under the shadow of the Port Authority overpass, the Greek shop sells soft-shell crabs, clams et al; then step inside the store to score a feta-stuffed quail (or two) - still my fave thing on the whole strip. Pheasants also available, if you need a picnic bird. Ta Cocina, maybe in the mid-40's, east side, sells fairly authentic, tasty tacos. A couple of beers to wash it all down, then back to the Little Pie Co. for apple crumb pie dessert.
Agree with the Millie's rec. They are very good. Poseidon Bakery always has good offerings and there's a whole pig on a spit at ... oh crap, I can't recall the name. I think it starts with "D", on the west side of the street, in the low 40s. (Sorry!) Also, usually Steve's key lime has a truck there as well. Fantastic and refreshing, especially if the weather is warm.
The 9th Ave Biz Assn. has a little blurb up on their website about the offerings, but I think it might be old, or at least copied from years past because it mentions Ned Kelly's which has been gone for about 5 years now. But some of the other info is probably still good.
I think you're talking about Dalton's for the pig.
I see that a lot of people like Millie's but I never thought they were very good. Kind of sloppy and carelessly made.
I do like the seafood on the southside (the raw clams). I would also hit up Mitchel London and Little Pie Company. Poseidon is good if you like Greek desserts. I believe Empanada Mama has a stand as well. Definitely avoid all the typical street food fare and concentrate on the restaurants.
Parts of it are fantastic, but most of it is the same stands you see at every street fair around Manhattan. The trick is to stick with sampling stuff from the local restaurants. I would usually get a slice of sour cream and apple walnut pie from Little Pie Co. and a suckling pig sandwich from Uncle Nick's, and some noodles from Wondee. They also have great seafood down toward Port Authority.