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Sep 12, 2011 06:32 AM

Smorgasburg: What a Pretentious Rip Off.....

went today and checked it out. some of the words that come to mind are: hype, fluff, rip-off, bullxxxx. mostly it's tiny little portions of extremely overpriced, not that well prepared gourmet wannabe food for the upper middle class, trust funders and self indulgent hipsters. where else in the world is there a place where, as street food, small little pretentious sandwiches cost $10 ? given the size of the portions, it can easily take 3 little of these smaller bites, which oftten go for $6 a piece, to fill you up for lunch. then a drink and a desert and you've spent $25 for lunch. for street food? the whole thing just feels like an excercise in a self conscious, class conscious, self indulgent theatre of elitism. sure, i guess i'm glad that brooklyn is becoming a place where a new, young generation of food geeks are producing high end products, but to me it feels like it's all about profit and being cool and not about nourishing or really feeding people. yeah, someone will say that they got a cemita for $9 and were full afterwards. but a better cemita is to be had on the streets of jackson heights for $5.

sure, there are a few good things there that aren't a rip-off, like dough donuts and blue marble ice cream, but there's just no way that street food should be so expensive and precious and pretentious. take for example porchetta, where they give you two small slices of roast pork on a slider sized bun and call it a day for $5. when i asked for a bit more meat, they grimaced, made a rude comment and acted like i'd offered to abduct their children, as if i was trying to rip them off. ok, i get it, gourmet food isn't supposed to be for everyone or for everyone's wallet. but the last time i was in my kitchen i found it pretty easy to make pickles, roast pork or even make mayonnaise. these are all low cost things to do. charging out the wazoo for them is just obnoxious. yeah, i understand that these vendors feel they deserve to be able to live uppermiddleclass lives by preparing fancy food. but come on, a day in the sun shouldn't cost a couple $50 for lunch. and that's why smorgasburg attracts such a homogenous crowd, and i'm not talking racially, i'm talking class-wise. if this is the future of new york city, i don't want to be a part of it. the whole thing made me lament the loss of the old red hook ballfields, where honest, unpretentious people sold filling portions of hearty food to folks from all walks of life. instead, smorgasburg is an excercise in self congratulatory attitude, where the usual hipster menu items are beat to death once more.

27 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

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  1. I agree that most of the vendors sell overpriced, small portion food. I think the real problem, though, is not with the vendors they have but with the vendors they don't. The existing vendors feel like restaurant folks at a street fair. As you say, theres a total lack of representation of real street food at real street food prices. I suspect if they was such diversity, the exisiting vendors would be pressured to offer a better priced offering. Absent that you have an event that caters to affluent, generally white customers. That may be representational of hipster williamsburg and brownstone brooklyn but not the borough as a whole.

    Of course you dont have to buy anything there or even go. I went a couple of times but havent returned for the reasons you note.

    1. i guess this means the lines will be one person (two with jeeg) shorter for everyone else.

      You dont like the selection of vendors - thats a fair criticism. You dont think its a good value (thats pretty subjective). You could make everything they sell at home, so why go pay someone to do it (a logic that would effectively end the restaurant business as we know it).

      I found the values to be fair, the portions right for sampling, and the prices, given some judicious choices and sharing - to be about par for that type of experience. you didnt care for your porchetta - cant blame you there, im not a big fan, the bread doesnt suit me and i agree they go light on the meat - but i think its pretty easy (and fun) to put together a sampling from the various vendors.

      As for asking for more meat and getting attitude - everyone was wrong on that one. Would you tell a server in a restaurant who had just brought your entree that you would like a larger steak/more protein, more anything? this kind of attitude (combined with your "i can make it at home" comments makes me think that eating out might just not be for you). obviously they were wrong to handle it without more tact, but aside from offering your money back for the whole sandwich, there is nothing i'd expect from a business owner who has decided what the price should be for a set serving of their product. its not an auction, you pay what they ask and get what they serve, or DONT because its ultimately your choice to patronize, or not, a given establishment. restaurants, generally, don't exist to nourish people - they exist to make money, and while many make efforts to disguise this fact (for the benefit of patrons) to deny it is illogical.

      I like smorgasburg - i can get a greater selection there than at any one place (something i am willing to pay marginally more for, if this is a question of added value). In addition to the dough donuts, the fried anchiovies were great (and priced right for the portion/quality).

      27 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

      2 Replies
      1. re: tex.s.toast

        Hear, hear.

        Smorgasburg is a destination because of the variety and quality of food, and the location (a truly amazing view of the Manhattan skyline). I had a very pleasant afternoon there, and I spent about $15.00, I'd guess. That's about three times as much as I spend on an average lunch, but it was much better than an average lunch.

        I loved the fried anchovies, as well as the pupusa vendor, the biscuits with jam and clotted cream, and the chocolate dipped bananas. I found that there was good value to be had at Smorgasburg, if you're willing to hunt a bit. But value is a function of both price and quality. As much as I love a soggy street hot dog and yellow mustard for $3.50 (And I do. A lot.), a well-seasoned, snappy hot dog made out of sustainably-raised meat with thoughtful condiments for $4.50 is a better value.

        (That said, everyone has her limits: I'd choose a $1.00 char siu bao from a generic bakery in Chinatown over a $9.00 version by David Chang any day of the week...but don't get me started on Momofuku...)

        I hear what you're saying, Yussdov, but I didn't find it pretentious at all -- good food is good food, highbrow or low, and Smorgasburg has both (the Red Hook food vendors aren't pretentious, even if they are serving in W-burg). But it could just be that I chose good vendors with generous servers.

        27 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

        1. re: SmallGoodThings

          Just wanted to chime in with a third on this sentiment - went to Smorgasburg for the first time last weekend and while I didn't think everything I tried was excellent, it was an enjoyable way to spend a an hour or two. More importantly, I didn't observe any pretentiousness either and would hate for people to avoid this experience because of a perceived attitude problem! I am far from a hipster and thought all the vendors I talked to were friendly and enthustiasic about their wares (especially the new lard folks). Foodwise, I loved the fried anchovies and a Dough donut, had an ok empanada, and while I didn't love the cemita, for $9 it would easily have been enough for 3 people...and the folks at that stand were especially friendly! Plus the backdrop is beautiful on a clear day. To my knowledge, the organizers aren't attempting to offer a cheap/"authentic" street food experience, just getting together some like-minded vendors, so why not assess them on that basis? also: aren't the red hook ballfields still around?

          27 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

        1. yussdov-

          couldn't agree more! it had been on my mind all summer to drop by this place and I did so about a month ago and fled after 10 minutes. High prices, lines, the two things I sampled stunk. The crowd was annoying as heck but did honestly reflect the poseur vibe of that now insufferable neighborhood. Yeccckkkk. NOT goin' back!!!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Anicca

            what did you eat and what was so bad about it?

            the lines must not have been too terrible for you to get, and eat, two items in ten minutes before flee-ing (flea-ing?).

          2. I love the concept of good food vendors getting together in a common place. I did not get a really pretentious feeling at least not more than the new Brooklynites in the rest of the area. The food I had was very good of course it cost a little meore that fast food. I had a Dumont Burger for 5 bucks at Mc Dees. a big mac cost 4.50. Need I say more.. The major problem I had is that the ad's say over 100 vendors...not so much. I hope that this is the beginning of a great thing and I hope it keeps improving and demand will drive the price and selection.