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Jun 15, 2013 11:48 AM

626 Night Market?

Has anyone attended this year's 626 Night Market in Arcadia? Thumbs up or thumbs down? It's supposed to be much bigger and more roomy than last year's.

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  1. Thumbs UP, QualityMart, although this was our first time and I can not compare it to last year!

    We went last Saturday afternoon, right when they opened at 4:00pm. At that hour, we had the parking lot and all of the booths and food trucks to ourselves! That said, some of the stands were still setting up, so the service was a little slow. Still, it was very fun...a C-Hound's Asian paradise!

    There are a LOT of places to eat; I read 120 eateries and that would not surprise me...maybe more if you include the food trucks. However, we tasted only a few items, walked around several times and left at about 5:30 for Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for dinner.

    When we left, the place was getting much more crowded and the music was getting louder. I can not speak for the atmosphere after about 5:30, but I can imagine that it might be a very different place after dark!

    If you just want to eat, getting there early is recommended. If you would like to experience the entire idea of the Night Market, you might want to go at sunset and stay awhile.

    14 Replies
    1. re: liu

      It's telling, isn't it, that you went to the Night Market, and then decided to still go to DTF for dinner ... right afterwards.

      It's like going to a strip club, then afterwards going to Barnes & Noble to buy a copy of Playboy.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Hysterical, ipse!

        We were four. I ate the least of all of us, yet it was my dearly beloved petite daughter-in-law who suggested that we get some REAL dinner. I was too embarrassed to suggest such a "silly" thing!

        1. re: liu

          Hey, by the way, I just remembered.

          Yogurtland is running a special with black sesame frozen yogurt. Just fyi.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Black sesame frozen yogurt...kind'a random while we're talking about the 626 Night Market, but I suppose we could segue into anything from the 626 Night Market because it was such a potpourri of Asian food stuffs...

            I'm not a fan of Yogurtland; I much prefer Bigg Chill or even Menchie's, but have you tried the Black Sesame at Yogurtland?

            1. re: liu

              I only brought it up, liu, from our past conversations about "black sesame paste".

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Oh, ipse! How amazing that you remember that conversation!

                Actually -- *so embarrassed* -- I think I have the unopened jar in my cupboard...I got over it very quickly!

                So much food and not enough time!
                Perhaps I'll dive into it this week. How do you suggest I "use" it?

                1. re: liu

                  How could I forget? I don't forget the important people in my life!

                  As to how to use it? Dunno. I suppose you might mix it into oatmeal (for something savory), or blend it into a smoothie. Dunno, suppose the possibilities are really endless.

                  Don't open it on my account, however. Life's too short to eat for other people.


                  1. re: liu

                    Speaking of sesame~

                    At the 626 Night Market I purchased a bag of Karinto Krisps. They were generously giving out samples and I loved them...addictive!


                    Has anyone else tried these?
                    This purchase made the 626 Night Market a success for me!

                    1. re: liu

                      Along the same lines of black sesame chips, see my previous post ...

          2. re: ipsedixit

            I'm sure liu went to DTF for the non-XLB dishes just like someone would read Playboy for the articles.

          3. re: liu

            Just wonderin' if I understand. You went to QualityMart then left and went to eat at a restaurant?

            1. re: Nayners

              Nayners, "QualityMart?"

              We enjoyed the 626 Festival for all that it was. We did not eat much, although we did sample a few items.

              After a little less than 2 hours, we were ready to have dinner. Our dinner was as much about being together as it was about the food.

              1. re: Nayners

                nayners.. qualitymart is the name of the OP (original poster)..

                1. re: Nayners

                  Ha! My username is inspired by the name of an old corner store thousands of miles away. I wouldn't recommend that anyone here go there. :)

              2. Time does make a lot of difference. Got there Saturday at 8:00pm and the whole place was packed. Could only manage to go to the shorter lines which took at least 15 minutes before placing an order. The more popular eats had lines twice as long. After an hour and a half, decided to call it quits. Will have second thoughts of returning.

                14 Replies
                1. re: selfportrait93

                  Second thoughts because of the crowds or were there other issues?

                  1. re: ElsieDee

                    get there at 4pm and you basically have all the vendors to yourself, even better if u get there at 3pm.

                    1. re: blimpbinge

                      Well, if you did that, it wouldn't really be a "night" market, would it?

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Exactly right. It's not a carnival. It's a night market. And it's not a night market if the sun is shining.

                        We got there around 8pm on Saturday also and the place was a zoo. 2 hour waits for lamb sticks (and virtually everything else). We did not wait.

                        What's interesting is that the "back alley" section, off the main drag to the side of the trucks (not the trucks themselves, which are not in Taiwanese night markets of course) actually felt more like what one would experience in Taiwan. Busy but with shorter lines. We had some guabao (the unfortunately named "Taiwanese taco") which were actually pretty bad. The buns cracked and fell apart, the suantsai was unidentifiable, and the meat was 90% skin and fat. We finally wound up with lobster rolls from the Lobsta Truck-- I think the $12 price kept the hordes away, so the line was short. But it was hardly a real night market experience to eat a lobster roll from a catering truck.

                        Overall it was a fun experience, but they still need to figure out these logistics. A 2 hours wait at virtually every single food stand is just absolutely unreasonable. That's what happened at the initial 626 in Pasadena, except that the crush of people at Santa Anita was less dense.

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          that's fine. I was just saying when there were no lines.

                          you can wait in the dark for 2hrs. or you can eat freely when there's sunlight. pick one.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          i guess they shouldn't allow vendors to sell food until it gets dark?

                          1. re: blimpbinge

                            That's ridiculous. But most of the vendors were clearly overwhelmed and operating beyond their capacity. The food trucks seemed to have a better grasp on things.

                            The term "night market" in the Taiwanese context is easily misunderstood by those who haven't attended a real one, as they're often woven into the fabric of a downtown with shops that are already open during the day. It's just that at night a lot of the little vendor carts open for business. There are smaller stand-alone markets in lots as well, but the bigger ones (that I've been to) are all seamlessly woven into a fully functioning commercial district. They attempted to do that during the original Pasadena market but failed miserably because it was way too small. What would be idea (and I think ipsedixit suggested this at some point) would be to close down Valley Blvd between New and Del Mar and allow vendors to set up carts nightly from 99 Ranch all the way down to the Citibank. That would be a better approximation of what a real night market would be like. But apparently the cities of San Gabriel and Monterey Park are not interested in setting up this sort of daily/weekly "event"-- because here it has to be seen/implemented as an "event" (which the Santa Anita location/entry fee helps to reinforce) whereas in Taiwan it's simply an organic outgrowth of what already exists. Real night market vendors (in Taiwan) are no more a part of an organized "event" than are the sidewalk vendors at Venice Beach.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              I did not think anyone would take my comment seriously..

                              1. re: blimpbinge

                                I didn't take it seriously, but your comment indirectly addressed a valid point which needed to be made. The reason there aren't 2+ hour queues for food in Taiwan night markets is that the night market is not an "event" as the 626NM is.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  None of the shops that set up will be willing to do what you suggested. There's just too much time, money, and dedicated involved to get an actual night market going. I talked to a few of the vendors, some are just some friends that thought it would be great to do the night market a few times. They have no intention of opening a shop or doing something daily/weekly/monthly, etc. The remainders are shops run by restaurants, catering companies, and people trying to get restaurants going, etc.

                                  There was a short lived night market in monterey park for awhile. Well.. ok it was more of a swap meet that happened to sell some food in the empty parking lot on lincoln & garvey. I'm not sure what happened to it, but it was closer to a night market then any of the 626 ones so far. No need for dancing, insane crowds/lines, "mr/ms 626" competitions, etc etc. It's nice to think a true asian night market can work here, but at least in the 626, there's no place for it. Any streets they hold it in (blocked or not) will result in traffic jams for miles.

                                  I spoke with Johnny Hwang awhile back, after the first one. I asked him why he kept wanting to pick pasadena, and it was mainly due to foot traffic and the night market "feel". Del Mar / Valley doesn't have much foot traffic nor does it have much parking, so he wouldn't have considered it. He went in the complete opposite direction by looking for a big place with lots of parking. A "night market" will work here , much like the one in vancouver, but it won't be like actual asian night markets in asia. (especially a place like LA that lacks competent public transit)

                      2. re: ElsieDee

                        Yes, the crowd was just too much for us. We could not visit and enjoy the variety of food stalls as much as we wanted.

                        1. re: selfportrait93

                          Thank you for the clarification, selfportrait - I can see where that would be frustrating.

                        2. re: ElsieDee

                          Yes, ElsieDee, I think you have brought up another issue.
                          It's a trade-off.

                          The vendors are doing the best they can, given some very serious constraints. Most are used to their own restaurant kitchens; the portable kitchen is just not ideal for many of these food stands. Therefore, the quality suffers and the ability to get lots of food out quickly is limited.

                          As an example, the octopus balls (takoyaki) were served undercooked; the dough was soggy and oozing. Service generally is slow, both in the long lines and the long wait to get the order.

                          All the problems, and still the event is fun! I was overwhelmed -- in a good way! -- with all the choices and vibrant spirit to show off the various cooking skills, styles and creativity.

                      3. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll be following the "go early or not at all" advice, especially since I would be with kids. The next one, July 6 & 7, is going to part of a (sorta) long holiday weekend, so I wouldn't be surprised if the crowds are even bigger.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: QualityMart

                          Thanks to the commenters here who suggested going early to avoid the lines. My family and I (including a 2-year-old) arrived just after 4pm today, and stayed until about 7.

                          Things we ate/tried/sampled:
                          - hotteok
                          - scallion pancake
                          - a hibiscusy drink from wei's scallion pancakes
                          - lamb skewers
                          - takoyaki
                          - shave ice
                          - bunch of boba tea
                          - parmesan corn dog
                          - chicken katsu slider
                          - shrimp quesadilla
                          - watermelon iced tea
                          - sweet toast

                          It was fun but busy. The volume of sound and crowds and lines were increasing by the time we left. I think we saw 30-50 people in line for musubi.

                          It's not cheap, but I felt like it was reasonable, compared to the LA fair, say. I'd say that "typical" price was about $3-4 per item, for a snack-sized portion.

                          As my wife said, it was most of what we want to do when we go to the LA county fair (eat), but cheaper (and Asian) food.

                          1. re: eatsfood

                            Nice report, eatsfood!
                            Your experience was similar to ours. We arrived before 4:00pm and just an hour or so after that, we began to feel the crowds.

                            Your list suggests that you sampled a good variety of items!