Events — 24 October 2011
Grub Street Food Festival at the Hester Street Fair

Blog: Grub Street Food Festival 2011

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As we become fully ensconced by fall, some of our seasonal favorites are forced to shutter as a result of cooler temperatures and more unpredictable weather. After a truly magnificent and successful summer, one unfortunate casualty of season is the Hester Street Fair. Our readers are already familiar with the lofty praise we bestow upon the outdoor marketplace for its uniqueness and its ability to capture the spirit of the lower east side. With a short amount of time left in the Hester season, one of our favorite annual traditions returned to close out their year in style.

The Grub Street Food Festival takes over Hester Street for one day each fall, bringing some of the tastiest New York City vendors and their dishes to the small fenced in space. This year however saw the Street Fair space remain mostly intact, with the Festival moving to the adjacent park next door- now bustling with a seemingly endless smorgasbord of affordable food tastings. Alongside the usual merchants peddling everything from pet toys to cufflinks, yesterday sat a Bier Garden coupled with some small tables to kick back and take in the outdoor festivities. Although a bit removed from the food festival, the suds were a welcome addition to wash down some of the comfort foods cooked up by the purveyors in attendance.

While the event is always a tremendous success, it is unfortunate that the Food Festival only visits us once a year. It gives New Yorkers the opportunity to try out different restaurants that we’d be likely to miss out on otherwise while at the same time re-introducing us to some of our old favorites. Some of the standout dishes at this year’s Festival were staples from last year- the wonderful Arancini Brothers’ crafting their tasty rice balls ($3- we opted for the ‘ragu’ varietal, stuffed with meat sauce, peas, and mozzarella inside), the Pies N Thighs’ phenomenal and dangerously unhealthy chicken biscuit ($5- a crispy fried chicken breast served on a buttermilk biscuit lathered in sweet butter and topped with a tangy wing sauce), and of course, Luke’s Lobster whipping up crab, lobster, and shrimp rolls (half, $5). Other highlights were Bon Chovie’s excellent “fried anchovies” ($6)- long and crispy, served with or without heads, with a twist of lemon and a creamy remoulade dipping sauce, and Mighty Balls’ deliciously gourmet, handmade meatballs ($7 for three), of pork, beef, and vegetarian variety topped with a jalapeno jelly, tempting tomato, and African onion sauces, respectively.

While we couldn’t get our hands on everything, we were remiss to not at least taste Georgia’s Eastside BBQ’s awesome looking ‘pulled pork sandwich’ ($7), but we digress- it was 10am on a Sunday morning. We look forward to the arrival of the Grub Street Food Festival perennially and this year’s event, which was about three times as large as last year, was expertly run and a complete success. The new space was a welcomed addition with ample room to walk and eat or have a seat and comfortably chat and the food was as good as we’ve come to expect it to be. Although we didn’t see our buddy SuChin Pak at the Festival, we know she was somewhere, pulling the strings and kicking around ideas for improving the Festival for next year.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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