One of the more subtle ways to tell that it’s either spring or fall in Manhattan, is when the pink booths and umbrellas for the month-long Madison Square Eats food-avaganza begin to upstage the entrance to Eataly on Broadway & 5th. Now in its sixth year, the pop-up culinary market offers sample-sized bites from a variety of different neighborhood chefs and kitchens. There are a few stalwart regulars like Ilili, Asia Dog, Momofuku Milk Bar and Roberta’s, but it’s encouraging to see stalls representing dishes from further afield – even from the other (brave) boroughs.
The wedge-shaped traffic median between Madison Square Park and Broadway now offers beer-garden benches that permit a less frantic eat-and-run enjoyment of the delights from more than 20 stalls that serve just about everything (including the un-prohibitable pizzas, pretzels and beer) from Hong Kong street noodles to Red Velvet Macarons along with (a slightly too large variety of) Gourmet Tacos. It doesn’t help that this irresistible food fest is located right outside my subway station, so I have little choice (or willpower) but to try something different at each visit.
So far this season my favorites are the Lobster Roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound with huge chunks of pink, steamed claw meat and the Ragu stuffed Arancini from the Arancini Boys, but topping the list (and in my opinion deserving to be its own major food group) are the Southern Style Thai Curry Chicken Wings from the Clinton Street eatery: Pig and Khao. Even before you can sink your teeth into the perfectly blistered skin, the healthy aroma of lemongrass, ginger and chilli could prove challenging to your balance. So just sit down and surrender!