Reviews

Let’s Go!: NorCal Night Market

A quest for redemption in a sea of brightly colored boba bottles.

By Alexander Quebec

So, how was the NorCal Night Market this time around?

I wasn’t there for the last event myself, but based on some of the feedback from friends and those who went on social media; I heard everything from “You weren’t missing much”, to some rather less than polite euphemisms I shouldn’t print on here. I heard all the complaints about the dirt and dust, the parking, the long lines for food. Overall, it wasn’t a pretty picture for the first time around.

For something on this scale, most organizers would’ve just called it a day and never showed up again. However, the people behind the festival decided to have another go at it.

So, was it the redemption they were looking for?

Getting In

I came around 3 PM on the last Sunday they were hosting the event. There was traffic and a sizeable crowd, but it didn’t feel too crowded (all things considered that 1. It’s a Sunday afternoon on the cusp of full fledged football season and 2. The weather in NorCal this time of year can be a bit fickle at times). I actually took the time to track my time in the line from the back of the ticket box line all the way to the last ticket taker.

I was shocked, it only took me one minute and sixteen seconds to get in. That’s amazing despite the fact the lines look kinda long from the get go, the ticket takers are fast and efficient and if you have your cash ready, it’ll go by smoothly.

Upon entry, I was immediately in the vicinity of some merchandise vendors (a lot of them local I might add), a ton of Carnival games and some food vendors open for some minor refreshments whilst shopping or playing games. Of course, one thing I need to see when I am at a event like this are where the restrooms are, and there were plenty, all strategically and conveniently placed throughout the event.

Passing by the games and shops (I really wanted a Rick Sanchez or Bee-mo plushy and was willing to play to win one) I made my way to the one place that really mattered, the food area.

The food area

The food area was on one of the larger lots. Based on the placement of the food vendors, I could tell that there was some intentional design with the way the vendors were placed. One of the vendors who I did not get a chance to try out was Lobsterdamus, the line was insane. We’re talking popular Disneyland attraction during high summer insane. Perhaps if they roll around the next time, I’ll have the persistence to give them a go, but for now, since I was aiming to hit up as many vendors as possible in a short visit, they’re on my to see list.

I met up with some friends of mine to take pictures and try some food. Here’s the rundown on what I tried:

Bao Bao La had an amazing Tamakoyaki with crab meat. The egg was rich, runny and creamy, covered in a creamy, mayo-based savory sauce with some roe, stuffed with some sweet crab meat that had a perfect meat/wrap ratio.

You couldn’t make a visit here without visiting Chick N Skin. One of the most popular vendors here, they actually sold out during the event and had to close shop early (from what I observed). Using chicken deep fried chicken skins as chips is a brilliant idea, and yes, I did call it chicharrones a few times. I got to try a few bites of the nachos; hot and creamy nacho cheese sauce, fresh chillies, onions and cilantro piled high on top of freshly deep fried chicken skins. Let’s just say that I learned that day that there is a God, and he loves us very much.

While my accomplice and I were wondering, we saw the North Shore Garlic Shrimp booth. Famous for their shrimp (I didn’t get to indulge as I was full from round one, next time I hope) the owner was awesome in giving us both a sample of Malasadas, a Portuguese style doughnut that’s very popular in Hawaii. Now, malasadas straight from the fryer are a blessing for your mouth, yeasty, doughy with a crispy outside dusted with sugar and (sometimes filled with cream).

Match N More with their creamy matcha soft serve covered in gold got a lot of props for its Instagram worthy creations. I got to try a taste myself (I was holding a cone and it was melting on the side, so I had to clean it by licking my fingers, so that counts I guess), but I’d be down to go back for a full size treat the next time they are around.

Javis Cooking didn’t have the draw the other vendors might’ve had, but seeing empanadas out there, I had to give it a go. I got both the Ham & Cheese and the Mozzarella one, Both were bursting with melty cheese, but the mozzarella one was the best. A bit soggy in the middle, but the mozzarella paired with some sauteed onions and vegetables made this a treat. Both had that doughy, flaky crusts that I love about empanadas.

RKKN was my last stop with their Pork Belly and Pho tacos. The Pho tacos were juicy and delicious, and they were made fresh right in front of me, drizzled with a generous amount of hoisin sauce (I think it was) and some bean sprouts. The Pork belly tacos were bad in a good way, juicy and a bit greasy with a spicy orange sauce on top to add a bit more decadence. This is the kind of taco you feel guilty after eating a few, but deep down inside, you have no regrets.

I also had some delicious elote en vaso, but unfortunately cannot place the vendors name as I don’t know who they are (help please?)

Verdict

So, was this the redemption they were looking for? Based on what I observed against what I heard back from friends on the last event, I’d say that this was an earnest attempt to learn from their mistakes and ensure a great time for all involved. There will be long lines for some vendors, thats a fact that you have to accept when you go to these events, and while it might be a pain in the ass, in many ways, its a testament to the popularity of these events. It can also encourage you to try a new vendor out too, someone who might benefit from the business. Overall, I had a great time and I do intend to come back the next time around (I’m hoping there is one).

The deets

For more info, please check out their website. The team also hosts the OC and 626 night markets, which are big draws in SoCal, so if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to also check them out too.

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