Last weekend, the lights went up on a once-barren, 24,000-square-foot lot on the Long Island City waterfront that’s been transformed into a technicolor weekend flea and food market. Over the course of the summer, the market will showcase a rotation of vendors, merchants, and entertainers, including barbecue pitmasters, a bicycle-powered ice shaver for flavored ice, sellers of handmade soap, antiques and vintage clothing dealers, and local musicians.
“We will be introducing a few new vendors on a weekly basis,” explains Josh Schneps, founder of LIC Flea & Food, and co-owner of Schneps Communications, which publishes 17 magazines and newspapers throughout Brooklyn and Queens (disclosure: I write for one). Last weekend, nearly 90 vendors set up shop, though about 75 were on hand each day.
The flea will serve as a marketplace for established restaurants and retailers as well as a launching pad for start-up businesses, many of which are Queens-based. “It’s a great way to get people who don’t already know LIC to come here and enjoy what the neighborhood has to offer,” says Jeff Blath, owner of neighborhood favorite Alobar, which is right around the corner. And Schneps has negotiated a multi-year lease for the market in anticipation that it will grow into an integral part of the rapidly developing Long Island City community.
While some of the menus will rotate over the course of the summer, here’s a roundup of a few of the opening weekend’s highlights, which you should definitely seek out if you’re headed out there this week. The flea runs each Saturday and Sunday through October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sausage and egg sandwich from M. Wells
Chef Hugue Dufour could probably serve anything and command a blocks-long line, but the decision to revive his breakfast sandwich guarantees those lines will stretch all summer. The sandwich is well worth the wait. The warm, freshly baked English muffin stacked with sage sausage, cheddar, pickled jalapeños, tomato, and a slathering of mayo will be available exclusively at the flea.
Brisket Sandwich from Butcher Bar
Butcher Bar sold 80 pounds of brisket by 2:30 p.m. last Saturday. “We have had staff members here since 9 on Friday night before the flea,” explained chef Ryan Byrd. “We trim the brisket, let the rub sit for about three days, and then it’s anywhere from 10 to 14 hours in the old-school side-draft smoker, which uses hardwood only.” The gargantuan 500 gallon smoker was custom-built in Georgia especially for the flea and future outdoor festivals. Topped with shaved red onion, house-made pickles, and slaw, it’s a sandwich certain to draw repeat fanatics.
Margherita Pizza from Manducatis Rustica
Mama Gianna Cerbone didn’t just introduce a line of olive oil and truffle oil for sale at the market, she also had a portable wood-fired oven sent from Italy. “It’s a different kind of dough, too–less filling for the summer,” she explains. The personal pies bake in seconds and are built to order with fresh tomatoes, fior di latte, basil, and olive oil. They’re served delicately folded into a portable sleeve ideal for walking the market.
BLT s’more from Mitchmallows
Mitchell Greenberg is selling his homemade marshmallows in innovative flavors ranging from creamsicle to churro, but the most eyebrow-raising version is his fluffy take on the BLT, a crostini stacked with lettuce, applewood0smoked bacon, and a tomato marshmallow he brûlée-torches to order. BYO wet nap if you plan on indulging, because a dry napkin doesn’t quite do the trick.
Lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster
The debate may be heated over who makes the city’s best lobster roll, but Luke’s has a monopoly on the LIC Flea, which should thrill purists. The Maine lobster is served mostly naked with a drizzle of butter and a dusting of herbs on either a half or full New England-style bun. Luke’s also serves crab and shrimp versions of the sandwich.
Candied jalapeños from Little Bird Chocolates
“Do you like light or dark chocolate?” asks Sara Meyer, an owner of Little Bird Chocolates. “And do you like heat?” If the answer is yes, this treat comprises seed-in jalapeños dipped in chocolate and sprinkled in sea salt, creating a surprising match of sweet and heat. And if the answer is no? Little Bird also dips animal crackers.
Meatball sliders from Bill’s Balls
Husband-wife team Bill Morris and Daniela DelGiorno serve an eclectic array of meatball sliders designed to represent the diversity of the city. Regular offerings include a classic parmigiana version as well as a rendition called the Upstate–a chicken meatball with buffalo sauce and blue cheese with a celery chimichurri. A third flavor will rotate weekly; for the opening, customers lined up for the Redhook Swedish meatball and gravy with currant jelly and chives. This weekend, they introduce the Flushing–a pork dumpling-style meatball with chili sauce and cabbage-scallion slaw. Coming later this summer, the Astoria will feature a lamb meatball with mint-feta spread.
Hot dogs from Alobar
You’ll be drawn in for the maple-bacon popcorn balls, but the delicious newcomer here is the beef hot dog, available with three topping options: Southern-style sausage gravy, corn and pepper relish, or ginger pulled pork with carrot slaw. The gravy dog was exceptional, quite frankly (pun intended–we couldn’t help it).
Boerewors from Woza
What do you mean you don’t have Chinese-South African cuisine on a regular basis? Then get in line for Woza, created by a husband-wife duo who are third-generation Chinese-South Africans now living in America. Along with apricot bread pudding and curried meatloaf with egg custard, the pair served the boerewors last weekend, a roasted coriander- and clove-intense sausage over polenta with tangy tomato sauce.
PB&J stack cake from New Amsterdam Baking Co.
New Amsterdam’s assorted classic bundt cakes are euphoric, but the head-turner is the bakery’s delicately balanced PB&J stack cake. Layers of spongy cake are alternated with a sweet peanut butter glaze and homemade strawberry jam to create an adult dessert version of a childhood favorite that is pleasantly lighter than it sounds.