We made it through a long winter, city-livers, and it’s time to celebrate. Lucky for us, UrbanSpace has brought Mad. Sq. Eats back for the month. That means we can find a plethora of delicious eats outside in the sunshine, which we need to soak in after months of hibernation.
Returning for its eighth season, Mad. Sq. Eats features pop-up stands of 30 savory and sweet spots nestled together on the west side of Madison Square Park through May 28; you’ll find food being served from the frantic midday lunch rush through dinner. There are plenty of returning vendors — Roberta’s Pizza will still get a lot of love from those who don’t want to trek to Brooklyn, and mainstays Momofuku Milk Bar and People’s Pops are doling out treats — but some freshly curated stalls offer new eats, too, and altogether, the bunch offers a pretty balanced menu from many perspectives.
“In theory, we’d all love to slam pulled-pork sliders and ramen burgers for lunch, but it’s just not what we want to be putting in our bodies every day,” says Julie Feltman, pop-up market director for UrbanSpace. When curating the season, the UrbanSpace team tastes through potential menus to focus on nailing down a breadth of cuisines, sustainable food, a few new concepts not seen locally before, and a mix of established chefs testing out new dishes and up-and-coming entrepreneurs trying brand-new products.
“I think that the collection of stories and backgrounds in one marketplace is what makes our markets so special,” says Feltman. “We’re not just curating a market, we’re putting on a show for the entire community to enjoy. Every booth is like a little theatrical production that entertains the customer: the music they play, the sounds and smells of sizzling meat on the grill, and the personality of the quirky chefs behind the counter ladling crepes or shouting at you in Italian.”
And it is, indeed, a spectacle of sights and smells. This year, on top of bringing in newcomers Bombay Sandwich Co., Uma Temakeria, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Bangkok B.A.R., Potpuri, Cheesesteaks by the Truffleist, Paella Shack, and Gelato Ti Amo, UrbanSpace reconfigured the layout a bit, increasing the biergarten-style seating and adding more umbrellas for shade to encourage eaters to linger a bit, putting away their phones (other than hashtagging #MadSqEats @urbanspaceNYC, of course) to be transported around the world to India, Turkey, or Italy.
For those new to the market, there’s a lot to choose from, and the crowd can get really enthusiastic. Since those who work locally often race in and out for lunch (packaging is intended to help the food taste as good at a desk as it does at a park table), you should go later in the afternoon if you want to meander. Bring friends, take in the options, and share as many plates as possible. Some stalls have bar-like seating for you to enjoy beers on tap or a line of sangrias, making the market an ideal stop for an early evening cocktail, too.
“It’s going to be a great season,” says Feltman. “Come hungry.”
Mad. Sq. Eats Spring 2015 New Vendors:
Mad. Sq. Eats Spring 2015 Returning Vendors: