Crowds formed, but the most lines moved with relative ease.
Smallwares (Portland, OR)
Johanna Ware demonstrated the comforting qualities of noodle soup, updating the classic flavors with a heap of braised beef, whose intense flavors were balanced by pear kimchi, lemon, and sesame.
Bamboo Sushi (Portland, OR)
Jin Soo Yang gussied up a simple slice of fish with squid ink ponzu vinaigrette on kampachi sashimi. Black garlic salt added to the dark look, but micro chrysanthemum greens lent a tiny pop of color to the dish.
Boke Bowl (Portland, OR)
Portland’s own ramen mad scientist, Patrick Fleming, transformed rabbit three ways (perhaps in competition with Paul Qui’s rabbit seven ways at the Sandwich Invitational?) into a dumpling soup. Seared rabbit confit rested on a rabbit and fresh water chestnut dumpling, both in a beautifully balanced rabbit dashi broth.
Aviary (Portland, OR)
Dark grill marks hid just how perfectly rare the chunks of beef in Aviary’s wrap were, a testament to the skill of the chefs (Sarah Pliner, Jasper Shen, and Kat Whitehead). Pickled pears tucked into the lettuce wraps along with the meat provided a healthy crunch and blast of contrast.
Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX)
People complained about the long line for Aaron Franklin’s barbecue, but it sure beat the three-plus-hour waits at his Austin hotspot. Not to mention that they took their signature brisket up a notch for the evening, using Snake River Farms’ American Wagyu beef.
The National (Athens, GA)
Bringing a little Southern flair to a Northwest event, Hugh Acheson’s “rice grits,” fell just to the thick side of a traditional congee, boosted with kimchi and topped with a resplendently marbled slice of American Wagyu beef ribeye.
Pok Pok (Portland, OR)
The hometown boy gone big city (the original Portland shop has two NYC siblings now), Andy Ricker, used the opportunity to show off his griddle skills with hoi thawt. The mussel crepe is a standard menu item at the restaurant, but one that’s easily missed, so he gave it a well-deserved chance to shine.
North End Grill (New York, NY)
Floyd Cardoz got into the Northwest spirit, using the local specialty Dungeness crab to build a salad with avocados and grapes—a refreshingly light dish compared to many of his cohorts.
Bollywood Theater (Portland, OR)
Borrowing a street food specialty from Mysore, Troy Maclarty piled a rainbow of sliced tomatoes with puffed rice, Indian spices, and a cilantro sauce with a kick for his tomato churumuri.
Night + Market (Los Angeles, CA)
Armed with a most appropriate restaurant name for the event, chef Kris Yenbamroong turned out a simple, authentic version of sai krok Isan. The sour sausage from the Isan (Lao-Thai) people comes with a few flavorings as accompaniments: ginger, crispy shallots, peanuts, and hot peppers.
Expatriate (Portland, OR)
The line for Naomi Pomeroy’s Chinese sausage and heirloom tomato BLT’s only went from long to longer over the course of the event—and deservedly so. The unmissable dish was square sliders of five spice-seasoned housemade Chinese sausage with the tenderness of a rare burger and a crisp, griddled top, sandwiched into a fluffy bun slathered with spicy aioli.
Zahav (Philadelphia, PA)
Michael Solomonov’s beef basturma (air-dried beef, something like an Anatolian version of bresaola) served as the base for liver mousse sprinkled with crispy chicken skin bits called gribenes, and topped with pickled vegetables. The unique bite was one of the most surprising pops of flavor at the market, and one of the best dishes there.
Navarre (Portland, OR)
Navarre featured a ricotta and Parmesan cappeletti in brodo (a chicken/beef broth), along with polpetti (shown here), little meatballs that are a (delicious) byproduct of making the broth.
Incanto (San Francisco, CA)
“This is raw beef,” chef Chris Cosentino had resentfully scrawled all over the table of his booth, as per health department instructions. The dish in question was a beef tongue tartare with “five shades of hay” (an assortment of microgreens), and teeny-tiny croutons.
Departure (Portland, OR)
Gregory Gourdet and his crew put together their own mini night market at their stand, offering a variety of dishes. The Chinese sausage sandwich came with charred onions and fermented cabbage on a sesame bun, while another sandwich featured crispy albacore with Dungeness crab and papaya slaw. Little paper take-out containers held two flavors of ice cream: kuri squash and huckleberry.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Portland, OR)
Nong Poonsukwattana and her crew worked as hard at entertaining their endless line with big smiles and goofy antics as they did wrapping up tiny packages of the local cart’s signature—and rightfully famous—dish: tender free-range chicken, rice prepared in the broth from the chicken, and fermented ginger-soybean sauce.
Laughing Planet (Portland, OR)
With its location just feet away from the event, the (super) local spot offered two versions of coconut corn cakes—the chanterelle mushroom, roasted corn, black bean, and avocado cream one pictured above; and a braised pork version garnished with apple-daikon slaw and black beans.
Antique Taco (Chicago, IL)
Rick Ortiz’s chili cheese curds were a little bit like that dream (nightmare?) where poutine sleeps with Frito pie. Tater-tot shaped fried cheese curds were buried under an avalanche of chili, avocado sauce, tortilla strips, and a few pickled peppers for heat.
Nuestra Cocina (Portland, OR)
Benjamin Gonzales’ pork rib confit (carnitas de costillas de puerco) paired meltingly soft meat with crispy edges, brightened with two salsas and pickled onions. One taste of the tomatillo salsa made a point about street food and strong flavors from outside of Asia, too.
Quin (Portland, OR)
Momofuku Milk Bar (New York, NY)
Christina Tosi transformed her famous cake into dense, rich, bite-size truffles in creative flavors: pretzel, chocolate chip-passion fruit, and birthday cake (shown here).