Surprisingly one of my more anticipated summer events that I look forward to every year. Although I must admit when they first started it was quite the nightmarish setup. They had started out in Pasadena area near the city hall, but they had underestimated how popular their event was going to be so parking was terrible and everyone was squished like sardines trying to get food which resulted in insane lines. Of course trial and error when it comes to starting new endeavors.
The 626 Night Market was inspired by their original predecessors that originated from many places around Asia. The most popular ones hailing from Taiwan, check out this list of Taiwan’s top ten amazing night markets if anyone ever plans to take a trip over there. It’s definitely a must do. It’s basically a smorgasbord of different food stalls or merchandise booths selling cheap eats crammed into an alley-like area. It could be a little grungy and claustrophobic to some people, but it’s really fun place to witness the hustle and bustle of late night eats.
The biggest difference between U.S. and theirs is that the food in Taiwan is so much cheaper (ranges from couple of cents to a few dollars) whereas the 626 Night Market in all honesty costs a pretty penny per stall. Admission is also always free in Asia’s night markets. People come and go as they please. But we can’t compare the two down to the last gritty detail since the circumstances are different.
When the annual 626 Night Market rolls around every year we like at to try and make it at least once or twice before it’s gone. The event only comes around during the summer months of July-September with hours between 4:00pm-1:00am on Fridays and Saturdays, Sundays until 10:00pm. Parking is free and the admission is $3.00 (although I’d check this again for next year’s price on their website). Relatively cheap compared to their OC counterpart.
While we’re here, there are always a few items that is always a must get:
1. Lamb Skewers
A must-have at the night market. There is one particular vendor that does it the best. Although I don’t remember what their stall was called, I do remember they always had a big red banner with white Chinese texts. Our alternate was Calvin’s BBQ that also sold skewers (4 sticks for $5.00). They’re easy to eat and very delicious,it has a subtle kick of gamey flavor and goes quite well with spices when cooked correctly.
Sevan Garden Kebab does really good shwarma wraps that comes prepared in a pita wrap, lettuce, cilantro, meat, and diced onions. The meat is always so tender and juicy and you can see it being cooked on the rotating spit as the chef slices his way through it. They also have a brick and mortar location, check out their Yelp! page for address and photos!
3. Stinky Tofu
Everyone either hates or loves it. There is just no in between. When you walk around you can hear the complaints of attendees because of the fermented smell that permeates the air. I for one love stinky tofu, the stinkier the better. Green Cube does a fantastic job of this and I especially love their steamed stinky tofu. It’s spicy and has so much flavor, the tofu they use is also firm giving you a really nice robust hit of the fermented taste. It’s really worth trying before just judging it based off its smell. 🙂
4. Potato Swirl
Always. A swirl of potato on a stick with your choice of flavoring, our go-to is Hotato Potato, although we haven’t been to their stall for almost 2 years now since the line is always INSANE and we’re just legit too lazy to stand in line to get a potato. But it’s something that you need in your night market life… At least once. LOL.
5. Green Tea
I’m not one for the sugary drinks and slushies that other stalls offer so I’m always scouting for booths that sell decently brewed green tea that aren’t saturated in sugar. I found the best places are: A+ Tea House and CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice meets the qualifications that I look for. A+ Tea House is a tad bit sweeter, but their tea is also much stronger in bitterness. CoCo’s green tea is lighter (but still quite bitter), but much less sweet.
There is also a few other stalls I’d recommend like Lobsterdamus (their lobster looks amazingly delicious), Blackball Taiwanese Dessert (terrific herbal grass jelly dessert), Ridges Churro Bar, Shrimp Shack, and Norigami are just a few that I’d definitely think people should try even though a few I (and friends) haven’t been able to hit just yet.