BROOKLYN — For many people in Brooklyn, summer means outdoor food markets: joining the throngs at Smorgasburg, stopping by a farmers market or grabbing a taco at the Brooklyn Flea.
But what is a once-in-a-while Saturday romp for most is an all-season job for an army of vendors. What do they see and hear each week from their positions behind a folding table, fat fryer or sample tray? A whole lot, as DNAinfo New York found out.
Here’s a look at what was seen and overheard by those brave souls who worked in the heart of Brooklyn’s foodie scene in the summer of 2014.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard from a customer this summer?
On cut flowers: “One of the funniest things I get is, ‘if I plant these, will they grow?’”
— Gregory Lebak, Lebak Farms, Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
“We have the tip jar that says, ‘You’re not too much of a hipster to leave a tip, sir’ … One day, this guy and a group of his friends came by and were like, ‘You know we do tip, right?’ Like, aggressively. I didn’t understand at first and he was like, ‘Your tip jar. We do tip.’ And I didn’t say anything. He was clearly breaking all the rules of being a hipster.”
— Ellington, People’s Pops, Brooklyn Flea
“One chick asked us if we could make a tiny little pizza for her dog… which we cannot do.”
— Britney Harsh, Pizza Moto, Smorgasburg
“‘Are the lobsters real?’ It’s funny because they’re moving around the tank and they’re definitely real… I think that they’re just really surprised to see a live lobster.”
— Katherine Hill, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Brooklyn Flea
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What moment at the market will you remember from this summer?
“This woman came up with a huge parrot and asked if they could taste it. Can we try it [she said]. And you’re like ‘Oh! You mean the bird.’ And she gave one to the parrot ... The parrot loved it. It was fantastic.”
— Ailin Doman, Elvio’s Chimichurri, Smorgasburg
“I can’t remember who it was, but they were starting up their stoves … one of the guys left the gas on and it just, whomp! Huge fireball shot up. Everybody stopped exactly what they were doing — people, like, mid-sample — and looked at the fireball… No one was hurt.”
— Padraic Monahan, McClure’s Pickles, Smorgasburg at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5
“In the beginning of the summer, [a nearby tenant protest] was, like, every Saturday. They had city councilmembers speaking … there was really a lot of protesting going on … I felt for the tenants.”
— Alison MacDaniel, Baker’s Bounty, Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
“Our tent blew away. I think it was July. I went to take a bathroom break and I came back and there were two guys holding the tent. It was a nice day, it was just super windy.”
— Dave, La Newyorkina, Smorgasburg
“There was a day a couple months ago… I think by 3:30 or 4 we sold out of everything and there was a line. And the line didn’t disappear. People were so upset. They kept coming up to ask like, ‘Are you sure you sold out? Are you sure you sold out?’”
— Zach, The Good Batch, Smorgasburg
How is this summer different from others you’ve worked?
“We had a steel drum guy this summer, which was really great… he played, like, popular hits. So, he was doing a lot of "Dirty Dancing" songs. "Hungry Eyes." He was very good at that. Whitney Houston. Singing my Whitney over here with steel drums. It was really nice.”
— Laura McCune, Wilklow Orchards, Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
“The people-watching here is prime. I gotta say, bright-colored hair is coming back. Everyone’s got pink and purple and blue hair now. That’s definitely the neighborhood.”
— Sanja, Blue Bottle Coffee, Smorgasburg
“There’s something called National Brazil... it’s [Brazil’s] busiest news show. Sometime in the winter, they came and did a thing on us. So, every time people come from Brazil to the food fest [now], they look for us because we usually have turkey hats on. They look for us and take pictures with us. It’s kind of fun because, you know, they’ve seen us on TV in Brazil.”
— Joe Crosby, Crosby Connection, Smorgasburg