Asian night markets are one of our favorite things to visit when we travel to the region. When Tom and I heard about 626 Night Market in Arcadia, CA, we decided to take a road trip to the Los Angeles area to check it out.
626 Night Market is a special weekend event that occurs approximately 4 times during the summer season. I have 4 days off during federal holidays so we took advantage of this luxury and went over the July 4th weekend. Located at Santa Anita Park, the event is situated in a large section of the parking lot. If you happen to attend early in the summer, you can even catch a horse race that runs until July 4. This is the perfect way to take a break and digest all of the tasty treats.
Although advertised as a night market, the grounds open at 4 PM. We arrive shortly after opening and the first thing Tom and I do is survey the grounds. The expansive space is nicely organized with arts and crafts vendors located together near the entrance. The food and beverage purveyors are dotted throughout the rest of the venue. Even though we arrive early, there are already swarms of people. It’s a bit of sensory overload.
We push on and notice that the most popular booths feature bites that Tom and I consider “authentic” Asian street food. Grilled skewers of gizzards, hearts, and other offal bits draw big crowds. Octopus on a stick (grilled and fried) is also very popular. The fried octopus Japanese snack, takoyaki, is a hit. To quench your thirst, try one of the many booths featuring creative spins on Asian boba drinks. If you enjoy an adult beverage, Tom recommends Kirin Ichiban beer topped with the beer’s frozen foam.
Fusion food booths also have long lines. Try a cheesy taco filled with Asian inspired fillings. Or how about nachos with fried chicken skins replacing tortilla chips? If you want something less Asian, but absolutely beloved by us Asians, try a tasty grilled lobster tail. Some of the more ridiculous popular booths are $6 sticks of fried potato curls and ears of corn topped with Asian and Mexican goodies. Really?!
Tom and I considered this festival an interesting snapshot of what is popular and what has gone the wayside in terms of street food popularity. Just a few years ago, Hong Kong egg waffles were all the rage. Not anymore. And the Ramen Burger. No lines here either. Tom never thought Ramen burgers made sense anyway. Perhaps others are thinking the same.
626 Night Market is a nice option for people interested in tasting a good variety of Asian foods (and fair/festival foods) in one location. Some of the options are authentic, however, many are crazy variations striving to get that perfect Instagram capture. We know that this is the case of food festivals. It is a chance to sample food, both authentic and ridiculous. If you attend with this in mind, then you will enjoy the offerings!
Arrive early to secure a decent parking spot and to beat the insane amounts of food enthusiasts. Be sure to bring enough cash for the entrance fee($5) and treats to eat and drink. The pricing is extremely overpriced, so if your funds run low, there are ATMs on site to replenish your budget. If you arrive during the early hours, bring sun protection as the shade is very limited.
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