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Southern California Night Markets - the Return of the 626

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 27, 2012 04:17pm | Post a Comment
626 Night Market logo

The first 626 Night Market was a victim of its own, unanticipated success. Taiwanese-American organizers Johhny and Janet Hwang struggled to get enough vendors to commit even after lowering fees to the point that they expected to lose money. The Facebook page had about 2,000 fans a couple of weeks before its debut but FB fans are a notoriously flaky bunch – or is that just when I’m hosting something?

626 Night Market entrance, Pasadena, California

By some estimates, when the night market actually took place, some 10,000 people descended on a single, long block of North Oakland in Old Town. It was honestly a bit scary being swept along by the crowd without any control and a little amazing. My roommate’s phone disappeared and we weren’t even able to approach most of the food vendors to even see what was available -- forced to accept the sugary toast sold nearest to the entrance. Several friends I expected to meet gave up -- several opting to go to Arcadia to satisfy their Taiwanese jones. My roommate and I barely escaped and went to Lucky Baldwin’sThey, along with other businesses in the vicinity, were probably among the few who enjoyed the windfall that resulted from what was quickly nicknamed the "626 Nightmare Market" -- or maybe that was just me.

Night Market, Yilan, Taiwan
The night market in Yilan -- notice breathing room and smiles

For those unfamiliar with night markets (I overheard someone at a neighboring table explaining that there was “some kind of Asian fest” taking place) are nighttime bazaars where people do a little shopping as they aimlessly ramble and eat street food. They’re especially popular in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. I’ve been to them in HaulienTaipei, Taitung, Yilan and Pasadena and in my experience eating and strolling are the primary focus except the first Pasadena, where not getting trampled or crushed was.

Silk Lounge - Monterey Park, California
Empty lounge in Monterey Park -- everyone's eating


 
Night markets offer an alternative to the typical urban American nightlife (usually alcohol-fueled) options like partying, bar-hopping, clubbing, pub-crawling, art openings, music performances, &c. Eating out with friends is popular in Asian-majority communities like Monterey Park (America’s first Chinese-American majority city). With a population of over 60,000, they're seemingly content with only two bars (one in a hotel, the other on the border with East LA and almost entirely patronized by Latinos). Boozing doesn’t seem to play much of a role in the activity. In Monterey Park's San Gabriel Valley neighbor, Rowland Heights (nicknamed by some, "Little Taipei"), most evenings large numbers of young people congregate around Diamond Plaza, cruising through the parking lot, playing cards and hanging out at a tea house. In other words, much of LA County seems to me to long have been primed for night markets.
 
626 Night Market Crowd - Pasadena, California
suffocating at the first 626 Night Market -- no smiles

Although a writer for the LA Weekly described the first 626 Night Market as “Southern California’s first Asian night market,” there have been at least two earlier examples. Monterey Park hosted a small night market back in 2004 that occurred on Saturdays in the summer for a couple of years before disappearing. Santa Monica apparently had a one-off Malaysian night market in 2010. (Update: As of 2014 there's also the KTown Night Market in Koreatown, the Little Saigon Night Market in Little Saigon, the OC Night Market in Costa Mesa.) 

626 Night Market Map



For the returning 626 Night Market, the location has been moved to Centennial Square, in Pasadena’s Civic Center District (100 N. Garfield Ave, Pasadena). Thankfully, it will this time be allotted more than 4 ½ acres (18,580 square meters) -- about six blocks. It will take place from 4:00 pm – 11:30 pm and for all you people who hate looking for parking, the Gold Line’s Memorial Park Station is located within the area covered by the night market.

626 Night Market - Pasadena, California
Unable to get any closer to the food


And for those that complained that there weren’t enough vendors at the last 626 Night Market (how do they even know? I couldn’t even get to most of them), this one has the following (including three times as many food vendors as last time): 626 Movemeant, 8 Ate 8's K BBQ, AFC Soy Foods, AK Lashes, ANP Design, AU79, Addicted to Phones, Akbar Cuisine of India, Alltronics, A-sha Dry Noodle, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, Astro's Donuts, Aunty Merry, Bao Style, Beatnixx, Beyond the Olice, Black Persimmon, Bling Bling Dumpling, Boba Avenue, Bowls LA, Bowtique Envy, Crepe 'N Around, Cafe 18, Cal Fresh Vikon, California Museum of Art, Cannan Restaurant, Cha Cafe, Chala Handbags, Chare's Import, Charmy Charmy, Chines & Korean BBQ, Christina Liu, Comien Silk, Covina Tasty, Creative Twist, Creme Carmel LA, Dr. Cellular, Dragon Whiskers Candy, Evike, EWC Group, Eddie B Games, Fighting Fish, Flour + Tea, Fluff Ice, Fresh Roast, Fruit King Juice, GG_Infinite, Ginger Bread Man's Asian Roots, Gippentarp, Green Cube Gourmet, Green Cube Tofu, Grilled Cheese Truck, Haven Gastropub, Heo Cuisine, Hollywood Fodder, House of Bonz, Indonesia Satay, It's a Snap!, J Noodle House, JHL Style, Java Cafe, Jessica, Juba, Kawaii Foods, Kebab Brothers, Komodo Food Truck, Korean Contacts, Las 3 Hermanas, Leapfrog, Lee's BBQ, Liang's Kitchen, Little Rain, Lobsta Truck, Lotus Circles, Lucky Bamboo Garden, Mama Go's Fil-Cuisine, Mama Masubi, Mandoline, Michelle Lee, Mighty Boba Truck, Miniemall, Momochai, Molla Space, Moni Moni, Ninja Sox, OMG Blings, Offal Laffo, Optic Remix, Oscar Enterprise Company, Overseas Commercial Group, Ozero, Papa Lee, Pasta Joe, Patricia Huang, Peppers Thai, Pet Lover Cafe, Phuonghang, Pie n Burger, Q-Zone, R2 - Ray Rays, Raw Cane Super Juice, Ready Artwork, Rock n' Roll, Rocxten, Roll Up, Savana Electronics, Sculpster, Seoul Sausage, Shaosi Ye Valdez, Shinano, Silver Panda, Slammin' Sliders, Solpoint Services, Soyumi, Spices n' Rice, Store13, Supreme Vege Cuisine, T-Square International, Takken, Takoyaki Tanota, Tan San, Tangy Choices, Tarami Patisserie, Taxco, Tea Bar Starry, Tealicious, Ten Ren's Tea Time, The Boat Restaurant, The Candy Chef, Ton Ten Ko, Unfindings, Underestimate, V & R Thai-Chinese Food, Wok Master, Yiming Ou, Yirin Grill, Yogurtland, Zummy Road, Zarlito's Family Kitchen, and Zeta Epsilon Tau.


Trash at the 626 Night Market

See you there and bring your appetite!

*****
Update: The second 626 Night Market was a vast improvement over the first one. It was still well-attended and there were far more (and diverse) food options. While the main complaint this time seems to have been that stinky tofu is stinky, mine would only be that the lines (at least there were lines this time) were still long. I had to wait 30 minutes for a grilled cheese -- again, at least this time I got to eat -- at multiple places. Hopefully the apparent success will lead not only to more 626 Night Markets but more night markets throughout LA!
 
The second 626 Night Market

The second 626 Night Market

The second 626 Night Market
 
*****

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Chinese-americans (15), Asian-americans (40), San Gabriel Valley (21), Cultural Events (2), Nightlife (4), Pasadena (23), Pasadena Civic Center (1), Night Markets (1), 626 Night Market (1), Taiwanese-americans (6)