Last Saturday we got a chance to attend the second annual San Diego Night Market off of Convoy and Engineer Road. About a year ago they held their first event in the Zion Market parking lot next to MIT Express off of Clairemont Mesa Blvd. It was a very tight space, with little parking so we were interested to see how this years event would pan out given the new location.
We were able to park really close by because we came when the market opened at 4:00pm. Last year we made the mistake of coming right in the middle around 6:30pm and it took us a good twenty minutes to find parking. Luckily one of the things they improved upon was including a shuttle service this year so parking wasn’t as huge of an inconvenience. The extent of our planning was coming early to scope out the various vendors before the mass of people came. This seemed to work fairly well because almost every single vendor either had no line or a very small one in the beginning.
After taking a brisk stroll to check out all of the vendors, we found us back at the entrance where we started. As sweat started to rear its uncomfortable head, we realized the scorching sun was winning this battle. We needed to power up! Many people were carrying around mason jars with lemonade and what better way to quench our thirst and beat the heat than a huge jar of lemonade? They offer various flavors but we settled on lychee lemonade. At first we felt slighted because there were only three lychees at the bottom, whereas we saw people carrying strawberry lemonade jars that had a boat load of strawberries in them. And my initial thought was “I hope this isn’t regular lemonade with three lychees at the bottom.” Thank goodness it had a burst of lychee flavor and we could happily hydrate to our next vendor.
While we were being indecisive we stumbled upon The Cravery serving their signature cookies.
I didn’t want to commit to a whole cookie at this point because we hadn’t had any food yet, but the halo halo handwritten on the cookie sign intrigued me. A sample would have to do for now. I wouldn’t say the halo halo flavors were all there, and it was more sweet than anything else, but I’m glad I tried it. Maybe I needed an entire cookie to taste all of the flavors they put into it.
We had to act fast because people were starting to trickle in and there was a small line forming outside to get in. This takoyaki vendor looked like a good first bite, so in we went.
I’ve had the traditional takoyaki before, so we went with ebi yaki this time. The batter to shrimp ratio seemed to be a little off. It was really hard to pick out any shrimp flavor. Plus the batter was super soft and didn’t have any crispy bounce to it. If I had to guess, the impending crowd of people were giving them cause to rush the cooking process a bit.
We had our eyes set on this yakitori vendor from the start. This was the line after maybe forty five minutes from opening. I didn’t want to see the line an hour later.
They offered many different options and we initially were only going to get one or two so we could try more things. But the line took about thirty minutes so we ended up with three.
Our hands down favorite bite of the day was the pork belly yakitori. It was crisp, flavorful, and made us wish we ordered more. The chicken was fine, while the beef was chewy.
Here you can see the line almost doubling in size by the time we got our food.
While we were in line for yakitori, Anh went over to Pangea to grab a Taiwanese sausage.
It was deceptively hot (temperature wise) and had a nice crisp snap to the skin. There was a good balance of sweet and savory flavor as well. With essentially no line at that point at Pangea, we were happy campers.
I missed the picture of the front of the stall but the pork sisig and pancit came from Ed’s Filipino. This was the least impressive thing we ate for the day. The sisig was tough and along with the pancit were not very hot. The flavors seemed muted and I think they were going for quantity over quality here. We were disappointed because last year we had their lumpia which were really good. 🙁
We ended our night market adventure with Ice Cream Garden LA. They specialize in ice cream that looks like either dirt or sand. Yes I understand that the “dirt” is just Oreo cookies and the “sand” is simply Nilla cookies, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the pot of dirt! Underneath the layer of dirt we got rocky road ice cream. They probably won’t be winning any awards for original taste, but the concept is neat and we were happy to end on that note.
When we left around 7:30pm it looked like this. Last year we came too late and the lines were quite long. They also ran out of food fairly early on in the evening. Waiting in long lines only to find out they ran out of what you wanted in the first place is not a very fun thing to experience. Because we came so early we avoided any potential heartbreak. Having said that, I really enjoy the night market concept and bringing it to San Diego. It is bigger and better compared to last year and it looks like things will only improve from here. We’re looking forward to seeing even more changes and a longer list of vendors next year!
Here are some tips for next year’s night market if they hold the event at the same location:
1) Come early to avoid the long lines.
2) Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to stay protected from the beating sun.
3) Have an idea of your “must haves” so you can wait in line for those first before everyone else finds it and they run out.