Madison Square is a year-round hub for fantastic food, what with the Italian emporium, Eataly, anchoring Fifth Avenue, and the original outpost of Shake Shack holding court in the park (provided you can stomach the wait on the inevitably endless line). But come spring, the area becomes even more of a dining destination, once UrbanSpace’s Madison Square Eats opens for the warm weather season. And the now 6-year-old culinary pop-up market just launched last Friday, with over 30 terrific vendors, both new and old. So if hunger strikes the next time you’re strolling through the Flatiron District (and you’d rather not be bothered with the crushing crowds at Eataly or crazy cue at Shake Shack), check out the deliciously diverse options at Madison Square Eats – from the sloppy smoked sandwiches at Mayhem & Stout to the elegant fish toasts at chef George Mendes’ 100 Sardines.
Hong Kong Street Cart: It’s easy to appease your inner glutton at this Asian street food purveyor (think sticky Pork Belly Buns and a mammoth Rice Burger; a moist fish patty sandwiched between two crispy, caramelized rice cakes), but we predict the totally tasty and perfectly portable Green Mango Salad will became a favorite of area office workers. It comes piled high with flavorful lemongrass chicken, slippery soba noodles, delicate spring greens and roasted cashews, and drizzled with a tangy citrus peanut dressing.
100 Sardines: New York’s open-air food market scene is also starting to attract serious, celebrity chefs, like Aldea’s own George Mendes. Serving as a casual counterpoint to his acclaimed Portuguese restaurant, 100 Sardines offers seafood and meat-based rice dishes (inspired by Mendes’ signature Arroz de Pato), along with soups, salads, sandwiches, and the stand’s namesake, savory Sardine Toasts; a thick, briny paste piled atop chewy bread and crowned with a tumble of fresh parsley.
Mimi and Coco: Who’d have thought we could feel light on our feet after inhaling a container of fried fish? Although Mimi and Coco‘s original specialty was Takoyaki (Japanese teriyaki balls), this Smorgaburg favorite has added a new addition to their Madison Square Eats menu; a panko-breaded, practically grease-free assortment of expertly fried seafood, like mineral oysters, snappy shrimp, and fat planks of tender, flaky fish, paired with dipping sauces like soy and yuzu.
Two Tablespoons: If you’re already working hard on your bikini bod (we’ll probably just stick with the maxi dresses), you’ll undoubtedly be grateful for this new, virtuous vendor, serving organic, vegetarian and gluten-free fare. The healthful dishes have an Asian bent, like Glass Noodle Salad with cucumbers and edamame, and Summer Rolls stuffed with lentils, goat cheese and beets. What to drink along with them? Draft kombucha, of course, brewed with raw coffee fruit and chock full of antioxidants and probiotics.
L&W Oyster Co.: We just can’t say no to shellfish come spring and summer, and this Fifth Avenue restaurant (a first time participant in Madison Square Eats) offers an array of beachy, boardwalk faves. There are Oyster Po’Boys, Clam Rolls and Lobster BLT’s, along with an elevated Corn Dog that swaps out frankfurters for shrimp; a delectable, grab-and-go option for when the area becomes overcrowded with tourists, anxious to snap selfies in front of the Flatiron Building.
Mayhem & Stout: You better have a change of clothes handy if this overstuffed sandwich shop is on your eating itinerary. Whatever — it’s worth being smeared in blueberry sriracha or chipotle mango sauce for a taste of Mayhem & Stout‘s slow-braised short rib, brisket, pulled pork or lamb, barely contained inside of a soft bun along with a cap of spicy slaw, pickled vegetables or velvety onion confit.