There is always something fun happening somewhere in NYC. But, some of those things might not be easy to find. We came across one of those, almost hidden event in Spanish Harlem, called the Vendy Plaza. It is an outdoor event, but located at La Marqueta underneath the subway over-path, so it can be open rain or shine, which is great. It also means that it is completed shaded, so it is a bit cooler even on a hot Summer day.
If you are interested in the history La Marqueta, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, more than 500 vendors had their business booming at this place. It was an “important social and economic venue for all Hispanics living in New York City.” All the activities and business have significantly slowed down since then, but now, it is time to revitalize La Marqueta. Vendy Plaza is a part of that revitalization, and what a wonderful way to do so!
So, what is a Vendy Plaza? It has live music, live cooking demos, beers & wine, and most of all, delicious food from Vendy Awards winners! And in case you are not aware, Vendy Awards is a serious cook-off competition between the most popular sidewalk vendor such as food trucks. It is also a fundraiser to supper to Street Vendor Project.
I must warn you, do not go there with a full stomach. They have soooo many great food vendors there, you will regret it! So, please go when you are hungry. You would want to taste great food from more than one vendor. And they have more than enough vendors to choose from, Hispanic, Asian, American, desserts…etc. I am sure everyone can find at least one thing that they like. For me, I found all of them very interesting! I mean, they are all finalists of the Vendy Awards! They had a special Taste Pass, so we bought the one that was for 2 beers (or wine) + 5 food samples for $15. That is a crazy amazing deal.
Let’s start with drinks. They have pretty good options. Good local beers from Bronx and Brooklyn, and Red, White, and Rose wines to choose from. They are all $5/cup if you don’t get the Taste Pass.
We got to taste Brooklyn Defender IPA, Liebfraumilch (White), and Cipresseto Toscana (Rose). The IPA is bold, fruity hop bitterness, and dry finish. It was created for New York Comic Con, as they were the official beer of the convention. It was quite refreshing, and went perfectly with spicy food or Hispanic food.
Liebfraumilch wine is a semi-sweet German wine. Since I like sweet wine, I really liked it. If you like Riesling, give this one a try. It was fruity and smooth, great aftertaste. Cipresseto Toscana is a nice fruity Rose, with aromas of fruit and flowers such as raspberries, orange flowers, and roses. Easy to drink, light and refreshing
Four our 5 food samples, we asked for some suggestions/recommendations from the staff, and headed over to a “guy with machete” first. You could hear the machete from afar, and what does he has? A HUGE roasted pork, by Lechon la Pirana.
He chops this huge meat with machete, which was quite entertaining. You can imagine he had a good crowed around him. And he was pretty nice and friendly as well.
And this is what we got with one food sample token. A super generous portion of pork and rice. We heard that he also had cold octopus salad on this day, so we asked if we could have a taste of it too. He said “Sure!” and gave us a generous portion of that on top of the rice. When you think about $15 for 2 drinks and 5 food samples, it comes down to just a little over $2 each. Look at the size of this food “sample” of $2. Crazy! And the model (my sweet handsome hubby) looks happy too with the food, doesn’t he?
And everything was great! The pork was tender and juicy, flavorful, good amount of spices. The rice was super yummy too, packed with flavor. The rice went perfectly together with the pork. And the octopus, it was so good! Not too hard, not too soft, not too chewy, but really perfectly cooked. Had good olive flavor, refreshing and addictive. No wonder he has the No. 1 place at this Vendy Plaza (from what I heard).
Then, we tried some Arepas from Cheese Corn Arepas. The staff who gave us recommendation of food told us that they are one of his favorite. They certainly had great aroma, and looked really tasty.
With the token, we got to have 2 mini arepas with topping of our choice, special sauce, and cheese. We went with one pork and on chicken. They are made to order, so comes nice and hot. And they put good amount of pork and chicken on the top of mini Arepas for us.
Even thought they were small, they were big on flavor. When I bit into it, all the ingredients came together, and the mozzarella was nice and cheesy. Both chicken and pork tasted great, these little guys were very satisfying.
Next up was some Jerk Chicken from Elsie’s Jerk Shack. This was a cute family business, with mom being the chef. She was really sweet. They have Chicken Roti, Jerk Chicken, Vegetable Roti, and Codfish Poppers.
With our token, we got to have Chicken Roti with rice, Spicy Jerk Chicken and Mild-Spicy Jerk Chicken. They all looked amazing! And you could smell the goodness from a mile away.
She gave us a good portion of their food, and my goodness it was tasty!!! And they were not kidding about the Spicy Jerk Chicken. It was really spicy, but with great flavor. The Mild-Spicy one still had a great kick to it. The meat was tender and juicy, melt in your mouth. The Roti and rice was really flavorful as well, great comfort food. It was a delight from the first bite to the end.
We wanted try something Asian, so we went to see what they offer. The Malaysian Project looked really interesting, and they were so sweet and helpful. They told me that they are offering kind of “everyday Malaysian food” that they like, and hoping that everyone else would like them too.
With our token, we decided to try their Kaya Toast. It looked like guacamole, but when I inquired about it, they told me that it is a “kaya jam” which is a Malaysian coconut egg jam. It is made with coconut milk, sugar, egg, and pandan leaf which gives that light green color.
They make it to order, by first toasting the bread on the dry frying pan. Then, they put the Kaya jam on one side, and brown butter on the other side. It was very tasty, I have never had anything like it. The jam was smooth, creamy, sweet, with nice coconut flavor. It was almost like a dessert. Great job guys!
For our last token, I wanted to get some real desserts. So, we headed over to Blonde Bakes. They had some mini cupcakes, brownies, and few other sweet. This was a husband and wife team, and they were super sweet. I have been eyeing on their mini cupcakes from the first sight…
With the token, we could get either 1 mini cupcake, or something called “Trashed Up Blondie.” Intrigued with the name (and it was much bigger than the mini cupcake), we chose the Trashed Up Blondie. It was made with Reese’s, pretzels, and chocolate chips. It was very rich, peanut buttery goodness with soft, almost gooey sweetness, and crunchy salty pretzel mixed together in a perfect harmony.
After we had spent all of our tokens, we went back to Blonde Bakes for some mini cupcakes. Who can resist those cute little babies? They were $2 each or $5 for three, we got three cupcakes. Salted Caramel, Chocolate Passion Fruit, and Almond Raspberry Rose.
Salted Caramel was great, it had the hint of saltiness that emphasized its sweetness. The caramel sauce was great, and it had more of it in the middle, which was a great surprise. The icing was creamy and smooth, great flavor. Chocolate Passion Fruit was rich and chocolate-y, and it had the passion fruit filling in the middle, which was great!
The last but not least, Almond Raspberry Rose. This little baby had edible pearls on it, very cute and elegant. It had the raspberry filling, and was another good cupcake. All of them were nice and moist, dense and rich. Icings were very creamy, tasty, melt in your mouth. They have different mini cupcakes each weekend, so if you go there more than once, you get to taste different cupcakes as well.
They do have enough tables and chairs, but when they get crowded, it is not easy to find a seat. With people moving around the chairs, there were several empty tables with out any chair. But, not everyone sits for a long time, so if you wait around, you could find a seat in 5-10 min. They also had some cute green picnic tables for kids, I thought that was a nice touch.
So, if you want something to do on Sunday, or if you need an extra spice in your life, head over to Vendy Plaza for some good, spicy food and everything else that they have to offer. They are open every Sunday, rain or shine, from 12 noon to 6pm (except July 3rd) until sometime in October. The vendors changes some weekend, and some of them offer different food when they come back, so it is fun to visit more then just once. I know I will go back again, great food, fun music, and most of all, great people! Be ready for a fun Sunday!
Vendy Plaza – 1607 Park Ave, New York, NY 10029