In its three years of existence, the Brooklyn Flea has brought the browsing masses gourmet candy bars, seasonal shaved ice, and dueling pickles, helping to launch a series of start-ups in the process. But thatâ€™s not all: Itâ€™s evolved into a dining destination, a curated buffet catering to contemporary appetites for pupusas and porchetta sandwiches, wood-fired pizza and lobster rolls. To understand the bazaarâ€™s impact on the local dining scene, one need only trek to opening weekend of the outdoor season April 2 and 3, when a new crop of vendors will unveil their nascent businesses and brand expansions to a ravenous public (check brooklynflea.com for vendor location and schedule). Here are but a few of the newcomers to make their debuts this Saturday in Fort Greene, and Sunday at the Fleaâ€™s new Williamsburg location, on a 40,000-square-foot riverside lot leased from the Edge condo development. (Come May, Flea organizers will inaugurate a dedicated food market there on Saturdays, with Greenmarket farmers joining an expanded mix of purveyors and street-food stands. Working name: Smorgasburg.)
Whatâ€™s different about this yearâ€™s alfresco Flea is the increased presence of established chefs and restaurateurs squeezed in among the fledgling jerkyists and moonlighting macaronistas. Saul Bolton of the Michelin-starred Saul, for instance, has parlayed his extensive charcuterie program at the Vanderbilt into a retail business called Brooklyn Bangers, featuring sandwiches like merguez on pita, veal bratwurst with sauerkraut, and a housemade hot dog thatâ€™s two thirds brisket and one third pork fatback. The sandwich mavens at Saltie will bring their romaine Dinghy and the meatier Little Chef. Raw oysters come courtesy of Maryâ€™s Fish Campâ€™s Flea alter ego, Oystergirl. And Sam Mason, late of Tailor and wd-50, is introducing Empire ÂMayonnaise in whimsical flavors like lime pickle and coffee-and-celery-seed (fries, too!).
After spending last summer exposing skeptical New Yorkers to the modest joy of the Montreal bagel, Mile Endâ€™s Noah Bernamoff will be busting out his signature smoked-meat sandwiches in Williamsburg. (Heâ€™s also making his commissary kitchen available to An Choi chef Dennis Ngo, who plans to launch Texas-style barbecued-brisket sandwiches at the Flea in May.) And from the bubbling hive of confectionery activity that is Momofuku Milk Bar comes Milk Bar & Friends, an umbrella operation selling not only Crack Pie and Compost Cookies but the handiwork of the bakeryâ€™s employees: souped-up sandwiches on fresh-baked bread from ÂPeanutÂ Butter Jellified; inventive marmalades from Maiden ÂPreserves; and offbeat macarons from Dulcis Mercator (Latin for sweet shop), the sideline of a Bronx prosecutor turned pastry cook. Thatâ€™s the thing about the Fleaâ€”all you need is a fancy French cookie and a dream.
Marmalades from Maiden Preserves. Photo: Danny Kim