When Saturday finally hits after a long week of classes, we all know the feeling of wanting to kick back with some friends and just grab a burger. Or a chocolate-filled churro. Or maybe some Southern barbecue? Whatever you’re craving, there’s a good chance you’ll find it at this new open-air food market in the graffiti-lined streets of Wynwood.
Smorgasburg is the largest open- air food market in the United States—and it now has a home in Wynwood, Miami.
The first Smorgasburg market was created by Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby in 2011, making its debut in Brooklyn, New York. Its name pays homage to both the term smörgåsbord, Swedish for a wide selection of food, and Williamsburg, the neighborhood where the market was born.
The Wynwood location is Smorgasburg’s fifth, joining the others in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Los Angeles and Jersey City, and annual pop-ups in Osaka, Japan and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Gaston Becherano Cohen, who grew up in Aventura, Florida, was one of Smorgasburg’s earliest vendors. He owns Omotenashi Group, a collection of hospitality- driven food markets that includes Aventura Gardens Market and Motorcycle Matcha.
Cohen originally utilized his platform to open a Bonsai Café in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but moved back to Miami when the pandemic hit.
“It struck me that there was this really big talent pool of people, a lot of people from New York that were flying down here, as well as people from California, who already knew Smorgasburg,’’ Cohen said. “So, it made it a good time to bring it down here and open it. I had no choice.”
More than 11,000 people came to the Wynwood market’s opening on March 12, double the amount that was anticipated. Almost all 60 food vendors sold out by closing time, according to Cohen.
The new market is in a 50,000 square-foot park-like space across from Wynwood Walls, with food vendors around the perimeter and seating in the middle.
“It’s fantastic,” said Justin Llyod, a tourist from North Carolina who hadn’t planned on visiting the market, but spotted it when walking by. “The energy out here is great, it’s what caught my attention and the food is even better.”
Vendors are chosen using the same four-step process at all Smorgasburg locations. After filling out an application through the Smorgasburg website, they undergo interviews and are assessed on their food concept, operative ability, theatrical element and “X factor,” as Cohen puts it.
“Most of the vendors that you get at the market are going to be serving at the market for the first time in that setting,” he said. “They don’t have restaurants outside of Smorgasburg and it’s part of the magic of the market, it’s sort of like this amazing place where you can try things and see things that you don’t normally see.”
Vendor Aaron Jean Pierre, co-founder and head baker of AJ’s Sinnabuns, has been in business for two years. He says that knowing his mobile bakery was handpicked makes his Smorgasburg experience all the better.
“They selected everybody who’s here so it kinda makes you feel like you’re a step above everybody else,” said Jean Pierre.
“It honestly was like getting into an Ivy League school. You had to interview first, you had to bring your product to the table,” his wife Angelica, added.
Originally from New York, Jean Pierre was already familiar with Smorgasburg. When he heard it was coming to Miami, he was determined to become a vendor.
“I like it, just because it’s something new and something different,” he said. “Everything that’s already here in Miami has been established or been here for quite some time; so they’re kinda like the new kids on the block trying to make a name for themselves. They’re doing a good job of it.”
Formerly an insurance sales representative at Humana, Jean Pierre quit his job to pursue AJ’s Sinnabuns. The idea came to him during the pandemic when, while making donuts with his children as he once did with his mother, Jean Pierre realized that cinnamon bun bakeries aren’t very common.
“He was like ‘you know what people don’t have? They don’t have Sinnabons everywhere, so let me try to make this recipe a cinnamon bun recipe,” Angelica said.
Jean Pierre began selling his cinnamon buns at work and delivering them to acquaintances. In the first week, he racked up 25 orders. The business is now based in Homestead and delivers all the way to Broward for free. Eventually, Jean Pierre’s goal is to open a small cinnamon bun coffee shop, selling other sweets as well.
The opening of Smorgasburg Miami comes as COVID-19 restrictions are easing in Miami-Dade County and as the popularity of open-air farmers markets is on a meteoric rise. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) Farmers Market Directory, the number of markets in the U.S. has grown from about 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 in 2019.
“We are all very content right now,” said University of Miami student Charly Hill, who visited the market with a large group of friends. “Even though the food is expensive, I think it is definitely worth it.”
Meanwhile, UM student Niles Niseem described his first time at Smorgasburg as “lively, vibrant and special,” as he ate his rice combo from Jrk!, a Jamaican food vendor.
“Phenomenal, phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” he said about his meal. “The cabbage, the pepper, the pineapples, the rice, the combo is absolutely delicious. I’m content in life right now.”
Here’s a must-try list for that Saturday trip!
RAINBOW EMPANADAS ($)
Nada’s Colombian Rainbow Empanadas dishes out homemade gluten-free traditional empanadas in a variety of flavors (and colors). Vegan Chorizo + Sweet Potato, Cheese + Guava and traditional beef are just a few items to check out. nadas.
DRINKING PIG BBQ ($$$)
Looking to get your barbecue fix? Drinking Pig BBQ serves up everything from brisket to cornbread to mac and cheese.
SANTO DULCE! CHURROS
AND ICE CREAM ($$)
If you’re craving something sweet, be sure to try Santo Dulce! Churros. Dulce de Leche + Cheese is the pop-up’s award winning churro flavor, but they also have a wide variety of other classic flavors like Oreo + Nutella, Maple + Bacon and Cinnamon Sugar.
*Smorgasburg is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday!*
words_ajhada gabriel & maddie bassalik. design_lauren maingot. photo_ sydney burnett.