Nestled on the edge of Chinatown, Hester Street Fair opened for its fourth year this past Saturday, with 60 different vendors selling goods ranging from vintage clothing to handmade jewelry to soap to food.
Suhyun Pak, one of the fair’s coordinators, shared his outlook on the event.
“Food has become entertainment,” Pak said. “When you hire caterers for an event, there is no story behind them. Our vendors at Hester Street Fair bring that story.”
And he wasn’t exaggerating. Many of the vendors, like Macaron Parlour and Melt Bakery — selling four different types of ice cream cookie sandwiches — gained popularity because of the fair. Many started out as little stands and eventually worked up to their own storefronts in the city.
Judging by the interminable line, Luke’s Lobster is a favorite and a Hester Street Fair classic. The menu consists of fish sandwiches with shrimp, crab or lobster served chilled on a buttered and toasted bun.
Several vendors made their debut at this year’s fair. One such participant is Khao Man Gai. Pak explained that when the husband-and-wife team behind the stand immigrated to New York from Thailand two years ago, they were unable to find Thai street food anywhere in the city. So, they traveled back to Thailand to perfect the popular garlic, ginger chicken and jasmine rice recipe. In addition to their namesake dish, the one other menu item is nam krachipa, a refreshing iced drink made from dried hibiscus flowers.
Also new this year is Heart of Tea. With flavors like pomegranate, orange and peach, this black tea, currently only available in shops around the East Village and at the fair, makes for a healthy and refreshing treat.
“We get our ingredients from five different countries,” said Vadim Seliankin, one of the owners, as he poured cold samples of the tea for thirsty fair visitors. “And there is nothing artificial.”
Electra Colevas, a freshman in the Liberal Studies Program, suggested the white truffle cheddar popcorn at Pop Karma for those seeking an unusual item.
“Truffle oil is my recent favorite,” she said. “But I can’t believe how good it tastes on popcorn.”
For vegetarians, there is Rachel Mae’s Farmstand, which sells community-supported local products. For $600, customers can take part in their 24-week program, where they come to the fair every Saturday and pick up a week’s worth of fresh, seasonal produce like asparagus, garlic, tomatoes and melons. Customers can also buy lemonade and preserves at the stand.
Most of the produce comes from farms on Long Island, and whatever doesn’t get picked up is either canned by Mae or donated to Community of Unity, a local youth empowerment leadership community.
Featuring these and many other vendors, Hester Street Fair will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 26, so grab some friends and arrive hungry and ready for a unique street-food experience.
Hester Street Fair is located on the corner of Hester and Essex streets. Admission is free and open to the public.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, May 1 print edition. Alex Pastron is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.