626/OC Night Market brings us The Norcal Night Market, an Asian inspired foodie event! The goal was to unite the community and showcase local talent. It features 100+ food and merchandise vendors, games, an art walk and live music for two whole weekends. It includes a large roster of chefs, artists, musicians, businesses, and entrepreneurs from all over the community to come take part and share good food, good vibes.
Ambriss and I have been going to the 626 Night Market for 6 years now, when we lived in Southern California this event never disappointed. In Sacramento, we were so happy that we had our own very first successful night market back home – we knew we had to make it to the Bay Area for this event. This is the first time doing this event in Northern California, this is our thoughts.
The first thing we have to address is the gigantic elephant in the room, the discussion of the event. On the Facebook event page alone, there was 46,000 people who said they were interested. People have voiced their concerns about the location, dust, parking, lines, flies, price and vendors running out of food – all of which are very valid concerns – you just have to manage your expectations. Night markets will be crowded, there will be lines and food moves fast – previous 626 night markets we’ve been to you must expect to wait in line. A very positive thing we saw was that the event staff did take into account the feedback and acted upon it the next day.
We left Sacramento around 3PM and arrived a little past 4PM as we picked up our nephew Matix and his dad to join us in this food adventure. The weather was in the high 80s when we arrived and as they suggested, the tried to alleviate some of the parking issues from Day One, so we entered via gate 8 or gate 12. Parking was $10 (cash only) and we were surprised to see both gates merging together as you drive and search for parking. The lots available are on the field, so this is where you will encounter dust first. A little dirt don’t hurt!
Speaking of dust, yes there is a lot of it! Heat? Oh yeah it was still hot? Lines? Duh. Stay focused, we’re here for the food. While we did our research on the line up, we knew we we’re not going to get to try all of them and we did not want to wait 2 hours for food. There are many other delicious food items and vendors to check out so we made our way to the left side first from the entrance so we can stroll and scope out the vendors – we had to divide and conquer for these lines.
While Matix and his dad went to go get some veggie egg rolls and garlic noodles, we opted for Paella. We came across a Gerard’s Paella, as they we’re out there whipping up the delicious rice dish over the traditional large Paella pans. Rice, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, chick peas and greens – this first choice was a good one and was filling! Best of all, we waited no more than 5 minutes for this. We opted out for their lemon shrub as we all had out canteens with us, but we bet they would’ve been an amazing pair.
We wanted to explore a bit more, it was really hard to not stop and want to buy/eat everything – it was our cheat day! Nearly every vendor their had pretty much the same setup, tent with and opening for transactions and another window for picking up food. Believe it or not, some of the pick up windows had a longer line than to buy. The site of cooking, grilling and prepping was such a refreshing thing to see. Sure there was dust, sure there was flies around, but it’s supposed to feel like a night market! Remember, we’re here for the food.
We like Bao, we hope you do too. Which leads us to our second pick, meet Palette Tea House. It’s a new vendor that prides itself around authentic dim sum and local seafood by Koi Palace & Dragon Beaux. Pictured here is their steamed charcoal buns, we went for two different flavors here: Pork Belly Charbao and Shortrib Charbao. The Pork Belly had honey mustard aioli, marinated cucumber and ginger slaw. The Short Rib was topped with sweet chile sauce, heirloom tomatoes, arugula and onions. Needless to say, we ate this real quick!
As we make our way around the second half of the fair grounds towards the food trucks, there is additional seating! We’re not sure if this was here before or an addition from community feedback, but a lot of people said there was no seating to be found. The good thing about this too was the stage and numerous porta potties. This area felt a lot more calm, not so crowded either, so if you’re looking for a spot to spread out a bit and some simple seating, head towards the stage.
After all that food, we had to make sure we get some sweets in. These beautiful pastries are courtesy of Binka Bites. What is Binka? They are a baked coconut rice pastry from the Philippines and they are a must if you have a sweet tooth for coconut. We grabbed the two most popular ones there, Ube Oreo and Salted Egg Dulce de Leche. They were super moist, from the first bite to the last, don’t take our word for it – check out the nephew below looking at it like he just fell in love.
As we kept walking, it was bittersweet that we couldn’t try some of the vendors we had our eyes on, but super happy with all the business and smiles they were getting. As much as we don’t mind waiting, the combination of the dust and heat, we made the decision to not wait hours for the food. We didn’t let that ruin our experience of it all, the art walk and other vendors (besides) food made for a great time also, we even stopped by the Crazy Rich Asians tent!
Lots of lines, lots of eating and a bunch of foodies and bloggers there too! You have to realize this is the first Norcal Night Market and it was day two – we think they did a great job. We know the September event will be bigger and better – hoping we can come back.
In the end, we were super happy we went – despite all the feedback. Our shoes were put to work and did collect dust, but our tummies collected some very, very good food. The funny thing is, one of the main things we thought was missing…the smell of stinky tofu when you walk into the night market 😉
Address: 2100 Valley Avenue / Pleasanton, California 94566
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Hours of operation:
July 27-29, 2018
September 21-23, 2018
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 3-11PM