Once a month, from spring to early fall, Philly hosts Night Market, a street festival put on by The Food Trust, a non-profit that connects local farmers to the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. The Night Market takes over a few blocks in any given neighborhood, with the last of this season’s taking place in Chinatown.
What you get at Night Market a mix of music, food, and drinks. The streets are lined with vendors selling anything from kid’s toys to firecrackers. Drinks were provided by local brewery Yards and Philadelphia Distilling, the first craft distillery in Pennsylvania since prohibition, along with Brooklyn’s Sixpoint brewery who featured their Bengali Tiger IPA and pilsner, The Crisp.
The main feature of Night Market, however, is the food. Featuring more than 40 food trucks and restaurants usually spread out all over town, it’s the best place to try to sample as much food as the city has to offer, or as much food as your stomach can handle.
The night’s first stop was at the Vernalicious food truck. Ostensibly, taking a cue from the Asian surroundings, the truck offered pork, chicken, and tofu banh mi sandwiches. The pork meatball sandwich included cilantro, cucumbers, and carrots lightly slathered in sriracha mayo. While it was totally delicious, it was only the start to the night’s eats.
Just down the block was the Dapper Dog truck, a stalwart of late-night eating in Philly and the city’s top hot dog place. At Night Market, they went full-on comfort food, offering a “Depression Dog,” topped with french fries, mustard relish, and peppers, as well as their hit of the night, a mac-and-cheese-covered hot dog dripping in Maker’s Mark BBQ sauce.
By 9 p.m., Chinatown was packed with hungry Philadelphians and the lines for trucks grew longer and longer by the second. I made my way to the Local 215 truck for more BBQ, pork belly laid out on top of a rich polenta. This was by far the longest wait of the night, but entirely worth it in the end as I sat on the stoop of a nearby bank and quite literally shoveled polenta into my face as if I’d been lost in the forest for weeks.
Desserts were plentiful. Philly’s sweet heroes like Little Baby’s Ice Cream and Lil’ Pop Shop, who both recently opened stores in town in addition to their carts, were stationed among all the food trucks. But it was the salted caramel milkshake I’d seen earlier in the night at the Lucky Old Souls truck that stole the show.
Most food trucks run all year around, but it’s a drag to wait all winter in order to get them all in one place again. To be out and about in Philadelphia and always have reliable and inexpensive meals available is one of the most wonderful things in town.