Hundreds of people came out to the Bronx Night Market on Saturday, for food from local vendors, dancing, and music. Dozens of vendors provided regional food, as well as crafts and jewelry.
The Night Market has become a fixture of Bronx life, according to Marco Shalma, a former Mott Haven resident who started the market with his partner Amanda Celestino in 2017.
“It’s like the longest-running consistent food festival in the Bronx,” said Shalma. Since launching six years ago, the night market has expanded from 30 vendors to 55. His company, MASC Hospitality Group, has reproduced the food festival across the city: there is now a Brooklyn Night Market, the Uptown Night Market in Harlem, the Latin Night Market, the Vegan Night Market in Central Park, and others.
“The main thing behind what we trying to do is bring diversity to the Bronx,” he added. “We want to bring the greatest hits from the Bronx, but we (also) want to bring stuff that you don’t get over here on a regular basis, different flavors and different styles.” He gestured at a row of food tents serving different regional cuisines. In addition to the familiar Bronx aromas, there were also vendors selling alcohol-infused desserts, loose-leaf teas, and deep-fried ice cream.
The market has also helped attract new businesses, like LechonBae, a New Jersey restaurant that specializes in the crispy pork skin that gives the restaurant its name. According to owner Archie Cancio, some customers come from as far as Toronto to taste his family’s recipe.
Cancio started serving Lechon at pop-ups during the pandemic, and the recipe was a hit. “From there I saw the opportunity,” he said. He adapted Mexican influences into his menu to suit local tastes. This is his fifth time at the Bronx Night Market, and if his success continues, he hopes to open a brick-and-mortar presence in the city.
And the festival has been a hit so far, at least according to some of the people thronging past the tents on Fordham Square. “All my life I lived in the Bronx,” said Susie Rios, a teacher who lives in Kingsbridge.“Anything I can do to support the Bronx is a good thing.”