Tag Archives: Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg, Part II: Duck Season

Duck Season's duck fat fries

As you probably already know, I recently ventured to Smorgasburg to try the famed ramen burger—but that wasn’t the only thing I tried on my trip. In fact, before we made our way to Ramen Burger, we stopped at Duck Season, a stand that specializes in—you guessed it—duck and only duck. Heaven.

I knew I had to try it—but before I did, I sent an email to make sure they’d be a safe option. The next day, I received the following reply:

There are no nuts in anything we make in house. However, we do use some products (mostly in sandwich and wing sauces) that *may* contain tree nut traces. To be completely safe, I suggest you stick with the duck confit, sliced duckbreast, duck rinds and duck fat fries. (Avoid sandwiches.) Our bakery makes some stuff with nuts so there’s always and chance for cross contamination. We isolate wheat based products on site and they never go on/in cooking equipment. If you have concerns I will be on site at Smorgasburg and can walk you through choices that are safe.

I really appreciated the level of detail in this reply. Usually, the emails I get are pretty curt: “Yes, we have nuts” or “No, we don’t have nuts,” with no consideration of possible cross-contaminants, even though I’m always sure to ask. But Duck Season demonstrated an impressive level of allergy awareness, so I was pretty confident that their food would be safe for me to eat.

Duck breast from Duck Season

When I arrived, I followed up with the (incredibly friendly and helpful) guy I’d spoken to via email. As I’d expected, he was exceedingly competent, and I felt 100% comfortable ordering whatever he suggested. He pointed me toward the duck breast, the duck-fat fries, and the duck wings—they were out of the confit, unfortunately—and advised me again to steer clear of the sandwiches, which I’d planned to do anyway. Easy enough. I went with the breast and the fries, and both ended up being pretty damn delicious.

To start, the fries (pictured at the top of this post) were great. Imagine Five Guys fries, if Five Guys fries weren’t so abysmally disappointing—and if they were cooked in duck fat and served with some sort of duck-based gravy-like sauce. Simply put, these fries were divine. The breast (pictured above) was really good, too, even though I probably let it cool for way too long while looking for a place to sit. Still, it was perfectly cooked and seasoned—tender, salty, and delicious, overall—and I’m genuinely excited to go back and try the confit.

Like Ramen Burger, you can find Duck Season’s tent at Smorgasburg—in Williamsburg (90 Kent Avenue) on Saturdays, and in Prospect Park (near the entrance on Lincoln Road) on Sundays. And unlike Ramen Burger, they do take cards. Definite plus.

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Smorgasburg, Part I: Ramen Burger

Ramen burgers, mid-assembly

If you’ve been on the Internet at any point in the last few years, you’ve probably already heard of Keiko Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger. Every weekend, his stand opens at Smorgasburg to sell a single signature product: you guessed it, the ramen burger—a beef patty, arugula, scallions, and a whole lot of sauce, all between two ramen buns. And although they’re gimmicky as hell and probably super overhyped, I’ve been curious about these monstrosities for a while now.

For some reason, I sort of just assumed I wouldn’t be able to eat at Ramen Burger—or at any Smorgasburg stand, for that matter. I tried making my own ramen burger (no small feat), but it turned out to be a pretty boring meal for the amount of effort it took. So I forgot all about noodle buns for a while—that is, until I got the idea to contact Ramen Burger with a few allergy-related questions. Within a few days, I received the following reply:

Our food is safe to eat for people with nut allergies. There are no tree nuts (or any other nut allergens) in the ramen burger. We do use sesame oil though. There is no cross contamination of tree nuts either.

Good news! I can’t quite categorize Ramen Burger as truly nut-free, as I can’t imagine they’re in a position to make any sort of guarantees, but they’re a workable alternative—for me, at least. So onto my list it went.

This past Saturday, Sam and I took the ferry to Williamsburg, where we met up with my dad and ventured into Smorgasburg in search of Ramen Burger’s stand. It didn’t take long for us to find it—the stand drew a huge crowd, as it tends to—but it did take long for us to make our way to the front of the line. 30 minutes and $10 (each!) later, though, we had our burgers—and that was all that mattered.

Ramen buns on the griddle

There’s no denying that the ramen burger is good. It’s greasy, but not overly so—and it’s absolutely packed with flavor. Sesame oil, soy, and some sort of super-sugary Sriracha-ketchup hybrid kind of dominate the whole thing, as the ramen bun itself it pretty bland, but the noodles do add a nice texture. Definitely more interesting than your average bread-based bun. The patty was thin and definitely overcooked, though—and I feel obligated to say so to anyone who’s considering making the trek to Smorgasburg and, you know, getting in line to pay $10 for a burger.

As we were eating, a group of men approached us and asked whether the burger was really worth the wait. They seemed to really not want to spend their Saturday afternoon waiting in line for a hyped-up GimmickBurger, if that was all it was going to be—and who could blame them?  I was busy trying (and failing) to get a decent photo of the thing, so my dad—forever on the lookout for a chance to talk about food—answered immediately: “No.”

His explanation was fair: The ramen burger is good, but it’s not wait-a-half-hour-to-spend-$10 good. Still, it certainly is interesting—and perhaps worth a try, but not because it’s anything special, culinarily speaking. For better or worse, the ramen burger is iconic—and that’s why it’s worth finding out what it’s like for yourself. And for me, there’s that added bonus of being able to actually try one of those strange delicacies everyone’s always talking about. Overhyped or not, that process is pretty exciting.

And that was my favorite part, I think: the excitement that comes with being able to partake. As those with food allergies know, it can be really gratifying to finally be able get in on something food-related ritual that most others can get in on without a second thought. Ramen Burger offers the opportunity to partake—and that, to me, is worth the wait. (Oh, and there’s that whole bit about it tasting good, too.)

Anyway, if you, too, would like to partake—and if Ramen Burger’s incidental lack of nuts is enough to make you feel safe—you can do so at Smorgasburg, in Williamsburg (90 Kent Avenue) on Saturdays, and in Prospect Park (near the entrance on Lincoln Road) on Sundays. Bring cash, though—and maybe a snack or two.

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