Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat from Oct. 8, 2013.
Craig LaBan: I'm curious to hear about last week's Night Market in Chinatown. I really enjoyed the first one there a couple years ago - it's such a natural neighborhood for a street party. But the lines can get so long at any Night Market, my enthusiasm has waned a bit. Did anyone taste something special? The news that Chipotle Grill was there giving out their new product was a turn-off. The notion of letting a big quick-serve burrito chain promote its products at an event that has thrived as a showplace for emerging indie food producers (who were selling their food) seems like an odd choice to me.
Reader: Also went to the CT night market and sad to say this will be my last Night Market for the foreseeable future. It's an awesome concept but the lines and inability to navigate the street have made it not worth the effort. The Food Trust should come up with some fresh ideas to ease the lines, like pre-selling tickets to certain trucks.
C.L.: I totally agree. Fantastic concept. Great community energy. Absolutely frustrating lines. Sounds like the Night Market season is over for this year. Hopefully they'll get creative on how to solve line issues for the next round.
Reader: With the additions of Pizzeria Vetri and an additional Nomad location as well as future additions of Good Stuff Eatery and Prime Burgers, has the city hit a critical mass as far as pizza and burger joints? Seems like this trend is going in the direction of the gastro pub in philly. Thoughts?
C.L.: We are obviously getting a lot of new projects in the haute-junk food genre - not a bad thing, considering where our pizza scene was just a few years ago (pre-Osteria). I'm guessing we have a way to go before the pizza projects trickle out - largely because there is $ to be made, and there are a few neighborhoods still without a high-end pizzeria, like Rittenhouse Square. (Pietro's and Serafina don't count.) SliCE fills a certain niche, but there's still room in that 'hood. As for burgers, I think the same applies; when the market is saturated, we'll see something new. Meantime, if the new Vetri and Nomad, and new burger entries, raise the standard, I'm all for it.
Reader: Who's got the best lox in town? It's my third year here (college), and I've only had it three times (Sabrina's, Cafe V, and a bagel place on 20th & Chestnut).
C.L.: You're talking about Spread Bagerly, and I know that lox well, since I buy it on my bagel missions. Very good salmon. But you can also get good salmon (Trotter-style) over at Metropolitan Bakery a block away. I think Rittenhouse Grocery carries the Acme brand, a good standard product. But this is all packaged stuff . . . good enough for bagels. If you're lucky, though, you'll be at Famous 4th Street Deli when owner Russ Cowan is there, he's one of the last guys in town who really knows how to hand-slice salmon like a deli man. And it's worthwhile. I also love his sturgeon, which is pretty hard to come by. The manager at the 19th Street branch (of Famous) also does a very good job. Speaking of salmon, though, I loved the grappa-cured gravlax served with crushed almonds and mascarpone at Fraschetta in Bryn Mawr. Italo-Swedish fusion. Noord makes some lovely Dutch-style salmon, too.