Nothing says summer in New York like the smoky smells and sweaty crowds of the street festivals that take over the city. But Hester Nights isn't among the many that fit the if-you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all formula. The nighttime artisanal food festival, which operates under the umbrella of the Hester Street Fair, has led to the emergence of several successful restaurants — and from the taste of things, there might be more to come.
Tucked into a quiet plaza in the busy Herald Square neighborhood, Hester Nights feels like an escape from its surroundings. The size isn't overwhelming; most of the food stands fit around a large decorative pool in the plaza, framed by cozy strands of Christmas lights. A few larger indoor establishments offer seafood, pizza, and other filling meals.
But the heart of the night fair is the selection of smaller dishes from varying corners of the globe. Bibingka-esk is a perfect example of what makes Hester Nights special, offering the original version and spinoffs of a traditional Filipino dessert. The thick, starchy sweetness of the original, topped with flaked coconut makes it hard to imagine why they would want to branch out — but the food stand offers bibingkas with chocolate chips and other American flavors.
Deviant Chef cooks up Asian and Latin-inspired meat dishes. Their meatballs come in several Asian-inspired flavors, and are all served hot and smothered with sauce, with a side of bread to mop up the plate. The sandwiches are served on na'an, flatbread, or regular bread, and are piled with savory meats. Customers can ask for condiments and douse the sandwiches in self-serve sauces like teriyaki barbecue and curry ketchup. Other refreshments have origins closer to home, like ginger beer and vegan cupcakes, both made in New York.
With a tree-lined plaza and outdoor tables and chairs, there's room to find or create your own seating space. Settle down and dig into a plate of food as the sky darkens, and keep in mind that dessert (or second helpings) are only a few steps away.
Thursdays 5-10pm, until 9/26
Located at 851 6th Ave. (Entrances on 29th and 30th St)