Sunday, August 06, 2017

Why I Don't Like 626 Night Market

This weekend, the crowds will swell again at 626 Night Market in Santa Anita Park. It's the second to last one of the summer. And I get its appeal. For some it may be nostalgia for the night markets of the old country. For others, it's something different to do on a summer's night that's festive and outdoors.

But for me, the more I go, the more I realize how utterly pointless the whole exercise is. First, there's the traffic nightmare in and around it. Then comes the inevitable search for an open parking spot that's not a mile away from the venue. And when I get inside the gate, I have to navigate against herds of people going in different directions. There are lines everywhere. And for what? To eat the same foods I've had elsewhere? To drink a boba milk tea that tastes like all the others?

And then there's the thing that makes it all for naught: the prices.

To be clear, I'm not complaining about the $3 admission fee that the 626 Night Market organizers charge to cover the security guards, fence rentals, and whatever else. That's a sunk cost I can understand. Besides, it's still far less than what they charge for OC Night Market, where they also levy a parking fee.

It's just that when I realize how exorbitantly more expensive everything is, I can't help but think that a lot of the vendors regard the whole endeavor as an opportunistic money grab. To them it must be like shooting fish in a barrel if the fish had pockets full of disposable income. How else to explain how one stall was selling six or seven measly fried quail eggs for $9?

Of course, there are exceptions like the $15 uni rice bowl you see above. A vendor called "Beach Live" served it in an actual sea urchin shell for $15, which is not only reasonable, but a bargain when you consider what a sushi bar would charge for the five lobes of fresh sweet uni we found still stuck to the sides.

Other than that, 626 Night Market is not where you are going to find bargains for food. 626 Night Market is a perversion of what the original night markets in Asia are supposed to be, where the non-wealthy can get a great meal for not much money. In fact, it's my opinion that when you go to 626 Night Market, what you're paying for is the privilege of having a Third World eating experience in a First World country.

One might argue that it's like camping. Although the invention of hotels has made it unnecessary for anyone to sleep outside when they travel, people still camp because it reminds them of the essentials, something that brings them back to basics.

So if you haven't gone or you're a person who might enjoy 626 Night Market for what it is, then you should go. But personally, when sleeping in a tent costs as much as a night at Waldorf Astoria, I'd rather go for the room service.

626 Night Market
285 W Huntington Dr.
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 765-5166

Free Range Cafe - Newport Beach


At 2:29 AM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

couldn't agree more. so when can i expect to take you guys to a real night market in taiwan ;)

At 7:25 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

HA! That is the question isn't! :-) It's only a matter of time!

At 12:47 PM, Blogger dumplings said...

I feel the same way. Visiting 626 night market for us immigrants really is more for nostalgic reasons. It's funny that I actually enjoyed the very first 626, when the event was free and booths ran out of food.

You should visit the night market in Westminster Asian Garden mall during summer nights!

At 5:55 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You know, I probably should check out the Little Saigon Night Market soon, before they start charging an admission fee too!!!

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

So, it's like glamping? :)

At 2:29 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

HA! Compared to what night markets are in Asia, yeah, it kinda *is* like glamping!


Post a Comment

<< Home