Pan-Asian Metropolis — Southern California Night Markets

Pan-Asian Metropolis

One of the great things about traveling is seeing things in other countries that it would be nice to have at home, things like arts funding, betel nut beauties, caning, compulsory voting, developed cycling infrastructure, elevenses, free state colleges, green roofs, gun control, pub culture, universal healthcare, pot cafés, salted licorice, and trains that travel faster than mobility scooters, to name a few. When I visited Taiwan a few years ago, I fell in love with night markets and it heartens me that they’re now starting to proliferate in Southern California. As an Angeleno who doesn’t particularly like our weather or the Hollywood superhero franchise factory, night markets are the sort of thing that make Los Angeles the place I choose to live.

The Luodong Night Market (羅東夜市)

For the unfamiliar, night markets are nighttime open-air street markets in which crowds of food-loving urbanites stroll and eat and shop and eat. Having only been to ones in Taiwan I can only comment with personal experience on the ones there, where they sometimes occupy purpose-built marketplaces but even more often occupy streets and thus resemble nocturnal open streets events, like a ciclovia with a focus on stinky tofu rather than cycling. They’re quite popular in Cambodia, China, IndonesiaJapan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and especially Taiwan. Since the Los Angeles area just happens to have the largest Cambodian, Korean, Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese communities outside of their respective homelands, it’s natural that night markets would flourish here.

Chaos at the first 626 Night Market

As far as I know, the first American night market was San Francisco‘s intermittent Chinatown Night Market Fair, which I believe was inaugurated in 2001. Soon after, however, the nascent American night market seen migrated to Los Angeles, the world’s great pan-Asian city. Ideally, night markets are tightly interwoven into the fabric of a city, not placed in the suburban Oort Cloud. They also function better as regular occurrences than special events. Although few are thus far placed in accessible areas or occur more than a few times a year, they’ve nonetheless reached the point where it’s hard to keep them all straight. So for that reason, and because summer is night market season, and in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here’s my guide to Southern California’s night markets.


The Alameda Night Market takes place Thursdays through Sundays in the Fashion District. It was launched in 2021. The Alameda Night Market is served by Metro’s 10/48, 30, 33, 35, 38, 48, 55, and 92 lines; as well as LADOT’s D Line.


The Avenue 26 Night Market was founded in Lincoln Heights. It was run out of the neighborhood by NIMBYs and a vengeful City Council troll, Gil Cedillo, in 2021. It’s since found a warmer welcome over in Pico Rivera. Unfortunately, the location is not served by mass transit. The nearest bus stop is served by Norwalk Transit’s 7 Line and is about a 15-minute walk away.


Fortunately, there’s also Avenue 26 on Imperial Night Market which takes place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the Wholesale District. It’s served by Metro’s 60 and 66 lines; and Monebello Bus’s 50 Washington Blvd Line.


The D6 Night Market was inaugurated in 2015, at San Diego‘s Mira Mesa Community Park, in the Mira Mesa neighborhood. It’s served by several lines of San Diego’s MTS buses but is very far from any train stations. It returned on 21 May 2016 and admission was again free.

DTLA NIGHT MARKET (one-off event)

Image: Peter Park

DTLA Night Market was held at a parking lot near Staples Center, within a block of stops on Metro‘s Blue, Expo, and Silver lines, making it arguably the most integrated into the urban fabric of all Southern California night markets, thus far, but sadly, a one-off event. Specific efforts were made with DTLA Night Market to appeal to non-Latinos, not just by featuring more Anglo and Latino vendors, but by banning stinky tofu! It was held on 20 and 21 June 2014.


The 818 Night Market launched in July 2021 and takes place at three locations. 818 Night Market Mission Hills takes place on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at Mission Hills Christian Church. That location is served by Metro’s 158 Line. 818 Night Market North Hollywood at Faith Presbyterian Church on the third Saturday of the month. That location is served by Metro’s 155 Line. 818 Night Market Reseda takes place on the first Saturday of the month at Kirk O’ the Valley Presbyterian Church. It’s served by Metro’s 165 Line.


El Gato Night Market takes place Fridays through Sundays in Pico-Union. El Gato Night Market is served by LADOT’s Pico Union/Echo Park Line and Metro’s 28 Line.


The Guatemalan Night Market has taken place nightly in Westlake since at least 2017. The Guatemalan Night Market is served by LADOT’s E and Pico Union/Echo Park lines; and Metro’s 2, 18, and 603 lines. Westlake/MacArthur Park Station, served by the B and D line subways, is located about two blocks away.


The 素食夜市小吃園遊會 Happy Green Lantern Night Market was an annual vegetarian Taiwanese night market that takes place at the Green Menu Center in Alhambra. The Green Menu Center doesn’t seem to have survived the COVID-19 pandemic.


Indonesian Night Market

On 7 April 2017, from 5pm-10pm, a free Indonesian Night Market (Pasar Malam) is scheduled to take place, organized by Permias LA, Indonesian Bruins Association (IBSA), Permias US Riverside, and local businesses. Due to its small size, it requires an RSVP, but there will be a walk in window from 5pm-7pm. Student IDs can be used as tickets. Features include food, fashion, live entertainment, and art. The night market will take place at 1858 Echo Park Avenue (which I believe is a private residence), which is served by LA DOT‘s DASH Pico Union/Echo Park line.


“This is awful similar like the first 626 Night Market. Super packed at night, long lines and hard to move around.” (Image: Richard “Foodie Judge” L.)

KTown Night Market is held in Los Angeles’s most densely-populated and most vibrant neighborhood, Koreatown. The first one was held in 2014 and it’s now held once a year, next on 17 and 18 June. Admission at the door is $5. It takes place on the campus of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, conveniently located between Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Vermont stations, less than half a kilometer from each.


Opening night 2k14 (Image: Felix L.)

The Little Saigon Night Market, launched in 2014, is held at Phước Lộc Thọ, a mall known in English as “Asian Garden Mall” — despite the fact that that’s not a translation of its Vietnamese name. This year the night market will take place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 17 June – 14 September. The mall is intermittently served by OCTA 64 bus and the nearest train station, Santa Ana Station, is located nearly eleven kilometers east. Admission is free.


The Long Beach Night Market in Cambodia Town was scheduled to take place in Cambodia Town in 2015 but was pushed back due to construction. The group’s Facebook page doesn’t currently list a specific date or location but assuming it takes place somewhere in Cambodia Town, that neighborhood is well-served by Long Beach Transit buses and the Blue line’s Anaheim Street Station is located just east of the walkable neighborhood.


The first annual Los Angeles Times Night Market (part of the Los Angeles Food Bowl) will take place in Grand Park for five consecutive nights from 10 – 14 May. There are scheduled to be fifty food vendors representing Chinese, Japanese, Salvadoran, Thai, and (I’m assuming) other cuisines. There will also be bars. The event is free. Wednesday and Thursday hours are 5pm – 10pm, Friday hours are 5pm – 11pm, Saturday hours are 3pm – 11pm, and Sunday hours are 3pm – 9pm.

Grand Park is VERY well served by transit so please don’t even bother with a taxi or ride-hail service. Stopping at the edge of the park are Big Blue Bus‘s R10 line; Foothill Transit‘s Silver StreakLADOT‘s Commuter Express 409, 419, 422, 423, 431, 437, 438, and 448 lines; LADOT’s DASH Downtown A, B, and D lines; Metro’s 2/302, 4, 10/48, 28, 33, 43/37, 45, 55/355, 60, 81, 83, 90/91, 92, 94, 96, 302, 487/489, 493, 494, 495, 498, and 499 lines; Metro’s Rapid 728, 733, 745, 770, and 794 lines; Metro’s Purple, Red, and Silver lines; OCTA’s 701 line; and Torrance Transit‘s 4 line. Additionally, Union Station is located about 800 meters away, so you could conceivably take the train from San Diego, San Antonio, Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago, or points between.


Santa Monica‘s Malaysian Kitchen Night Market was Los Angeles’s second night market, a one-off event held in December 2010 on the Third Street Promenade. It was organized by Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation with the stated purpose of promoting Malaysian culture and food.


The inaugural Mama’s Nightmarket took place on 28 and 29 May at Steve Berra and Eric Koston’s private, indoor skate park, the Berrics, located in the Wholesale District. A portion of proceeds from the $20 entry fee goes to the non-profit, Respect Your Elders, which provides meals for seniors, which, along with Drive-By Kitchen, is one of several programs organized by Mama. Mama’s Night Market is served by Metro’s 60 and 66 lines as well as Montebello Bus Lines50 Line.


In 2004, Monterey Park hosted a small night market on Saturdays, not to be confused with the MPK Night Market. It lasted for a couple of years and I think it took place near City Hall. It was almost certainly the first night market in Southern California andany additional information would be much appreciated!


Image: Kevin M.

Night markets returned to Monterey Park in 2014, with the launch of the MPK Night Market, organized by the folks behind the KTown Night Market (KCM Agency). The first year it began in July and continued once a month in August and September, always with free admission, in Barnes Park. In 2015 it returned as a mere two day event, which occurred in 17 and 18 July. There’s no mention of a 2016 MPK Night Market yet, which doesn’t bode well. If it does return, however, Barnes Park is served by Metro’s 70 bus and is located 4 kilometers from Atlantic Station, the nearest train station.


The OC Night Market is organized by the same folks behind 626 Night Market. It’s currently held three times a year (13-15 May, 17-19 June, and 26-28 August) at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. Admission is $5. It’s served by the occasional OCTA bus but the nearest train station, Tustin Station, is located 12.5 kilometers away.


Our Piece of the Pie Night Market is an artisan night market that highlights “local #BIPOC businesses and makers.” It’s taken place in the Arts District since 2020 on Fridays from 5pm-9pm. It’s served by Montebello Bus’s 40 Beverly Blvd line and LADOTs A Line


#panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack #panicattack (Image: Jonelle O.)

The San Diego Night Market takes place at Kearny Office Park (in the Convoy District) on 25 and 26 June. It was first launched in 2013 and admission is $2. It’s served by San Diego MTS‘s 27 bus and is quite far, I believe, from any train station.


The San Pedro Night Market takes place at the San Pedro Municipal Building. It’s served by Metro’s 205 Line and LADOT’s San Pedro Line.


The second 626 Night Market

The first 626 Night Market was held on a single city block in Old Town Pasadena, in 2012. It was organized by Jonny and Janet Hwang who seemed, like all of us, to have underestimated the untapped craving for such an experience. In the end, perhaps 20,000 people descended onto a single city block, completely overwhelming vendors, the neighborhood, and expectations. It was thus relocated to Pasadena’s Civic Center District where it was alloted sufficient breathing room and almost overly organized. For the third installment, the night market moved to the vast, disconnected parking lot desert of Arcadia‘s Santa Anita Racetrack. The nearest train station, Arcadia Station, is located about 2 kilometers east. The 626 Night Market is currently held four times a year, 2-4 July, 22-24 July, 5-7 August, and 2-4 September. Admission is $3.


The folks at 626 Night Market have expanded up and down California and into mini-night markets, such as this one in Santa Monica. It takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm-10pm. The 626 Night Market Mini-Santa Monica is served by Big Blue Bus’s 2, 3, R3, and 9 lines; and Metro’s 20, 33, and 720 lines.

TASTE OF NIGHT MARKET (one-off event)

Taste of Night Market was a one-off (so far) event held in Santa Monica and organized by the folks behind 626 Night Market. In order to avoid a disaster on the level of the first 626 Night Market, tickets were priced at $65. However, in the monied Westside, where $65 ain’t no thang by a chicken skewer, the high price failed to prevent the event from being overwhelmed, judging by the harsh one-star average review on Yelp. Yelpers are a notoriously hard-to-please and perhaps overly entitled bunch, but when the highest review is just two stars, something is up. To me this just proves that even Westsiders need night markets… but perhaps a better location would be a more transit-friendly location like Palms or Culver City — both of which have sizable Indonesian and Indian presences. Think about it!


The Thai Street Food Market (or Thai Night Market) takes place on Monday and Tuesday nights. It’s served by Metro’s 2 Line. It’s also about a ten-minute walk to and from Hollywood/Western Station, which is served by the B Line subway.


I’ve found next-to-no information about the Wilmington Night Market. Apparently, it takes place Wednesdays through Sundays on a parking lot at the intersection of Figueroa and Pacific Coast Highway. If this information is accurate, that means it’s served by LADOT’s 448 and Wilmington lines; and Metro’s 232 and J lines. The latter’s Harbor Fwy/Pacific Coast Fwy station is located right there.


Yamashiro Hollywood Night Market

The inaugural Yamashiro Hollywood Night Market is scheduled to take place 21 June 2017. From 5 pm – 9 pm, the night market will operate from 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, in the Outpost Estates neighborhood of Hollywood (and not West Hollywood, as stated on their website). The nearest Metro stops are for the 237/656, 212/312, and 217 lines as well as LADOT’s DASH Hollywood line. The Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland stop is .8 kilometers away.


Elizabeth Lee‘s “Asian Night Market Finds Home in Southern California

Elson Trinidad‘s “The Night Market Sees the Light of Day” and “2014 Is the Year of the Night Market

Alex Schmidt‘s “626 Night Market Highlights Southern California’s Asian Cuisine

Richard Chang‘s “Food-filled night markets are crossing into the mainstream and headed our way

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery.
Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesVICEHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture.
Brightwell has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles.

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