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Meet the new Smorgasburg L.A. vendors for 2024 — including the Cambodian cowboy

LOS ANGELES, CA- March 1, 2020: Smorgasburg LA general manager Zach Brooks on Sunday, March 1, 2020. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
Smorgasburg LA general manager Zach Brooks curates the annual roster of pop-ups, restaurants and other food specialists who appear at the weekly food festival. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

New Smorgasburg Vendors

One of the region’s top food festivals and culinary incubators just returned from its annual winter break with nearly 60 food vendors — and 10 of them are new. With the 2024 debut last Sunday of Smorgasburg Los Angeles, the L.A. Times 101 Best Restaurants-awarded festival introduced sellers that run the gamut from recognizable names and restaurants to chefs new to L.A.’s food scene.

Chad Phuong, also known as the Cambodian Cowboy, often can be found smoking meats with Cambodian influence via his Long Beach pop-up Battambong BBQ — but now he'll be a regular presence at Smorgasburg, held each Sunday at the Row DTLA in the Arts District. His Texas-style barbecue trays come piled with brisket, tri-tip, chicken or pulled pork, while Cambodian num pang sandwiches are stuffed with smoked meats and herbs.

Chad Phuong readies an order at his Battambong BBQ booth at Smorgasburg.
Chad Phuong, also known as the Cambodian Cowboy, combines Texas-style barbecue with Cambodian flavor at his pop-up Battambong BBQ. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Phuong’s top seller — smoked pork belly seasoned with Kampot pepper — sells out routinely, while the fermented, slightly sour sausage comes in at a close second. Phuong grew up gathering firewood with a machete in Cambodia, sometimes relying on open-fire cooking for meals; Texas-style barbecue, also cooked long and slow with wood, seemed like a clear connection to his roots so he began combining their flavors.

Since Phuong began popping up four years ago he’s garnered national and local attention, but it all started humbly.

“[I was] just one guy standing on the street corner selling barbecue,” Phuong says. “I'm looking forward to meeting everybody [at Smorgasburg] and rejoining everybody there that I look up to and follow with their awesome food.”

These vendors include Chi Spacca vet Cihan Kaymakcalan, who’s reimagining his mentor Nancy Silverton’s locally famed focaccia di Recco at his new stall, Glad. He fills the thin, crisp Italian bread with combinations such as ground beef with raisins and pine nuts, or leeks and ’nduja.

Miya Miya, from Amman-trained chef Yazeed “Yaz” Soudani, specializes in chicken shawarma wrapped with garlic sauce in saj bread, while Basket Taco Co., from husband-and-wife team Abe Mota and Karla Ramirez, wraps fillings like chorizo and potato or chicken mole in tortillas, then deep fries them.

Meanwhile, Vernon’s House of Empanadas wraps dough around more than 40 different fillings, including a Cuban-sandwich-inspired variety.

When it comes to grilled meats, Filipino barbecue pop-up Taste of the Pacific is joining the weekly festival as a full-time vendor after multiple prior Smorgasburg appearances and a former residency at nearby Filled Market. It’s serving its signature combination plates of shrimp and marinated beef with rice and noodles.

Smashburger operation Softies gets grilling too, with founders Josh Kim and Sam Hong topping Oklahoma-style burgers with much more than grilled onions — sometimes with aji, sometimes large planks of tempura-fried mushrooms, sometimes with crispy potatoes in a nod to steak frites.

Moom Maam is building on its already established Thai gelato stall with a new venture: the curry-focused Rice Gang by Moom Maam. Darwin Win’s more savory concept enriches Japanese curry with house-ground spice blends and long-cooked beef cheeks, and serves the curry with rice, karaage and more.

For dessert, HGG Tanghulu is serving its namesake: the traditional rock-sugar-coated fruit skewers, here served so far in strawberry, grape and other varieties.

To wash it all down, Kavahana — with a Santa Monica tea bar soon to open — offers tea made from the roots of the leafy kava plant grown in the South Pacific Islands.

Smorgasburg is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 777 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, la.smorgasburg.com

Birote Deli

A barbacoa dip sandwich from Birote Deli in Paramount. Sides of consommé and esquites potato salad sit behind.
Paramount's Birote Deli specializes in gourmet spins on tortas and other stalwart sandwiches, such as a barbacoa dip. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Whether it was Philippe’s or Cole’s that invented the legendary French dip sandwich, one of the best varieties is being served in a new, hidden sandwich shop from one of L.A.’s most creative taqueros.

Birote Deli, the latest project from Macheen chef Jonathan Perez, is housed inside Paramount’s Horchateria Rio Luna and serves new spins on classic Mexican and other global sandwiches, in addition to Perez’s popular breakfast burritos.

“It’s almost a crafted version of a torta concept,” he says. “We’re using those Mexican-heritage roots but tweaking it a little bit: How can we incorporate that while also adding a new culinary touch?”

Most torta shops use bolillos or teleras as their bread, though Perez’s new spot uses birote salado, a variety of Mexican sourdough, in this case made specially for Birote by Long Beach’s lauded Gusto Bread bakery. With a heartier consistency and a thicker crust that can withstand the kinds of sauces and salsas Perez dreamed of slathering these sandwiches with, he knew he’d have to opt for birotes — and name the stall after them. The chicharron banh mi slicks the birotes with yuzu aioli, the shrimp ahogada drowns the rolls in a kind of bouillabaisse made from lobster stock and, in lieu of jus, the barbacoa dip is accompanied by a thick consommé that’s more like a demi-glace made from the beef’s bones and broth.

There are also sides such as esquites potato salad with cotija, roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in agave and Aleppo pepper, and a chorizo macaroni salad. Sweets such as strawberries-and-cream-stuffed conchas and fresh croissants are made by the Horchateria team, and all goods — including coffees such as cajeta lattes — can be enjoyed in the dining room or via the drive-through.

Birote is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 15950 Paramount Blvd., Paramount, (562) 663-9043, instagram.com/birotedeli

Ikigai

A horizontal closeup of a sushi lunch set at Ikigai on a black plate.
Ikigai, in Eagle Rock, specializes in sushi with omakase, lunch sets, nigiri, maki and more — plus hot dishes such as udon and tempura. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

A new sushi bar and shokudo, or casual Japanese restaurant, is open in Eagle Rock with a range of omakase, lunch specials and home-style comforts such as gyoza and udon soup.

In addition to nigiri and sashimi, Ikigai — from husband-and-wife team Peter and Sooji Park — serves some of the signature rolls offered at their previous restaurant in Alaska, including the Alaska Delight, which tops a salmon, cucumber and avocado roll with scallops, mayonnaise and tobiko. Other specialties include an omakase available in eight, 10 or 12 pieces; reasonably priced sushi lunch combinations; donkatsu; and udon.

“We’re very much sushi-forward and are trying to provide as many options as many accommodations, and just be the place to go,” says the restaurateurs’ son, Matthew Park, who helps manage Ikigai. “The big recurring theme among our guests has been that people in the Eagle Rock community have been looking for a new sushi option, so our hope is to be able to fill that gap.”

Ikigai is open from noon to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 2146 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 255-5685, sushiikigai.com

Spina

A plate of round green ravioli in butter sauce with shredded cheese
Spina's specialty is pasta — such as ravioli verdi stuffed with spinach and ricotta. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

A new Italian restaurant is drawing lines out the door on Atwater Village’s main drag. Spina is a collaboration from local restaurant vets Pablo Cruz (formerly of Terroni and Terra) and Duc Pham, who closed his Atwater location of Blossom to serve plates of pastas at dining tables and the space’s lively countertop overlooking the kitchen.

The no-reservations Spina specializes in pasta such as ravioli verdi with spinach and ricotta; pappardelle in lamb ragù; squid-ink linguine with lobster; and cacio e pepe. It also offers grilled pork tomahawks, beef meatballs, fried calamari and a range of daily specials that could include truffle-topped scallops with peas, rigatoni with spicy sausage or grilled rack of lamb with fried potatoes. Italian wine also is on offer.

Spina is openfrom noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. 3193 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, spina-losangeles.com

Mangette

An overhead of butternut squash and carrot soup with crispy lentils. A spoon lifts a bite from the bowl at Mangette.
French restaurant and cafe Mangette offers a full coffee bar plus seasonal dishes such as butternut squash and carrot soup with crispy lentils. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Two of Long Beach’s wine-industry notables recently opened a French cafe next to their Buvons Wine Bar. Marie DelBarry and Alicia Kemper operate the natural-wine shop and tasting room, which opened just over two years ago, and when the space next door became vacant they seized the opportunity.

“Buvons was limited in all the things that we wanted to do in terms of events and collaborations,” says Kemper, “so it was the perfect opportunity for us to expand and have more space and more kitchen to be a bit more creative.”

They flipped a former paper and poster company into Mangette, a sunny, French cafe where DelBarry’s French background informs a menu executed by Noe Duran, who cooked at the Michelin one-star restaurant Heritage in Long Beach.

A classic jambon beurre sandwich, carrot soup with crispy lentils and pickled raisins, house-made ice cream, mushroom-topped grain bowls and griddled olive oil cake are some of Duran's dishes for the cafe. The coffee program offers affogato, citrus-bitters-tinged espresso and more. Pop-ups and chef collaborations are planned for a form of dinner service set to debut this year.

1145 Loma Ave., Long Beach, (562) 248-2482, instagram.com/mangettelb

Jellyman Tea

A large white, featureless statue stands in left corner of the interior of blue-hued Jellyman Tea, near the register.
Jellyman Tea, a modern boba shop spearheaded by Donald Glover, opened in Silver Lake in late 2023. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

We recently had a chance to feel the glow inside Jellyman, the boba-focused tea shop in Silver Lake opened in October by actor and musician Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, along with musician and executive Luke Wood. The former Blossom Vietnamese restaurant space radiates with a futuristic, purple and blue aesthetic and drinks that riff on Taiwanese classics.

The most popular concoction, the Peanut Butter Jelly Man, studs nutty oat milk with chewy jelly, while other signatures include a floral rose-and-hibiscus latte, a more straightforward brown sugar milk tea, and matcha drinks like matcha yuzu tonics.

Tea varieties include roasted oolong, jasmine, barley, and lapsang oolong, plus fruit options such as a seasonal fruit spin on agua fresca. Drinks can be made “no sweet” or ranging from 25% to 100% sweetness, and topped and infused with the likes of boba, coconut jelly, egg pudding, chia seeds, coffee jelly and maple sea salt foam.

Jellyman Tea is open from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 4019 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, jellymantea.com

Triple Beam Pizza Glendora

The quick-and-casual pizzeria from some of L.A.’s most notable culinary names just expanded to the San Gabriel Valley. Triple Beam Pizza, from chefs Matt Molina and Nancy Silverton, recently expanded its Highland Park and Echo Park operation to Glendora. Its Roman-style, thin and crisp-bottomed slabs of pizzas come with toppings ranging from the more familiar (pepperoni; formaggio; pineapple with prosciutto and jalapeño) to the seasonal, local and more L.A.-inspired (chicken bulgogi; roast fennel with sausage and goat cheese; squash with honey and pepper), with salads and sides such as fluffy garlic knots.

A Santa Monica location is slated to open this year.

Triple Beam Pizza is open in Glendora from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 229 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora, (626) 689-2023, triplebeampizza.com

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.