The (baza)arty at 626 Night Market

Karen Wang, News Editor

Mouths water as a line of over 50 guests wait eagerly to indulge in Bang Bang Noodles, a local favorite for its tender shells tossed in decadent Sichuan sauce. Golf balls clink around the rims of glass bowls as other attendees test their luck for a chance to bring home a grand prize. Iconic for its food fusions and unique art vendors, the 626 Night Market made its return in Orange County for three weekends during October after a year of closure due to COVID-19.
An array of booths provided a variety of character trinkets, stickers, jewelry, custom-made portraits and pins at the night market held at the OC Fair & Events Center in Costa Mesa. Visitors could also choose from over 250 food vendors, with colorful corn, pho tacos and sushi on sticks as notable standouts.
“The most interesting thing I tried was a drink that was made fresh from actual sugar cane that the vendors grinded in front of us,” junior Calista Nguyen said.
Founded by entrepreneur Johnny Hwang in 2012, the 626 Night Market, named after the area code of San Gabriel Valley, seeks to replicate the “open-air nighttime bazaars of Asia.” The Orange County night market currently serves as a subevent of the original market in Arcadia. Organizers chose the theme of “Coming Home” this year to commemorate the return of the Californian staple following postponement last year due to COVID-19. A near 15-minute drive away, Northwood students appreciated a lively and elegant ambiance, but noted a lack of food accommodations.
“The atmosphere of the night market gave me a form of childhood nostalgia because these markets were often a large part of it,” sophomore Anika Akshantala said. “I might go again, but unfortunately the lines were long and vegetarian options were lacking.”
The 626 Night Market also featured live performances from rising musicians performing original pieces. Simultaneously, the night market provides a platform for culinary talent to transform into permanent restaurants as well. Those behind popular items like Tanota Takoyaki and Ramen Burgers showcased their product at the 626 Night Market while running physical locations throughout Southern California.
“Those with a smaller budget can test the waters here before trying to open a brick and mortar,” marketing coordinator Annika Yip said to the Los Angeles Eater on June 28. “Those that do well here can grow their fan base and go on to be very successful.”
Whether it’s to grab a quick bite of dim sum or to snap some Instagram-worthy food pictures, look out for future dates as the 626 Night Market events in Orange County occur just once a year.