Last month, Thrillist announced the first food festival of the season on Governors Island would be the Brewers PicNyc over Memorial Day weekend. They also offered a deal for VIP tickets for $55 instead of $85, which included one hour early admission plus all you can eat and drink(beer too). CT and I enjoyed Meatopia and Parked last year(although we ended up in the minority that felt that way), so we were both keen on returning for another festival. Since we are old hands, we know how best to navigate these events. Rule #1 Arrive EARLY!
On the way to the ferry, I noticed there was a little farm set up in Battery Park. Looks pretty cool. Dare you to eat a carrot grown there!
Once we got to the island, it was still about 20 minutes before the 11 am VIP start. I ended up talking to the person next to me in line whose friend went on Sunday. Apparently there was some confusion about serving beer before noon on a Sunday so the VIP preview ended up being a bust. The free food also turned out to be a “taste” from each of the trucks. Considering it was AYCE, I didn’t think it was a big deal that we wouldn’t being getting full portions. As the clock struck 11, the hundred or so of us got free reign of the fairground. The first ferry of the day was at 10 then 11 then every half hour after that, so it was a little while before more people came across the river. That was well worth the sacrifice of sleeping in on Memorial Day.
CT says: I was pretty disappointed to find out it was a “tasting” and that most trucks weren’t offering a choice from their menu. But looking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised given the AYCE aspect.
Since we had a bunch of friends with us, we planned our attack while waiting for the gates to open. Priority number one was securing an umbrella covered picnic table. It wasn’t actually an issue since we were one of the first groups in line and we ended up keeping the table for the entire day. For anyone in the NYC area, you knew how brutally hot it was over the long weekend. Although there were plenty of trees offering shade on the perimeter, it was nice to have some shade smack dab in the middle of things.
The brewers in “Brewers PicNyc” turned out to be Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint, and Goose Island. They were strategically placed around the fairground, so as to minimize congestion for the thirsty masses. We were all impressed that Sixpoint’s offering included full cans of their Crisp lager for the VIPs. The Crisp made for a great summertime beer. Each of the breweries had a handful of offerings. We were all quite happy with the selections and the ease of getting a fresh and free beer. This definitely accounted for making the most out of the $55 admission.
One of the first trucks to form a long line, and a line that kept getting longer and longer, was the Kimchi Taco Truck. Their sample of was two pieces of rice cake. I took a picture of DY’s portion. Once I saw what the sample was and the length of the line, I passed on trying it myself. Unfortunately some of the vendors went super cheap on the samples. All of the samples were for people who paid for VIPs, and sometimes also for those who bought individual “meal” tickets, so I think they could have splurged a little more. The cheap vendors only cared about selling off their full menu at regular price.
CT says: I was really excited to try the Kimchi truck and incredibly disappointed at their offering. However, as disappointed as I was, after seeing their full meal offerings I’ll still be trying them when I catch them in the neighborhood.
I saw there was no line at Pizza Moto, so I headed over there first. They had small slices of fresh pizza. I was impressed to see the fresh mozzarella and basil. The sauce was nice and tangy, while the crust had some nice char.
When CT did some scouting around earlier, she saw that the brand new Luke’s Lobster truck was there. Of course, she ran over there first since she had enjoyed Luke’s before. Their sample ended up being a small shrimp roll. Some people were disappointed it wasn’t a small lobster roll, but I was ok with it. They would have gone through a TON of lobster. The shrimp was good as before on top of a butter bomb roll.
CT says: My initial disappointment here was quickly fixed after tasting the shrimp – so fresh and delicious! And the servers were kind enough to give me an extra for TT as it was his turn to hold down the table.
Next up was Asia Dog who shall now be known as the LAMEST VENDOR EVER! We weren’t impressed with their offerings at Mad. Sq. Eats, but still wanted to try their sample to maybe change our minds. Their sample was wasabi potato salad. WTF? Your name isn’t Asia Potato. Would it have been too hard to cut up a hotdog into 4 pieces and top it with one of your slaws? That would have been 100x better. The staff was also not very friendly when we asked if there would be any hot dog samples. I will never be patronizing Asia Dog again and I recommend you do the same.
CT says: MASSIVE FAIL.
The event was hosted by Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43. He had five or six tents setup offering a variety of small bites. While they might have been the trendiest foods on the island, they ended up being the most filling for most of the group. The first hour or two these tents had no line, so it was a great way to load up.
Simple green salad
Smoked kielbasa with sauerkraut and mustard on a slice of bread. This was my favorite of the bunch. The sausage was tasty and hearty.
“Banh mi” That’s what they called it, but as you can see it wasn’t. Not a big deal since it was also a substantial bite and seasoned well. I think it was ground pork, not sure.
Pulled pork taco
Grilled cheese. It was pretty standard, but still 2x larger and better than the sample that Gorilla Cheese gave out.
CT says: I was very impressed by the spread of food option they provided! Sponsor or not, they gave a lot of food and it was all pretty good! Until now, they were definitely the food winners! I had some trouble starches – the bread and tortilla both seemed a little stale, but the kielbasa and pork more than made up for them.
I heard about the Camera Tequila truck briefly on Midtown Lunch. The tequila brand hired the chef from Suenos to provide the food on this truck to promote their brand. They actually offered five or six choices. We got the BBQ Beef Taco with charred corn pico de gallo and queso fresco and the Camarena Chicken and Chihuahua Cheese Taquitos with guacamole and radish. The guy doing the expediting was especially friendly and helpful and gave us an extra portion for our friends back at the table. Not only was the food the best looking, it was also the best tasting. Super flavorful with a variety of high quality ingredients. I really enjoyed the taco and hope the truck finds its way near my office soon.
CT says: PicNyc WINNER! 1) They were giving their full menu as options! That right there made it a winner…. but then 2) The food was so flavorful and fantastic! 3) the guy snuck me an extra taco for our friends holding down the table and 4) VIP only (ok, that one might have pissed off a few people, but I liked it!) I’ll definitely be stalking this on facebook and you should too… right now!
Cupcake Stop was offering slices of your choice five different flavors. CT got the chocolate oreo(right) and I got the vanilla chocolate(left). Although the icings started to melt pretty much immediately, it was a good bite. The cake was light and moist. We felt sad for them since they were one of the only trucks that never had a line. I guess it really wasn’t a cupcake kind of day.
CT says: I was very happy with my slice! It was chocolatey delicious and really just the right amount!
The Bistro Truck had gotten mixed reviews in the past. They offered veggies or chicken over couscous. Surprisingly, no one was really interested in the veggies, but MS took one for the team and pleased the server by taking one. It looked pretty boring to me, but I think she said it was good for what it was. The chicken was surprisingly very good. Most likely some thigh meat that was moist and flavorful. The couscous was very light and fluffy, which was impressive for what had to have been a HUGE batch.
CT says: Much more moist and flavorful than I would’ve expected! I’ve been wanting to try this truck for awhile, so I was glad with the outcome.
The festival was busy, but not completely overloaded with people.
The Desi Truck arrived on the island at the same time as us along with a few other trucks, but took FOREVER to open up. They served up a disappointing watery daal(lentils stew) over some basmati rice. It was also super hot from the stove, not really something you would want to eat on a hot day. Chalk it up to another truck just looking to sell food a la carte.
CT says: Sad, sad looking daal. Flavors were there, but lentils were missing.
There was another Indian truck serving a veggie stew with a piece of naan. It had a lot of good flavor from the various spices, but again, not really appropriate for the weather.
The other dessert option was from The Joyride Truck with fro-yo. They gave out pretty large servings with a choice of topping. I am not a fan of fro-yo, but CT got hers with raspberries on top. Everyone was pretty happy with it and thought it was the perfect end to the day.
CT says: I was incredibly surprised and delighted with the sample size they were giving. It was a full “small” cup, generous filled and topped. The fro-yo is the tart “real yogurt” type, not the sweet ice-cream-wannabe, which I really enjoy and was very refreshing on a hot summer’s day. The raspberries were fresh and sweet too. Other topping choices were cereals, oreos, chocolate crunchies and other fruits – pretty sweet!
We also ran into some of CT’s Sister’s closest friends. They purchased their tickets last minute, so went for the 3-food, 3-beer tickets option for $45. Some of the trucks offered them the same samples for one ticket, while others offered anything from the full menu – so it was a bit of a hit and miss for them too; however they got some tasty looking meals from Luke’s and Kimchi Taco.
CT says: I was a little jealous of their delicious-looking Kimchi Taco platter, but I thoroughly enjoyed my unlimited beers – especially since at times they got warm before I could finish, so I could just dump it and get another free cold one.
All in all, everyone was pretty happy with the day. As long as you get there early and have a game plan, a good time can be had by all. It was a shame that some of the vendors were pretty lame with their offerings, but others more than made up for it. Governors Island is a great place to visit even if there isn’t a festival going on. CT and I have promised ourselves to go there at some point over the summer to enjoy the other activities available (i.e. bike rides) and relax with a great view of Manhattan and The Statue of Liberty.