626 Night Market Arcadia
As a British native, my trips to California have always left a memorable experience to me. From my first visit being in November 2022, my second in March 2023, and at present, I’m living my third experience.
With each visit providing a new perspective, a new way of looking at something, I’m able to truly see and feel just how different our world’s are. From the culture to how the people conduct themselves (with Americans being a lot more personable and willing to spark up small talk and filler conversation in contrast to the UK’s famous “don’t look at me, don’t breathe near me, and don’t exist near me” way of living), I have been able to further understand how people carry themselves and their identity. This would all come spiraling into what I would describe as “The Singularity of Asian Food” when I went to the 626 Night Market in Arcadia. A foodie’s absolute wet dream.
Founded in 2012 by a Taiwanese man raised in Southern California, Jonny C. Hwang conceived the Night Market through being inspired by the night markets that are famously known throughout Asia, and it’s been a staple to Southern Californians and food lovers alike. With over 250 vendors of both food as well as charms, incredible artwork, live music, clothes, perfumes, and a myriad of other collectables and delicacies, there is something for everyone at this scintillating buzzuling market.
My first introduction to the 626 Night Market was in Santa Monica. It was on a far smaller scale compared to Arcadia, making up only a small fraction of the full potential of the Night Market in Arcadia, but even on that scale, I could gather an idea for what the biggest Night Market had in store. Now, I will openly state that I am not foodie. Don’t get me wrong, as a Jamaican-Dominican man, give me a plate of callaloo and saltfish or curry mutton over white rice and watch it disappear faster than the Grizzlies in the first round Vs. the Lakers after talking all that rah-rah about poking bears.
Give me a bowl of spanish potatoes and I’ll most likely eat the bowl along with it. I thoroughly enjoy food, however, I would never consider myself someone who would go out of their way to eat food. I’m not the most adventurous with my palette, so it goes without saying that as far as the Night Market goes, I was a Fire Bender trying to establish myself in the Southern Water tribe — very much out of my element. However, that is where the beauty of Californian culture and the Night Market dawned itself upon me.
Understanding my lifestyle — the traditional to digital artist who has spent the last 9 years hunched over a desk trying to draw hands whilst developing chronic back pain yet complains why his back always hurts — I never saw places in the UK that stuck out to me to really be that explorative when it came down to trying out different food. In fact, I’ve never once even considered looking for an event that was largely in that field of having an all-you-can-eat like environment. But upon seeing how much life, energy, and enjoyment that manifests itself in this hubspot of people from all over California coming together to geek over a vast selection of largely Asian-Inspired food, I was able to get more than a peep-hole outlook to just how much food means to Californians — I mean, beyond the fast food restaurants you literally see on every block and I wish I was exaggerating saying that.
The multiplicity of aromas that shrouded the atmosphere would leave you in a state of sensory confusion in regards to where your nose would lead you: “Do you want to dry some of the vegan-filled dumplings? Are you in the mood for a Mexican-Japanese hybrid plate packed with protein? Are you really going to walk past these oreo-flavored pancakes? Don’t tell me you don’t see those grilled lobsters that’s housing seafood pasta in the shells.” It’s the ultimate FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Food aside, you then have that amazing array of solopreneurs who sell their art, merchandise, necklaces, bracelets, clothes, and various other collectibles comparable to a videogame completionist who just has to acquire everything that’s available to offer. It really gives off those RPG vibes when you talk to someone at a vendor and they have their own unique ways of selling their product and expressing their passion for it. When I look back at it retrospectively, I believe that’s how I can best describe the entire Night Market, a nice assembly of passion, life, and overall appreciation for culture and creative ventures.
The 626 Night Market was definitely a highlight of mine for this trip, and one I will always remember, because before I left, there was this INCREDIBLE saxophone quartet that had over 300 songs on request that they could play. S4XOfficial stole the night for me when they played the first opening from my favorite anime, Bleach, and the ending from one of my other favorites, Jujutsu Kaisen. I was internally geeking the entire time. As a big time jazz-lover and the saxophone being my favorite instrument, to say that band made my night.
In the end, to anyone that comes to California during the summer, if you do not go to the Night Market, not only are you missing out on such an amazing time surrounded by people that find enjoyment in life in these small corners in the infinity that is our lifetime, but no matter who you are, where you’re from, what you do, and how you identify yourself, you are missing out on the one universally force that pulls all people together… FOOD.