Last Updated on March 22, 2023
The HBO Film Festival at Bryant Park brings a new take on “dinner and a movie” each summer. The Hester Street Fair hosts over a dozen food vendors from various local NYC restaurants for an American favorite or ethnic treat. This trendy outdoor food market is open on the days of the movie screenings to give park visitors a taste of culture before settling down on a blanket and enjoying a classic movie under the stars in the Big City. Be sure to check out these top five must-try eats at Bryant Park!
TAKEAWAY: 2017 was Bryant Park Summer Film Festival’s 25th anniversary, since it was first celebrated in 1993. The idea came from a trip Dan Biederman (Bryant Park Corporations executive director) took to Europe in the 90s, where he heard of “a drive-in movie without cars”. He was so amazed that he pitched the idea to Michael Fuchs at HBO and that was the start of a trend that has expanded throughout the country and has become part of New York citizen’s summer traditions.
This crossbreed between protein and fruit satisfies your palate for both sweet and savory! A half-pineapple is carved out and used as the serving dish for a hearty portion of Thai-styled fried chicken and chunks of fresh fruit. The textural contrast is key for this meal. You get a crunch from the chicken and soft, ripe tropical fruit all on one forkful. The Pineapple Bird whisks you away to the serene islands of Thailand in a matter of bites!
Popular in the Middle East, manousheh is a Lebanese street food similar to a thin-crust pizza. It’s a baked flatbread with a multitude of meat or vegetarian toppings. The chewy dough is typically brushed with a blend of olive oil, thyme, and sesame seeds. And it also includes your choice of ground beef, cheese, spinach or tomatoes and it is folded for your convenience. While manousheh is a common breakfast item, it can be eaten any time of the day for a snack or light lunch.
Hawaii is known for two things: palm trees and poke! Poke is a Hawaiian-inspired dish of raw fish, whereas Yellowfin tuna, salmon, and octopus are commonly used. It is a very healthy option for fresh ingredients and low calories. The fish is skinned, deboned and filleted, then garnished with soy sauce, sea salt, and onions. Poke restaurants try to conserve the history of poke but also give customers the freedom to customize their own pokebowl. Choose a base of quinoa or local mixed greens and fish or tofu as the protein. Then, select add ins like edamame, coconut or Hijiki Seaweed; a hot yuzu wasabi dressing and crab salad topping.
Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese fast food that is gaining steam in the US! A mixture of cabbage, mushrooms and scallions create the base for okonomiyaki. It is combined with beaten eggs and flour, then dropped onto a hot pan to cook. Japanese vegetable pancakes are often made thick and served in wedges. It’s crispy and ideal for on-the-go.
Taiyaki Ice Cream
Taiyaki gets its name from the translation of “tai” and “yaki”, meaning baked fish. Taiyaki ice cream is a fish-shaped cone with your favorite soft serve. The cone is cakey, and filled with a sweet azuki red bean paste, paying homage to the original Japanese treat. Matcha green tea is the iconic flavor for taiyaki ice cream. This is definitely an Instagram-worthy dessert!
In addition to all these delicious foods, if you are still watching the film and have a craving for something sweet, you are in luck! Other vendors from the Hester Street Fair offer baked goods, coffee and other hot & cold beverages to complete a perfect movie night dinner. Now you don’t have an excuse to miss out on this delicious experience.