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Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 | 53 comments

626 Night Market

It has been said that the San Gabriel Valley, located east of Los Angeles, has the best Chinese food in the United States.  The reason is understandable.  You can find dishes from every province of China in the area.

Maybe that is why The Valley was selected to host the country’s largest night market (at least, that is what the organizers claim).

The 626 Night Market takes place monthly during the summer each year.  The original event was conceived by a businessman born in Taiwan and raised in Southern California.  He was interested in bringing the Shilin Night Market (Taipei) experience to Los Angeles.

The inaugural event took place in Old Town Pasadena.  Since huge crowds clogged the event, the market was moved to the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The event has expanded to Downtown Los Angeles and Orange County because of its success.

I have followed this event for quite some time but didn’t have the opportunity to attend until last weekend (on its fourth season).

I have been to night markets in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Shanghai.  As expected, there are big differences between this market and the ones in Asia.  However, I enjoyed the event and found it fascinating.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights so you can have a better idea of what was on offer.

The Venue

The night market took place at the historic Santa Anita Park.  Now, this “park” is a racetrack which offers prominent racing events during winter and spring.

I didn’t realize I was going to a racetrack until I arrived.  In my mind, horses and night markets are a strange combination.  However, the massive facilities are ideal to host loads of people.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

You can walk and sit around the facilities while the market is taking place. I think it is very cool to have your food with the San Gabriel Mountains as your backdrop.  Also, elegant horse motives are everywhere.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The Food

The venue is beautiful but, let’s be honest, you do not attend a night market to stare at the mountains.

With over 160 food stalls, you can go crazy eating around.

The kings of the market were the skewers.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

There were meat, chicken and pork skewers.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Also, there were more imaginative (or tasty) options.  For example, hearts, intestines and kidneys were abundant.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Chicken butt was there waiting for you too.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

We cannot forget about the pig’s feet.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The squid skewers were very popular.  Take a look at these ones prepared over the grill. They were left over the fire with a press over them.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Once they were almost ready, the sharp part of the press was used to cut the body sides into fine strips.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Finally, the tender squid was slathered with sauce and served over a plate.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

There was a different version of the squid skewer: a fried, giant bomb.

I spotted it for the first time when this guy was taking one piece out of the fryer.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

We continued finding stalls selling the giant squids. We ended up buying ours.  This one is so big that is held by two thick sticks.


Once you received it, you make a line to use scissors to cut the thing into pieces.  You can have it with Thousand Island dressing (which I found odd).

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Spiral fries were also served on sticks.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The variety of deserts was varied. A lot of stalls were selling ice cream, yogurt (in a u-shaped cone), popsicles and gelato.

I liked this stall selling Thai popsicles.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California


These thin pancakes were filed with ice cream.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

And, I couldn’t get enough of the cute ice cream served in a flower pot.  Chocolate ice cream was placed in a cup and covered with crumbled chocolate cookies (to simulate the soil).  The cup was placed inside a pot and garnished with mint leaves and a colorful gummy worm.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

They had churros dipped in all sorts of candy.


And funnel cakes, waffles, macarons, donuts, ice cream sandwiches and more.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Other stalls were offering poutine, pork buns, spring rolls, squid roe, sushi, fish curry and hot dogs.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Many stalls were serving lemonade, juice and tea in mason jars.  At night, a cube with a flashing light was added to the drinks.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Delicious takoyaki balls were sold everywhere.  I enjoyed watching how they were prepared.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California


626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

I do not know why but the line to get a ramen burger was insane.  Have you heard about these?  The hamburger buns are replaced by ramen noodles resembling a disk.  I couldn’t take a proper picture.  The couple in the next picture is eating them.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

A lot of people went after the gyros and shawarma.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Ok, there were more unusual eats around.  For example, this stall was selling shark tacos and spicy frog fries.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

My husband had a soft shell crab burger.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Others preferred the tea eggs.  At least, I didn’t see a balut.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

What I have presented in here is tiny selection of the food offered. Looking at the pictures others posted in social networks, I was like: “Hey, I didn’t see that” or “How I missed that stall?”

Other Vendors

I admitted I attended the market because of the food. However, everything wasn’t about the food.  There were stalls selling clothes, jewelry, accessories, crafts and toys.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

Kids (and adults) enjoyed games similar to the ones present in fairs.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The Negative

This will not be an honest review if I do not include the negative aspects of the event.

I couldn’t find the number of people who attended the event last Friday.  I read that on average, 60,000 people attend the event every month (during the three days).  Last weekend, attendance records were broken.  Therefore, I can say I shared the market with 20,000 people.

Think about that for a moment.  That number is a little bit ridiculous.  See all the photos I took?  I was able to do it because I arrived around 5:30 (I was pushed and pulled like you have no idea).  Once the sun disappeared, it was not possible to walk around the food stall area.  I do not want to imagine the disorder, confusion and wait times to get something to eat.

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

626 Night Market, Arcadia, California

The parking lot was another mess.  Nobody was really directing the traffic or imposing order.  I spent about half an hour driving around and not moving at all.


  • If you want to eat and try different stalls, you will have to arrive close to the time the event opens.  Go late and be prepared for the mess.
  • Bring enough cash. There are many ATM machines around but you do not want to pay high banking fees.
  • Bring water.  The lines to get lemonade and tea were very long.  Food trucks were not selling sodas or other beverages.  In summary, I felt thirsty and it was a pain to find something to drink (without waiting in line for an hour).
  • Arm yourself with patience.  You are going to be pushed and elbowed.  Some people may try to cut the lines.
  • I said skewers were the kings of the market.  Well, be careful since people walk around carelessly with the sticks pointing at all directions (what is wrong with some people?).
  • If you take children, watch out after them.
  • Be very careful while driving around the parking lot (especially at night).  People do not necessarily cross the street on marked crossways.
  • Finally, relax and enjoy the moment.

Would you attend this nigh market?  Have you attended a night market in Asia?

Pin it for later?

626 Night Market


This post is part of Wordless Wednesdays at image-in-ing, Wednesdays Wanderlust at My Brown Paper PackagesTravel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox , Sunday Traveler with Chasing the Donkey, Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings,  Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Worth Casing Wednesday at Agent Mystery Case and Monday Escapes at Packing My Suitcase. Pay a visit to these wonderful blogs!

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  1. These mountain pictures are amazing.Seems like it is a fun event.But,as you said,I can imagine how crowded the place is…
    Amila recently posted..A Day at the Singapore ZooMy Profile

    • It is a great event. Sadly, the crowds do not let you enjoy at maximum.

  2. I’ve never visited a night market…it looks like fun and lots of food. I’m not a fan of big crowds so I agree with you on going early!

    • They are tons of fun. The ones in Asia have cheap food, interesting crafts and even massages.

    • Thanks. The food was great! Wished I had time to try other things.

  3. I love those sunset photos and the horse motives at the racetrack are so cool too (I love horses!) I’ve never visited anywhere like this but I love the idea of it and the food looks amazing! – Tasha
    Natasha recently posted..Photo Friday: FloraMy Profile

    • The place is beautiful. Who knew racetracks were so glamorous?

    • Oh Yeah! The churros looked great. There were so many sweet options that I couldn’t try them. More excues to go to again to one of these markets.

  4. Oh wow. Basically all that food looks incredible (except the frog fries – errr no thanks). And what lovely views of sunset to enjoy while you’re eating! I can’t believe how many people were there – and I’d be worried about skewer related injuries too…!

  5. I love looking at markets and exploring when they are almost empty but crowds are not my favourite thing – it would put me off. The pictures are gorgeous and the food looks amazing I hope it tasted as nice.
    Cerys recently posted..3 Museums for kids in LondonMy Profile

    • Thanks Ceryr. The food was delicious. I get your feeling about crowds. That is why I thought it was important to mention that as part of the story.

  6. What an amazing touch of Asia in California! I adore night markets in Asia (we sometimes take trips just for the food and cheap clothes!) but agree the crowds can spoil a big event – unfortunate side effect of something so popular. #MondayEscapes
    Keri recently posted..Expat Parenting in PakistanMy Profile

    • I would love to live in Asia just for the night markets. The energy there is so great. I remember trying all this cheap dishes in Chiang Mai. We had an awesome night.

    • I tried a few vendors and I felt like I didn’t try a lot. Next time, I need to have a plan on how to tackle the food ;0)

  7. I am from the SGV, but I moved to Singapore before they started running the 626 Night Market. I had heard about it from family and friends though. It looks pretty fun and similar to the food on offer at Shilin Night Market, but yeah that crowd is a bit much.

    Thank you for including photos of the mountains and race track. I’ve been to that track many times with my mother and the mountains are the scenic view I miss the most from Cali.
    Karen recently posted..Singapore Botanic GardensMy Profile

    • Great to know this market is similar to the one in Taiwan. That makes me feel like I really got a taste of a real nigh market. This was my first time visiting the race track. I was in awe when I entered.

  8. O hmy I do love a night market – being chinese I’ve been taken to quite a few in my time especially when we’ve gone back to Hong Kong. But this just looks immense. There are so many stalls and so much choice. I am seriously hungry now! Thanks for sharing on #MondayEscapes
    Ting at My Travel Monkey recently posted..Holiday dilemmas: Should parents really be fined?My Profile

  9. Holy crow! The last time I was in close proximity to 20,000 people it was for an SEC football game. I have a hard time with all of those people. I’d have to make my way there early in order to be able to enjoy that. However – you’ve got some incredible photos! And that food! The food looks amazing!

    Thank you for joining us for Photo Friday again this week!
    jen recently posted..Photo Friday – 10 on 10My Profile

    • Thanks Jen. I know the 20,000 number sounds crazy. I was like: “Hey people, why you didn’t decide to stay home.”

  10. Wow those mountains look spectacular! Food and nature- two of my favourite things (but I’ll pass on the chicken butt thanks!) 🙂
    Natalie recently posted..Weekend Reads. Inspiring Travel.My Profile

    • The mountain looked so beautiful that day. Plus, I captured them when the sun was setting. I’ll pass on the chicken butt too.

  11. The Santa Anita race track features prominently in the book Sea Biscuit. I’m glad to know it’s still there and looks like many of it’s period details are maintained. We’ll have to visit one day. The market seems like a great mash-up of East and West, but I’m not sure I could deal with the crowds.
    eileen g recently posted..Sampling Charleston With a Child AlongMy Profile

    • I didn’t know the Santa Anita racetrack was featured in the book. I saw the movie long time ago and haven’t read the book. It would be nice to actually read the book (since I loved the movie).

  12. It certainly looks and sounds interesting but crazy busy! I’m not sure I’d enjoy the crowds very much and some of the food options seem a bit crazy. However, some of the food looks delicious. What did you try? I wondered as I read what line-ups were like and I’m glad you included what to expect. Thanks for sharing Ruth. #PhotoFridays

    • I had the giant squid, the takoyaki balls, a Thai Popsicle and several meat skewers. My husband also had a soft shell crab burger (crazy). We also tried several samples. To be honest, I could have eaten more but then the lines started to get insanely long. Next time, I’ll go very early and buy all my food first thing.

    • I just went last week and want to go again. Also, I would like to check the one in Downtown LA.

    • I really liked the creative aspect of the dishes. Next time, I would like to try the ice cream that looks like a flower pot and one of the drinks that come in a mason jar.

  13. What a fun event! It’s sounds by the number of people that attend that it’s quite popular with the locals, and the food looks delicious.

  14. I used to live in the San Gabriel valley so I know how delicious the Asian food is in this area. I’ve heard great things about this night market but haven’t managed to go. Thanks for all the tips and hopefully we get to attend one of these days soon.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Bora Bora: Island Excursion and Jeep Safari TourMy Profile

  15. Your post made me sooo hungry! Looks like a great way to taste some local food, and I will remember this market in case we’re in the area sometime.
    We Travel Together recently posted..Victoria Falls, ZimbabweMy Profile

    • As I mentioned, the San Gabriel Valley is known for its Chinese and Asian food. We do not go that often to the area because of the traffic. Therefore, this was a good opportunity to eat and discover new establishments.

    • It is my kind of market too. That is why I will visit it again even though I know it get crowded. I really felt like a kid in a candy store when I was there.

    • Hmmm, I will have to do research on the San Diego’s night market. That can be interesting. Looks like this is going to be a good summer in terms of food.

  16. Those first stalls that you show look so authentic that it’s like they were lifted straight out of an night market in Asia. Why is it that Chicken Butt sounds good to me but Pig’s Feet do not? Anyways, I am so glad that you shared how crowded it was because that would definitely affect me experience, especially if I had brought my kids along.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Non-Alcoholic Tour of Dry Creek Valley VineyardsMy Profile

    • Michele, I am happy to know this is comparable to an Asian night market. There were a lot of kids in the market. I kept telling my husband: “I do not know what will happen if somebody misses a kid here.”

    • Thanks for your kind words Denise. I love to show a little bit of what Los Angeles and its surrounding cities offer.

  17. Night food markets, eat streets and truck food is becoming very popular and trendy here in Australia. In Brisbane in particular, they are holding Asian Night Noodle Markets currently, where the tourist and locals flock to after work and on the weekends. These markets are not only a cheap alternative to restaurant food, but also a great meeting place.
    KathyMarris recently posted..Aruba: ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!My Profile

    • I would love to visit Australia and try the cuisine there. I watch MasterChef Australia (You Tube) and have seen how this trends are gaining popularity.

  18. Thanks for letting me know about 626 Night Market, Ruth. Santa Anita is only 20 minutes away from where I live and I just love Chinese food. I should go there sometimes and try some of that delicious chicken on a skewer.
    Anda recently posted..The Weekly Postcard: the Gornergrat ExperienceMy Profile

    • Hello Anda, I thought you lived in Europe. Good to know you are a fellow Southern Californian. Yes, you have to visit the night market one day. They are going to have it for two more weekends during this summer.

  19. Very nice! At what time does it start? (’cause it looks still bright outside) 🙂
    I’ve only took part in a real night market once in my life – on Zanzibar. In Stone Town in Forodhani Gardens there’s a seafood market every night.
    I wrote about it, but it’s in Polish… 🙁
    (but if you want to look at the pictures, it’s here 😉 )
    Isabella | Love Traveling recently posted..50 Stunning Photos of GreeceMy Profile

  20. I KNEW THAT! I shouldn’t have read this post just before lunch. I’d pass on the ‘chicken butt’ but the squid bomb….. delicious! And I would be so curious to try ramen burger and icecream in a flower pot! YUM!
    Margherita recently posted..Context Travel GiveawayMy Profile

  21. Having lived and traveled in Asia for so many years I know what crowded is, but I don’t enjoy it. I would definitely go early. I love grilled squid. I used to eat it all the time in Taiwan. I love the Japanese Takoyaki balls. I have a favorite place to buy them here in Korea, but not often. I think they’re really fattening…:)
    Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday
    Nancie recently posted..Korea: Tea World Festival in SeoulMy Profile

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