LOCATION: 626 Night Market (285 Huntington Drive, Arcadia, CA 91007)
The night was beginning to wind down, and I had taken a break from the food while my friends Kevin and Emma had stopped at a few other places to pick some stuff up. I knew I had to save room for my nightcap musubi boat from What Floats Ur Boat, but what caught my eye ended up being these guys going at it on the barbecue with these meat skewers.
Although the name Taste Memory doesn’t inherently give you many clues about what food they offer, their banner on their vendor stand looked like it was straight out of a poster for a competitive barbecue TV series or something like that. But if the visuals didn’t draw you in, the smells would have. In the space adjacent to their tent, the staff were grilling off meat skewers over rectangular charcoal barbecue grills, with the smoke and aromas just wafting into the crowds as they were walking by.
There were four types of meat to choose from: chicken, beef, lamb, and octopus. I had already eaten chicken and beef that night, and I wasn’t feeling the octopus, so lamb it was. $10 got you six skewers, so it was a pretty good deal all things considered. It was easily a shareable and portable thing to eat as you continued about the night market.
After placing the order for the food, it was cool to get an opportunity to slide over and watch the staff cook up the skewers. Grill, turn over, season, repeat. It was a methodical process, but they were able to keep a relative flow of skewers into the ordering tent to hand out to customers.
The one thing I did find confusing, however, was the lack of structure about how they handed out food. Your order wasn’t tagged to a ticket number, so the staff would just call out when a specific type of skewer was ready. When you heard the item you ordered being called, you’d walk up to the tent and ask for your set of skewers. It definitely made it feel more disorganized, as sometimes I struggled to hear what type of skewers were the next ones available while waiting.
The skewers themselves, however, were definitely worth the wait. When I got the six skewers, I was initially wondering how I’d be able to finish all of them. But I wolfed down four skewers before I knew it, and had to restrain myself to give Kevin the remaining two. The lamb was grilled really nicely and had a subtle sweet flavor that maybe came from being marinated. It was also seasoned well with what seemed like salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and one other item to help give it a bit of heat (maybe paprika?). The charcoal grill got some nice char on some of the pieces too.
If you see a bunch of guys grilling up some skewers on the box grills, be sure to take a stop and check it out. Six skewers might seem like a lot, but it’s great for sharing in a group or if you’re feeling hungry enough to go it alone. The meat was cooked well, had great flavor, and was still moist on the inside. Especially for the price point of six skewers for $10, you really can’t go wrong.
Let’s now take a look at the Taste Memory Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for Taste Memory:
Food: 4.25 / 5
Four different types of skewers catered to whatever you were in the mood for. The lamb I got was tender, moist, and had great flavor from the seasoning. If that was any indication of the food quality, I would venture to say the rest of the options would turn out just as good.
The 626 Night Market definitely has a very different vibe than any other markets I’ve been to before. There’s food absolutely everywhere, with smells making you hungry as you wait on your food and people milling about, having a good time. The nighttime aspect also helps to make it more enjoyable, because the Sun isn’t beating down on you as you’re waiting in line.
Service: 3.25 / 5
The disorganized system of picking up the food definitely stood out to me, especially as every other booth I had visited during the night had a structured setup. It had a bit of the “every person for themselves” kind of feel, and you were really at the mercy of the staff member at the table saying what was ready loud enough so you could hear. That being said, the skewers cooked relatively quickly, so I didn’t have to spend a ton of time waiting around.
Price: 5 / 5
I mentioned it a couple of times above, but I thought getting six skewers for $10 was a real bargain. For a math nerd like me, that comes out to $1.67 per skewer, which is more than reasonable for “street food” pricing.