An outdoor night market blossoms in Lincoln Heights as L.A. recovers from COVID-19’s devastation


As sunset nears, a temporary town appears along a short stretch of industrial Lincoln Heights.

It has its own regulations, waste management system and at least 100 businesses selling acrylic nails, earrings, weed pipes and mouthwatering burgers, asada tacos and mini pancakes. Along the cracked asphalt, on weekends, a DJ plays music as crowds dance and drink out of clay cups rimmed red with Chamoy.

The businesses operate mostly under canopies or out of pushcarts. Vendors wait for workers at the warehouses along Artesian Street to finish for the day so they can move into empty parking spots and set up tables and carts. They pay the young man who brings Home Depot trash cans, scatters them up and down the street and empties them throughout the weekend nights.

Their form of self-governance? Telling newer vendors to move aside so the veterans can take their usual spots.

Because it is the veterans who understand the rules of this unofficial, part-time village.

What was a handful of small retailers last year in this alley-like street, between West Avenue 33 and Humboldt Street, has boomed into a full-fledged night market replete with opportunity, competition and a sense of community during the devastating pandemic.

Over the course of a week, thousands of people descend on this Eastside neighborhood, sometimes spending nearly an hour searching for a place to park. They peruse the stands, food trucks and carts, with the occasional car squeezing through the crowd. Weekends — morning and night — are the most congested.

The Avenue 26 night market may be the largest street food market in Southern California, although it’s unclear how long it will last. Last week, rumors swirled among the vendors that the street would be shut down, although city officials denied it.