Fancy Food Courts
by Erin O'Hara, 11/03/2010
European-style epicurean marketplaces are enjoying a moment in New York City, with The Plaza Food Hall, FoodParc and Eataly all opening recently to serve up an abundance of luscious foodstuffs and delectable prepared dishes—and attracting no small amount of buzz and crowds. And with the holidays and winter months coming, they're bound to draw even more shoppers who are seeking to stock up on superb fresh meats, cheeses and produce or a chance to revive over small plates and a glass of wine. Of course, indoor food markets have been around in the City for ages, but none are close to anything you'd find in a suburban megamall. Check out these five famous NYC food emporiums, both new and old.
Eataly may have a cutesy name and slogan ("You are what you Eataly"), but its take on Italian food is anything but irreverent. In fact, this 50,000-square-foot emporium—co-owned by Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich and composed of numerous restaurants, a grocery store and a wine market—is a veritable temple of Italian comestibles. You can pick up anything you'd need to make a hearty Italian dinner, down to the fancy utensils and tools that are used in Eataly's kitchens. Produce is stocked by Baldor, who supplies top NYC restaurants, and if you don't know how to trim artichokes or don't feel like cutting onions (who does?), take your selections to Eataly's "vegetable butcher" who will chop, cut, slice or dice any of your fresh produce, free of charge. Bread and mozzarella are made right before your eyes, and other counters offer fresh seafood, aged cheeses, raw or roasted meats, panini, chocolates, gelato and more. Eataly has the largest variety of pasta in New York, with variations flown in from Italy and made fresh on the premises. The space also houses seven restaurants, including Manzo, a white-tablecloth meat-focused eatery serving fine Italian cuisine, and Le Verdure, a spot catering to vegetarians and vegans. In the coming months, Eataly will also be fitted with a rooftop bar and microbrewery, complete with a retractable roof for year-round imbibing and collaborative beers by Italian brewmasters and Dogfish Head.
Chelsea Market inhabits the first floor of a historic building that was once home to bakeries for National Biscuit Company (now known as Nabisco), and it feels somewhat like a modern, pretty, food-centric indoor village. The warm industrial-chic interior features brick walls, cast-iron beams and an indoor waterfall that pours from an exposed pipe in the middle of the building. The gourmet cafés, shops and restaurants that call Chelsea Market home run the gamut from soup to nuts, including Hale and Hearty Soups, Morimoto, Buddakan, Fat Witch Bakery, Amy's Bread and Jacques Torres Chocolate. There's also a florist, a wine cellar and even an Anthropologie, making Chelsea Market a one-stop source for any date-night needs.
With its sleek modern design and top-notch cuisine, Chelsea's FoodParc is hard to distinguish from any first-class trendy restaurant. There are four different food stands, which offer high-quality cuisine at remarkably reasonable prices. Fornetti serves up salads, flatbread sandwiches and pasta dishes; RedFarm Stand has egg rolls, wontons, dumplings and other Chinese dim sum delights; 3Bs focuses on bacon, burgers and beer; and The Press offers coffee (drip or French press–style), gelato and smoothies. The food is getting phenomenal ratings, especially the burgers, which are being compared to those of the revered Shake Shack. Guests have the option of placing their orders in person at each stand or at a series of touch-screen stations; when the fare is ready, they will be notified on screens displayed throughout the space or, if they so choose, via a text message.
Essex Street Market
The history of this Lower East Side market dates back to 1940, when pushcarts were still a visible fixture in the neighborhood. In an effort to clear the way for emergency vehicles, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia designated available indoor spaces for these street merchants to gather and sell their goods. The market enjoyed a bustling business until the rise of supermarkets and other stores, but it has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks to its many popular vendors—including coffee experts Porto Rico Importing Co. and the legendary restaurant Shopsin's, which serves up such innovative treats as macaroni-and-cheese pancakes with a trademark persnickety attitude that is somehow oddly charming.
The Plaza Food Hall
Todd English, the celebrity chef behind more than a dozen acclaimed restaurants all over the United States (and on the Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 cruise ships) has opened a European-style food hall in the lower level of The Plaza hotel. Groceries, prepared foods and even cheese from New York's own Murray's are available for purchase. Those looking to have a meal here will find separate stations for seafood, pizza, dumplings, sushi, and burgers and sandwiches. Prices linger in the reasonable range, especially for this level of quality and luxury. And since it's The Plaza, even simple dishes get a fancy twist—there's a Kobe beef burger and fig-and-prosciutto pizza. But one of the biggest hits is Curly Cakes cupcakes, a product of English's daughter, Isabelle.