Pretty much overnight, food courts in NYC went from a concept to “What, another one? We need another food court like I need a pimple in my tuches”. Food courts, food halls, semi-annual festivals like Madison Square Eats have become part of us, like bagels, and pizza rats. It almost seems like a new one opens every week, and one can easily lose track of openings just like with new restaurants these days. At some point you just stop and ask yourself, how many more Luke Lobsters and Mighty Quinn’s does this city really needs. Some of them start to look the same, and one of them even invited me for a free tour and tasting. I get such invites on a weekly basis and its either something I’m not interested in, or in Staten Island. Ziggy will not be bought. PERIOD! Unless you invite me to one of these three.
CM is busy, touristy, perhaps the most crowded food hall out there, and I cant get enough of it. I bike there for lunch more often than some of the places by my work I can walk to. And, yeah, you guessed it, I dont go there for its history. The vendor list is incredibly impressive, and for the most part unique to Chelsea Market. A high quality butcher, An “A” List Taco joint, fresh seafood, top notch gelato, Halvah, and the soon to be best hummus in NYC, Dizengoff, which will open any day now, are just some examples. Its unlike any market in the world, so comparing it to something like Venice, Barcelona, Mahane Yehuda markets is silly. Some may even suggest its not much of a market, but a collection of high quality food purveyors, but there’s definitely enough market in it. In fact one of the things I love about CM is that some of the vendors source their stuff directly from next door. Cull & Pistol gets their seafood from sister Lobster Place, while Creamline (great turkey burger) gets their meat from Dickson’s Farmstand next door. If you are a food enthusiast (well. you are reading this blog post) you owe it to yourself to stop by. But dont do it when you tired or stuffed. Many tourists just walk the main isle, leave the other door and then ask whats the big deal about this place. Stay for a little bit, explore, and meet some of the vendors, like Rachel from Seed + Mill. Tell her Ziggy sent ya.
Yeah, nothing shocking about any of these picks. Long time readers already know that Ziggy hearts Eataly. Unlike, say Little Italy, Eataly is super touristy for good reason. And like Chelsea Market, yes, there’s a good chance that a large Polish man will step on your foot when you least expect. But do you know who especially likes Eataly, that may come as a surprise? Italians. Italians who appreciate quality, and can even find items that are not easily available back home. Whether we go for a little shopping, Nutella Bar, or have a snack at one of its restaurants, we cant get enough of it. I usually have a small mental laundry list of stuff that we “need” like Italian craft beer, Venchi chocolates, fresh pasta like the Agnolotti dal Plin, sauces, cookies, and whatever else catches my eye on each visit. Yes, the stuff is expensive, and I dont shop there on a monthly basis. But cheaper than this is, well, essentially “Stop and Shop”. Quality and imports come with a price tag. Another reason for tourists to come to Eataly is the location. Your attraction heavy guide book may not tell you that Madison Square Park and its surroundings is a must see, especially during squirrel season.
Gotham West Market
While I was waiting for my Steak Barbacao bowl at Choza the other day, I bumped into something I dont see very often at GWM… Tourists. The process of ordering anything at Choza for tourists can be as complicated as our current presidential race, so I was happy to put my Matt Murdock mask on and step in to help. GWM, simply put, is one of the best things to ever happen in Hell’s Kitchen, and one of its main advantages and what separates it from the pack is that its out of the main tourist route. Other than the Intrepid nearby I cant think of any reasons why tourists would come here. Maybe check out our incredible lineup of auto dealerships? GWM is also a very different food court. Its compact, with only 8 or so vendors, and it has more of a neighborhood feel than other food courts. Think of it as one large restaurant with 8 different menus to choose from, where your kids and husbands can run around freely. You can order something at one vendor and eat it at the counter of the next. The funky Avroko design of the place may be reason enough to stop by for some, but I personally go for, you know, the food.