I won’t lie to you people. I rarely do. When I first saw the new Essex Market, it felt like I just discovered a new Foodie paradise as the NY Post put it. A mini Chelsea Market without the crowds, was the first thing that came to mind. A striking contrast to the old Essex Market which felt sad and unwelcoming at times. But around 10 visits, a few hits and too many misses later I come back crawling to the Chelsea Market zoo asking for forgiveness, and a Currywurst.
It turned into a strange love hate relationship. I keep gravitating to Essex Market, so there’s something definitely there. Mad kudos to the designers of the space. Its pleasing to the eye, comfortable, and the sitting area on top is just pure joy when compared to other food courts. Its part of a new complex that also includes a swanky new Regal with reclined seats and giant food trays. I never understood movie theaters that serve food or food friendly theaters like this. My enjoyment of watching a movie while eating somehow never transferred to watching a movie while sitting next to a total stranger munching on chicken wings and almost spilling his coke on me three times.
But while the Essex Market vendors wouldnt really fair well at Chelsea Market, there’s definitely a very interesting variety of eats. Some of the old vendors are back, and some new ones joined, and still joining (Another section will eventually open looks like). Here are some of the best bites I tried so far.
Bourekas at Zerza – I’ll give them a pass for serving it a little cool in the middle. The flavors are there and its what you normally would expect from a well crafted Bourekas. Loaded with Spinach, raisins, feta, and pine nuts. A sound competitor to the Bourekas queen in Hell’s Kitchen, Gazalas.
Fried Chicken at Eat Gai – Come for Gai, stay for fried chicken. Its known for Khao Man Gai which is a Hainaese chicken and rice dish that is popular in Thailand as well. Might be an acquired taste or a cultural thing as it just didnt do it for me. The fried chicken on the other hand, marinated with Turmeric was more like it, especially the first time I had it.
The Nordic Sandwich at Nordic Preserves – One of the old guards from the old Essex Street Market (Note they dropped the “Street” at the new place). Its a Scandinavian cured and smoked fish specialist that also crafts a couple of sandwiches like the outstanding The Nordic with Creme Fraiche, Lumpfish Caviar, Pico de Gallo in a Pain D’avignon olive Baguette. Or better yet, buy their Pastrami lox, and enjoy it with a fresh bagel with cream cheese.
Croissant Bread Pudding w/ Crème Anglaise at Pain D’avignon – Bread Puddings in NYC rarely come close to something you can find in every corner in New Orleans. Its often too dry, too bready or just missing any zing. Leave it to baking legend Pain D’avignon to correct that with a perfectly balanced, apple filled (on this occasion) bread pudding that comes with a creamy Crème Anglaise on the side. So you can pour as much of it as you want (suggested amount: all of it)
Banana Ice Cream at LES Ice Cream Factory – Not sure if its the best way to build a brand, but the folks from The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory opted to give themselves a different name here. I suppose, and this is just a crazy guess, that the reason is that this is not in Chinatown. That didnt stop many other businesses however. Not every flavor works (had better Horchata in NYC) here, but the banana does.
Also Consider: Chicken Shawarma at Samesa, Arancini at Arancini Bros, Empanadas at Dominican Cravings, Salted Caramel Panna Cotta at Mille Nonne.