Its that time of the year, readers. When I dissect piece by piece this tourist trap in Chelsea we call the Chelsea Market. Did I get your attention now? “Tourist Trap”, a term used often when you read reviews about ultra touristy establishments. “Migrane” is something you get when you read what others have to say about something you know and love. “Himalayan Meditation Retreats” is what you Google three months after you open a restaurant in NYC.
But I suppose every touristy restaurant on the planet can be and will be called a Tourist Trap by visitors from all over, who fail to capitalize on the establishment’s full potential. After all, I just called such market in Madrid, and I have a very hard time believing otherwise. But there are two very important ingredients missing in Chelsea Market in order to quality as a Tourist Trap. Mediocre food, and lack of local interest. Make it knowledgeable local interest like the Chowhounds who know NYC food scene better than anyone
Food courts are popping all over the US like presidential tweets. NYC alone has around 20 of them. And due to that vastness you keep seeing some of the same generic names in many of them. Like food trucks that keep multiplying, selling the same items all over the city. They are there more for convenience rather than destinations. What makes CM different is that its not loaded with the usual suspects, but vendors who call CM their only home. Why? Well, mainly due to the fame and foot traffic that comes with it. I just dont recall CM being as culinary rich when mostly locals used to go there.
But Chelsea Market is soooo crowded, you say. Well yeah! But its really the cramped former Nabisco factory space that is the main culprit. Its a pita smack in the face as soon as you walk in, and some cant wait to come out from the other side (10th ave). But if you do, at least check out the pictures on the right near the 10th ave exit where you’ll see the old factory and a picture of the last west side cowboy with his flag down. Before the High Line rails got elevated, these cowboys rode before the trains on “Death Ave” waving their flags as a signal for the coming trains.
But if you opt to stay for a while and you like to eat, deliciousness awaits… and seats! When you start branching out of the main hall you will discover that CM is not as crowded as it seems and you can sit down. Here’s a list of items I would target. Its a nice mix of items for pescatarians, vegetarians, carnivores, and even pediatricians. I would pick about 3-5 items of the list (to share with your special someone(s)), allow 90 minutes, and perhaps walk it off on the High Line after or during.
Hummus at Dizengoff – You are not there just for the Hummus, but the entire package. The hummus with the rotating toppings (right now they got a good looking Sabich – egg, eggplant, Amba combination on the board), the pita, the Salatim, and homemade Z’hug. This is a a nice light option to share.
Cauliflower at Miznon – Its a simple roasted cauliflower, but delightfully salty and quite delicious. You can bring that to Dezengoff and start eating it there while you wait for you Hummus. Though there’s something about eating inside Miznon. Like stepping into a Tel Aviv fast food joint. If you skip Dizengoff, share a pita sandwich here. I’m partial to the veggie combos
Cumin Lamb at Very Fresh Noodles – If I have to pick one item in the entire market, this is probably it. It doesnt get as spicy as Xi’an Famous but what it lacks in heat, it gains in flavor. This is the only place where I struggled with seats in the past, but they now added counter seating facing the “Biang Bianging!”, and there are usually seats. The Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup is another hit
Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Saxelby Cheesemongers – A good excuse to go downstairs and escape the selfie sticks of the main hall. While you wait for your sandwich, sample some hot sauces at the shop next door. I’m partial to the Bronx sauce.
Double Cheeseburger at Creamline – If you are coming from another country, and have this thing called “American Burger” on your list, this is as good as it gets in NYC for this price range. To me it beats Shake Shack, from the bun, beef, and the optional egg which you should add. I also like the choc milk here, and Turkey burger
Hot Dog at Dickson’s Farmstand – A very solid hot dog. Or for something perhaps a bit more tangy and tingly… Paprika or Kaese Currywurst from Berlin Currywurst. If you never had a proper hot dog, go for the former. If you did, do the latter (yes, add some spicy sauce, at least on the side)
Adobada Taco at Los Tacos #1 – The Shawarma of the south. Well it did come originally from Arab immigrants in Mexico. This is a quick delicious snack you eat standing up. Or/And get a Fish Tacos at Los Mariscos to at least earn that secret bathroom visit. Yes, a bathroom with no lines. When standing on that line to Los Tacos, look left for the Los Mariscos entrance.
Lobster Roll at Cull & Pistol – This is one of my overall NYC faves. Owned by the Lobster Place so everything comes from next door, the city’s top fishmongers. Ignore confusing old reviews by Infatuation. The lobster roll at $29, is one of the most expensive in town, though you will not find a lobster below $25 at any full service. And yes, they are this tiny everywhere, and most not quite as good.
Sushi at Lobster Place – Its my go to place for Chirashi bowl. I also buy Salmon burgers here to grill later.
Halvah from See & Mill – Especially for those who never had Halvah. Try it with their ice cream as well
Cherry pie at Sarabeth’s bakery. A classic!
Gelato at L’Arte del Gelato – Or for something a little more interesting, explore the High Line and area head to Gelato Giusto on 9th. Owner Lorenzo from Milan is like a sorbet wizard but knows his Gelato as well