They’re loud, packed and upscale. From Midtown to Downtown, “food halls” are filling vast commercial spaces with fast food at sit-down prices. It’s a somewhat surprising phenomenon. The idea of paying for “gourmet” Chinese takeaway in a glorified shopping mall food court doesn’t necessarily seem like something that would appeal to hardcore foodies. Nevertheless, they are a resounding hit. And it probably helps that they are almost all backed by celebrity chefs.
“The way people eat has changed,” Anthony Bourdain told the New York Times. “They want to be at counters and communal tables. They want heat and funk and chicken wings that set their hair on fire. They’re as quick to brag about the greatest $3 bowl of laksa as a dinner at Ducasse. That’s what I want to create for New York, some place where I would want to eat. Right now, there is nothing like that.”
Here is a look at nine of Manhattan’s food halls.
1. Le District/ Hudson Eats
Hudson Eats is literally a shopping mall food court. It is inside Brookfield Place – a shopping mall adjacent to the World Trade Center. But the lack of pretense isn’t a point against it. There is a nice mix of eateries – including Umami Burger, Tartinery, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Black Seed, Little Muenster, Skinny Pizza, Dig Inn, Sprinkles, Olive’s, Chop’t, Dos Toros, Mighty Quinn’s, Num Pang, Northern Tiger, Financier Patisserie, P.J. Clarke’s, and Parm — in an airy atrium. It’s a pretty pleasant place to sit, have lunch and read the Financial Times.
If you are looking for something far more pretentious and upscale Le District is where you want to be. The 25,000-square-foot French inspired marketplace has it all: cheese, chacuterie, macrons and pates. This is where you come when you want a fairly good Burgundy and a plate of foie gras for lunch. LLNYC reviewed it with a Parisian here.
2. The Pennsy at Pennsylvania Plaza
The very idea of going inside of Penn Station is anathema to a having a pleasant day. But celebrity chef Mario Batali is hoping he can convince you otherwise.
Batali is taking over the former Borders bookstore at 2 Penn Plaza. Chef Franklin Becker’s The Little Beet is also opening a new location in the plaza; as is chef Marc Forgione’s Lobster Press.
A vegan food truck called, The Cinnamon Snail, is opening its first brick-and-mortar outlet here as well.
As far as the vibe goes, think communal tables and the same drunk sports that have always called this godforsaken part of Manhattan home.
3. Gotham West Market
Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen
This one has been around since 2013. It houses a Uma Temakeria, Indie Fresh, Ample Hills Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee, The Cannibal, El Colmado, Genuine Roadside, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, Choza Taqueria and Evelyn’s Kitchen.
Neighborhood: Flatiron District
Mario Batali’s famed upscale Italian marketplace is perpetually crowed and amazingly noisy. Still, the food is mostly fantastic and the market stocks many Italian products available almost nowhere else, e.g., cuttlefish ink. It’s great if you don’t mind the tourists.
5. The Plaza Food Hall
This is perhaps the most distinguished of the food halls. It’s backed by Todd English and beautifully decorated. The countertops are marble, the metalwork is copper-colored and the sub sandwiches cost $14. It is often slammed and finding a table can be difficult, which is unfortunate because it isn’t a bad place to sit for half an hour.
6. Gansevoort Market
Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
This one is an airy, 8,000-square-foot market with a laidback vibe. It houses a Bangkok Bar, The BRUFFIN Cafe, Cappone’s Salumeria, Champion Coffee, Crepe Sucre French crêpe bar, Dana’s Bakery, Sushi Dojo Express, Donostia, Ed’s Lobster Bar, feelfood, Flower Girl NYC, Heermance Farm, Il Conte Italian Pasta, Luzzo’s Pizza, Meatball Guys, Meyers of Keswick, Mission Ceviche, M’o Il Gelato, M Terranean, Organic Gemini, Palenque, Tacombi Tacos, tease NYC, and Yiaourti.
7. City Kitchen
Neighborhood: Times Square
This is one of the smaller of the food halls, but it is big on design. The space has an industrial feel with white subway tile, steel and leather stools, reclaimed wood, marble countertops and Italian glass chandeliers. It showcases nine gourmet vendors including Luke’s, Dough, Azuki, Whitmans, Sigmund’s Pretzels, Kuro Obi, Gabriela’s and Ilili Box.
8. Bourdain Market
Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
“Anthony Bourdain is building his Xanadu at Pier 57 in the Meatpacking district, a restaurant complex as massive and loud as his personality,” The Real Deal wrote at the announcement of the forthcoming food court.
The a 155,000-square foot, 100-stall global culinary smorgasbord is currently under construction but promises to be one of the most popular – and largest — food hall options. Bourdain has described it as an Asian night market.”
9. Grand Central
Star chef Claus Meyer is opening a 16,000-square-foot, Nordic-themed culinary haven in Grand Central Station. Gunnar Gíslason, the chef behind Dill in Reykjavík will be heading up the kitchen. Besides grab-and-go fare, the space will include a “100-seat Nordic brasserie.”