There has been a recent boom in NYC of something known as a Food Hall. What is it? In reality, it’s just a glorified Food Court. There is an abundance of just about everything in NYC, with the exception of one very important thing: space. Because of the lack of space, our malls simply can’t fit food courts. So instead, we rename them Food Halls, jack up the prices, and invite only the hippest and hottest vendors to join. But what should you eat when there’s so many to choose from? I recently took on the painstaking task of travelling around these places and sampling the goodies that were there: you have to make sacrifices for your craft. Below is an overview of a few places I would recommend and some that were a bit disappointing.
This was my first time trying ceviche and I wasn’t expecting anything more exciting than a typical raw fish dish, but I was blown away. There is such an array of flavors, textures, and colors on your plate, it’s sure to satisfy all your senses. I had the Seafood Mixto with avocado mousse. For added crunch, it was topped with red onions, and incan popcorn (which reminded me of roasted chickpeas). The “tiger’s milk” traditional ceviche is dressed was surprisingly mild in acidity. It was one of the pricier dishes, but I got a decent sized portion. It was the perfect chilled meal for a hot summer day.
Scroll to the bottom to read a funny and utterly mortifying story about what happened at Gansevoort Market the day I visited.
Fruity Pebbles Croissant at Union Fare, $5.50
These croissants are legendary. They weigh about the size of a brick and that’s because they are stuffed with a delicious lemony custard cream. I didn’t think anything could make croissants taste better, but stuff them with cream, sprinkle them with fruity pebbles, and top with additional cream glaze and you’ll never go back. It’s not easy keeping a clean face when scarfing down one of these bad boys. Though the rest of Union Fare was disappointing, the croissants are definitely worth a trip. They change up their flavors daily, and some include Red Velvet and Matcha.
If you haven’t heard of a bing this is the time to get yourself acquainted. A jianbing known simply as a bing is a Northern Chinese street crepe stuffed with whatever you please. Thankfully, you don’t have to think too hard because the folks at Mr. Bing have an array of stacked flavors for you to choose from. My personal favorite was the drunken chicken—dark meat marinated in Shaoxing wine sauce (get it? wine? drunk?). You start with soft and juicy chicken, then you have creamy scrambled eggs, the crepe itself has a tiny bit of crunch, but the (figurative) cherry on top is the crunchy wontons stuffed inside. In one bite, you get a blast of flavor and texture. The item comes with other add ins such as scallions, hoisin sauce, sesame seeds, and cilantro.
*Please check times and dates before going. As this is an outdoor market, availability depends on the time of the year.
I have to admit that my favorite food on the planet is fried chicken. I would eat it all day, every day and if it had no effect on my waistline, I totally would. But unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect, but sometimes you just have to go for it. The fried chicken sandwich at Wilma Jean (a traditionally southern restaurant) combines the pizzazz of an Asian scallion pancake to create a truly unforgettable sandwich. The fried chicken thighs (the best juiciest part) is rolled into the pancake and combined with traditional banh mi ingredients: pickled daikon and carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro. From the southern side, it comes with honey you can drizzle on top to create a salty sweet blast of flavor. This sandwich will surely be the measure for all future fried chicken sandwiches to come.
This Bit the Dust!
The Smorrebrod at Open Rye in the Great Northern Food Hall, $16 ($8 per sandwich)
It’s strange to think that certain foods are not represented enough within the scope of the NYC food scene, but apparently Nordic is one of them. This was the inspiration behind the chef that brought the Great Northern Food Hall to Grand Central Station. Having grown up eating cured meats and fish, I was interested in trying the flavor combination in the Smorrebrod. The Smorrebrod is an open faced sandwich served at Open Rye within the GNFH. The sandwich itself is tiny and not nearly enough to satisfy for the $8 price tag. Maybe it’ll suit your 7 year old child?
The flavors are solid. The pickled herring and smoked salmon (two different sandwiches) were fresh and the other toppings served for a great combination. I wish I could give better details about what was on the sandwich itself, but I can’t remember, because it took all of 4 bites to scarf it down. There was something sweet, something creamy, and something crunchy (the website doesn’t provide a menu, boo). The rye bread was hard in texture, and it’s not my personal preference, but it makes sense considering you need a strong bread to hold up the heavy ingredients. The reason I would suggest to skip this is because it seems like a novelty rather than a full meal. You’ll still be hungry, you’ll have spent a lot of money, and if you had just taken the B train to Brighton Beach, you could’ve gotten herring, bread, and toppings all for the same price.
What Happened at Gansevoort Market?
At Gansevoort Market, I sat at the nearby table with my ceviche in front of me and my bottle of chilled apple cider to my immediate right. I picked up the bottle and emptied the contents into a cup. Just as I was about the place the cap on the empty bottle, it fell out of my hand and shot across the table into the lovely woman sitting across from me (they have picnic tables in the seating area). I apologized profusely, then grabbed some tissues to wipe up. Thankfully, there were just drops, nothing major. We both moved on to our food and minded our own business.
Towards the end, I picked up my cup just about ready to top off my cider, when the cup slipped out of my hand and spilled right near the same woman and her lunch date. I was mortified. Thankfully, there wasn’t much left in the cup, but I wiped up whatever was. I turned to my friend and begged her to get our things and leave as being there was making me more nervous that something else would happen. I even offered to reimburse them for their lunch, which they thanked me for but declined.
I felt so bad about ruining these poor women’s lunch that I went over to Dana’s Bakery (also in Gansevoort Market) and picked up a pack of 6 macarons to offer to them for dessert. It was beautifully packed into a clear plastic box with a bow on it. I returned to my friend and these beleaguered women and was just about to put the box of macarons on the table and opened my mouth to offer it to them when I missed the table anddropped it on the floor. Thankfully, the box was enclosed but the beautiful macarons were crushed because of the force. They accepted reluctantly and I apologized once more for ruining their meal. I then turned to my friend, and said “let’s get the fuck out of here.”
The rest of the day was uneventful.