To call New York City a foodie destination is an understatement. From hand-pulled Malaysian coffee on Canal Street to wood-fired pizzas at Roberta’s in Bushwick, the city has nearly every local, artisanal, and indulgent dining trend on lock. However, even in a city that’s built on an aesthetics of surplus, it can sometimes seem like good things, too, have their limits.
As we enjoy our summer wandering the city's streets, one trend that’s recently caught our eye is the sheer number of food halls cropping up across the boroughs. According to Caroline Peck at NYC & Company, food halls are tailor-made for New York’s hyper-diverse population. “The variety of options make food halls a great resource for visitors and locals alike,” she tells us. “From popping up in undeveloped areas like a subway station to new developments like Brookfield Place and Pier 57, food halls have quickly become a mainstay in the dining capital of the world.”
So will the trend be going anywhere soon? Don’t count on it. “New food halls, in particular, play an integral role in the ‘new’ New York City because they provide innovative and trendy offerings,” Peck says. And with recent openings like Great Northern Food Hall in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal, we’re glad that the city’s food halls keep finding ever cooler places to call home. Check out this list of five of our favorites for the next time you’re in town.
1. Great Northern Food Hall
For New Yorkers, Grand Central Terminal means the Apple Store and getting out of town on the weekends. For tourists, though, Grand Central is a must-see destination in its own right. With its photo-ready Beaux-Arts interiors -- and New York-style hustle and bustle -- camera-wielding tourists are a common sight at this NYC landmark.
Grand Central is also now home to one of the city’s most-hyped food hall openings of 2016. The Great Northern Food Hall is the brainchild of Claus Meyer -- co-founder of Copenhagen’s famous Noma restaurant, and a leader in New Nordic cuisine. Meyer tells us that Grand Central’s historic status and importance in NYC’s everyday life was a major reason for choosing the venue. “Grand Central Terminal is one of the greatest public spaces in America,” he says. “My goal for Great Northern Food Hall is to participate in the democratic nature of the space by offering an approachable menu that everyone can enjoy. The offerings reflect my heritage and culinary roots, but are meant to be experienced in a way that everyone can enjoy and understand.”
This 5,000-square-foot space includes five separate areas and a bar, and the emphasis here -- like Meyer's Noma -- is on all things local. The smorrebrod -- traditional Danish open-face sandwiches topped with all manner of fresh ingredients -- are the star of the show, though the house-roasted coffee makes a fine afternoon pick-me-up as well.
Nearby Hotel Pick: The Library Hotel is one of our favorite boutique properties in NYC, and it’s just a block away from Grand Central. Decor is simultaneously classic and trendy, and its 60-room size keeps things feeling intimate in a part of town where that’s not always the case.
Now a year-round, multi-venue culinary event, Smorgasburg feels like it’s going worldwide, with branches at New York's touristy South Street Seaport and one in downtown L.A. (not to mention its winter home at Brooklyn Flea in Industry City). However, we still like the Williamsburg “original” the best. After all, with stunning skyline views of Manhattan across the East River, everything tastes that much better.
Thankfully, deliciousness runs no shortage at Smorgasburg. Offerings change from season to season, though recent options include burgers sandwiched between crispy-chewy ramen noodles from Ramen Burger, traditional jianbing from China’s Sichuan province, fanciful Hong Kong-style waffles from Wowfulls, and savory dosas at Dosa Royale. This is to say nothing of all of the locally sourced sweets, twee goods in mason jars, and more recognizable dishes like pizza and doughnuts.
Nearby Hotel Pick: One of the first hotels to open in Williamsburg, the Wythe Hotel still embodies all things hip and chic, much like the neighborhood it calls home. The Wythe has destination status -- it includes a popular restaurant and bar -- and is only a five-minute walk from Smorgasburg. The interiors are edgy enough, but refined, with and old-meets-new style that includes original details like brick walls and wooden ceilings.
3. Gotham West Market
In a part of the city that most locals once ignored -- except on their way to the parks along the Hudson River -- Gotham West Market has put western Hell’s Kitchen firmly on the foodie radar. While we love the free Wi-Fi and buzzy vibe -- as well as the killer hand-poured coffee at Oakland-by-way-of-Manhattan import Blue Bottle -- the dining scene here is the real draw.
Almost every vendor on-site has a storied place in the city’s culinary pantheon, from the slurp-worthy noodles at Ivan Ramen to the city’s most revered ice cream shop, Ample Hills. There’s also nose-to-tail plates of all kinds at The Cannibal, authentic tapas at El Colmado, and excellent tacos at Choza Taqueria. The walls of windows onto the city’s busy streets make people watching a key activity here. In warm weather, the street-side vendors like El Colmado throw open their windows to Eleventh Avenue for indoor-outdoor dining. The market makes a particularly smart stopover on the way from tourist haunts like the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to a show on Broadway.
Nearby Hotel Pick: TRYP New York City Times Square South has rates that can be a relative bargain, especially considering its Midtown address (though, admittedly, the immediate block is by no means charming). Interiors are modern and clean, with bigger rooms than many competitors, and it’s only a 15-minute walk to Gotham West or Times Square.
Beer is the star of the show here -- with over 84 varieties to choose from in cans, bottles, and on draft -- but food is a big deal at this Crown Heights establishment as well. Given the boozy inclinations, it’s perhaps no surprise that the eats skew meaty and rich. The vendors on-site -- Mighty Quinn’s, Lumpia Shack, and El Meat Hook -- all churn out satisfying plates to sop up those craft brews.
Open all day -- but especially lively at night and during brunch -- this spot was christened by the owners of Smorgasburg in 2014 and it’s high on the list of locals-only joints in ever-trendy Brooklyn. The surrounding Crown Heights neighborhood is pretty far off the tourist map for most visitors to NYC, but is one of the city’s current “it” neighborhoods, with a vibrant mix of cultures packed in along its streets. The food at Berg’n has an equally delightful blended flair, from Filipino at Lumpia Shack (which also serves some of the few veggie-friendly dishes at the food hall) to down-home barbecue at Mighty Quinn’s.
Nearby Hotel Pick: Crown Heights isn’t exactly packed with hotels, so head to downtown Brooklyn to sleep. Aloft New York Brooklyn is bright, cheerful, and contemporary, and sits right by several major subway lines. It’s a five-minute walk to quaint Fort Greene and a 10-minute walk to equally charming Cobble Hill. Berg’n is about 20 minutes east via the subway.
5. Chelsea Market
Okay, so this technically isn’t a food hall -- it’s a collection of shops, sit-down restaurants, walk-up counters, and mini-food courts that are all strung about the ground floor of a 19th-century former industrial bakery. Bordering the city’s trendy Meatpacking District, Chelsea’s Gallery District, and the High Line, this destination isn’t exactly a secret. There will be crowds. You will have to take deep, healing breaths -- but it’s all worth it.
Plenty of the city’s foodie-est of spots call Chelsea Market home, including Num Pang Sandwich shop -- which serves wildly popular banh mi -- and BeyondSushi, which offers creative vegan rolls. It doesn’t end there, though, and you'll find plenty to sample in the block-long establishment, including fusion tacos, crepes, and lobster rolls, plus high-end dining at Buddakan and handmade pastas at Rana.
Nearby Hotel Pick: In the ever-cutting-edge Gallery District, why not kick back in historic style? The High Line Hotel is a boutique gem that’s less than a 10-minute walk from the Chelsea Market. This quaint property lives on the site of a still-working 19th-century seminary, and is home to an excellent coffee shop as well as 60 throwback-chic rooms.