Chelsea Market is a repurposed-real estate, mega-success story. What began life as a nineteenth-century cookie factory has become a go-to destination for all kinds of deliciousness, a haven for discriminating foodies and their hungry friends.
At its height, the factory produced Oreos, Saltines, Fig Newtons, Mallomars, and Vanilla Wafers. By the late 1950s, the National Biscuit Company (aka Nabisco) had moved operations to New Jersey, and the complex, the length and width of a city block, was alternately used and abandoned by various industries. Today technology and entertainment companies inhabit the top floors, while the ground level has been remade into a retail emporium. The High Line — an elevated park built on a disused rail line —runs over the west side of the building, making Chelsea Market a great place to chow down before a scenic stroll. Read on for our list of can’t-misses.
Continuing the building’s tradition, Amy’s Bread bakes many goodies on site, including focaccia, loafs, and their signature semolina with golden raisins and fennel. Huge windows let you see the bakers at work — and we do mean work. Everything here, from the measuring to the rolling, is done by hand.
Occupying a space so small it makes Manhattan apartments look palatial, Lucy’s Whey makes the most of its real estate by offering an extremely well-curated selection of American farmstead cheeses, a perfect accompaniment to a fresh loaf from Amy’s. Don’t worry if you don’t know your raw cow’s milk washed rind Hudson Red from your pasteurized goat’s milk tomme: the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and they let you try little nibbles.
Close to Lucy’s Whey are several worthy stops, such as Jacques Torres Chocolates and People’s Pops; visitors who make it past these (terrific, worthwhile) distractions will be rewarded with Bar Suzette, a creperie that traffics in both the sweet and savory varieties. Check the daily selections via its Twitter feed (Bar_Suzette), which often include mouthwatering options like duck mousse paté with blackberries or truffled hummus.
While there are a handful of sit-down places inside the market, none is as easy to miss as The Green Table. It’s small, it’s low lit, it’s tucked into a corner, with just a wooden table and small sign to announce its presence. This restaurant saves the hoopla for the rustic, slow food. The menu changes daily but always offers organic, sustainable American fare like chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” quipped economist Milton Friedman. The restaurant that bears his name, Friedman’s Lunch, serves more than lunch. Not surprisingly, it charges. Luckily, its locally sourced, updated American fare, such as a balsamic grilled chicken sandwich, watermelon gazpacho, or BLAT (a BLT plus avocado), is worth paying for. Grab a seat at the high communal table, beneath artfully exposed lights and vintage wallpaper. We also like that Friedman’s lets a tiny outpost of Guss’ Pickles, serving full or half sours, operate in front of its takeaway counter.
The Twitter handle for Dickson’s Farm Stand is “EatMeaty,” which gives you a sense of the prevailing philosophy at this place. Carnivores rejoice! Though Dickson’s primary identity is as a butcher shop selling choice artisanal cuts of beef, goat, lamb, and poultry, savvy eaters have discovered that at lunchtime they have a rotating selection of delicious sandwiches, such as salt and pepper sausage with kimchee or the Dickson Dip roast beef.
Like Dickson’s, Ronnybrook Dairy mostly serves a neighborhood purpose, retailing delicious milk (in glass bottles!) from the family’s herd of Holstein cows about two hours outside of the city. But that’s no reason for visitors to miss out. Pull up a stool at the counter and order a milkshake, drinkable yogurt, or dish of ice cream. They serve cooked food as well, but when the milkshakes are this thick and creamy, why waste the calories?
At Fat Witch Bakery, chocolate rules. Sure, you could go with the standard Fat Witch, a moist hunk of brownie, but we tend to gravitate toward the unusual flavors. The Java Witch gets a boost from cappuccino chocolate chips, while the Caramel Witch has a layer of golden goo running through the center. Each brownie’s label clearly lists the familiar, pronounceable ingredients. Best of all, after 5 pm on most days, the full sizes and mini “Witch Babies” are half off.
As you make your way from east to west through the market, the last stand you’ll encounter is one of the most crowded — L’Arte del Gelato. The traditional flavors are nice, but we prefer the more authentically Italian and seasonal creations, such as marscapone or gianduia with hazelnuts.
Note: the few tables that line the Chelsea Market concourse get snatched up quickly. (Also, as anyone who’s ever spent time in a food court knows, it’s not always easy or fun to eat while shoppers are rushing past.) Take your treats to go, exit onto Tenth Avenue, and either eat in the small park across the street, with its views of the Hudson, or make your way up to the High Line, where there are tables in the covered plaza between 13th and 14th Streets.
Chelsea Market is located at 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets), close to The Standard and Hotel Gansevoort. The market is open Monday–Friday, 7 am–9 pm, Saturday, 7 am–7 pm, and Sunday, 8 am–6 pm, although individual restaurants and shops might have their own hours. Check their websites for details.
–Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler of We Heart New York
[Photo credit: Flickr/gsz (Garrett Ziegler)]
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