Gansevoort Market — MePa's new enclosed food court — was exceedingly slow to get off the ground. Even now several stalls remain untenanted, and a butcher shop and pasta counter are in the midst of their picayune build-outs. Why the lax attitude? Autumn days are dwindling, and soon sojourning to this obscure location through the snow and slush will be more of a challenge.
The place has a three-aisled brick interior, with a dining area tucked into one corner, featuring mismatched tables of every size and height illuminated by some strategically placed skylights. There are a pair of serviceable bathrooms so you don't have to hold it during or after your meal, and an interesting mix of snacks, main courses, desserts, and just plain green-market groceries among the counters. You've probably heard of some of the vendors before.
I rode my bike and binged at lunch four days in a row, selecting the best-looking offerings, and keeping track of what other diners around me seemed to be enjoying. All the food wasn't great, but much of it was quite good, with notable exceptions. Here are the results, in alphabetical order.
Naturally, upon first entering, The Bruffin beckoned. What's a Bruffin? In envy of the mighty Cronut, it's a cross between a muffin and a brioche, with a savory or sweet filling. Part of the gimmick is an international theme, with country-appropriate stuffings for each of the bruffins. One of the selections that day was the Moroccan, which contained merguez sausage, ratatouille tajine (huh?), and jben — a ricotta-like cheese. The only problem was that there was no discernible eggplant in the filling, just a gray paste in a very greasy interior.
Maybe making gangster Al Capone turn over in his grave as a result of misspelling his name, Cappone's Salumeria is an Italian sandwich shop that lurks against the rear wall of the complex. It is also one of the stalls that consistently draws a line of customers. You might have expected the sandwiches to be a bit boring, but nothing of the sort! The cold cuts (no hot heroes) are good quality, the bread solid and offering a choice of several loaves. Shown is the Gallo ($9). Featuring mortadella, caponata, and provolone, it does a pretty good imitation of a New Orleans muffaletta.
Dressed in a bowler hat and looking vaguely Victorian, the cook at Crepe Sucre twirls his little rod to spread out the batter as onlookers gawk in appreciation. The crepes are good, priced around $8 each, but one wonders why all the selections are sweet. The flavors are sharp, the crepes perfectly executed, but with little density in the filling, making them suitable for a light snack, but not a meal.
Accolades all around have been garnered for new-wave East Village Japanese sushi joint Dojo, so now a small branch appears at Gansevoort, dispensing only three set sushi meals, including three rolls, a sushi assortment (shown, $24), and churashi, in addition to a la carte selections by the piece. Unfortunately, the sushi assortment proved lackluster in terms of the freshness of the fish. Maybe it never occurred to the management that, with the volume of customers low at the start, maybe they'd have to throw some things out.
The Tompkins Square Basque tapas bar Donostia has a stall, too, with a marble counter where you can sit and watch the action, if you'd prefer not to be in the common dining area. The offerings are nearly the same as the East Village branch, though maybe not so profuse as far as selection is concerned. Filled with creamed spinach and leeks, the tortilla sandwich ($10) is a highlight. Unfortunately, until the entire food court secures its liquor license, you won't be able to wash your tapas down with sherry or cider.
The hot dog bun that Ed's Lobster roll comes on is toasted and nicely buttered, and - even though the roll is a little shorter than it should be at $18 - the lobster meat is abundant within those confines. Still, if the lobster salad hadn't been premade in quantity and pulled straight from the refrigerator ice cold in portion-control sizes, and instead had been served at room temperature and freshly made, it would have been much better. Plenty of other stuff on the menu, too, including excellent raw oysters and clams - in this case, freshly opened.
Feel Food is one of those touchy-feely places where one is admonished to do good things for your body by eating a lunch of - salad. Despite the awful name, this one is better than most, though as with all this new generation of salad bars, trying to invent your own salad as you are urged to do from an impossibly long list of ingredients proves a little too much effort. Accordingly, most patrons seem to order the pre-sets, as with this Hearty Veggie Salad ($10) to which a fig-heavy tapenade has been added. Not sure what figs are doing in a tapenade, are they less expensive than olives?
The bakery called Gansevoort Bakery is all over the map as far as baked goods go, including French pastries, Greek pastries, a half dozen types of bread, Italian pastries, cookies, donuts, etc., etc., all displayed in a postage-stamp-size space. I picked a crème brulee — naturally, they didn't flame it to order, but it was tasty anyway.
Right inside the front door is a pizza counter from East Village mainstay Luzzo's, with a red-tiled beehive oven as its focus. Priced at $8, the pies are small but delectable, done in the retro-Neapolitan style with a plain tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, and lots of char. No other pie toppings available during the early days, but still a good choice for a light lunch.
The pulled pork sandwich at Pig Guy NYC looked way too saturated with thick sweet barbecue sauce, so went instead for the so-called chorizo dog ($7), which tasted more like a smoked kielbasa. Not bad, though the link was flecked with melted provolone, which seems an odd choice of cheese for something called a chorizo dog. Filled myself up with a cup of very nice potato salad.
Parked at the deep end of the room is another of Tacombi's Volkswagen mini-buses, with taco supplies stacked in the front windshield, and a couple of guys poking out the top. In addition to guacamole and chips, only four mini-tacos are offered, priced at $4 each - which is a little steep. Luckily, they're overloaded with fillings (pollo, carnitas, picadillo, or maiz y poblano, the vegetarian choice). The picadillo - soupy ground beef - was a surprise favorite, washed down with a Jarritos soda. Still, you'd have to blow $20, including beverage and tax, for a satisfying meal.
It was inevitable that someone would come up with the idea of a Greek-style yogurt bar, and the result is the unpronounceable Yiaourti, which boasts four vowels in a row — quite an orthographic feat! The shallow plastic cup of cultured and thickened milk product allows you to select a single topping, and pay extra for each additional, resulting in a tariff of $7.50 for the bowl shown, covered with quince preserves, blueberries, and pistachios. It was delicious!
52 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District.