Just when you thought food courts couldn’t get more uncomfortable, along comes Turnstyle. To begin with, the place is rather difficult to find. Cartographically, it’s located on an exit tunnel that runs south from the downtown end of the A, B, C, and D platforms at Columbus Circle, to the corner of 57th Street and 8th Avenue. Try to get to Turnstyle from the 1 train, and you’ve got quite a hike, following ditzy little cartoons of food up and down stairways and along crowded platforms. Sometimes the trail blazes disappear entirely. The most obvious and direct entrance is via an outdoor elevator at 59th Street and 8th Avenue.
Turnstyle itself is a linear shopping mall made up of shallow spaces that flank a hallway bisected down the center with further carts and counter businesses. There are 38 establishments in total, of which 20 vend food, candy, and coffee. While other food courts are similarly crowded and have inadequate seating, Turnstyle carries that deficiency further than ever before. Many of the stalls offer no seating at all; others have just a table or two, or a few narrow standing positions. About 10 more customers can also belly up to a pair of colorful tile counters on the south end of the tunnel. But when a train disgorges and rush-hour passengers come running down the hallway in search of an exit, watch out!
Yet, if you forage successfully there are some culinary gems to be had among the 16 prepared-food stalls currently open. Here are the seven best things I ate in four days of grazing Turnstyle at various times of the day, followed by a directory of the stalls that provide food and coffee.
BEST THINGS TO EAT
1. Beef Saltena at Bolivian Llama Party — This Andean pastry with a handsome braided spine is a species of empanada — despite protests to the contrary — loaded with big chunks of beef and boiled eggs in a thick gravy. Two would make a meal. Wash them down with maracuya, a passion-fruit lemonade. $6
2. Tex-Mex Slice at The Pizza — Uber-cheesy, with a slightly thicker than usual crust dotted with serious jalapeños and black-olive slices, and irrationally finished with squiggle of honey, the Tex-Mex slice verges on wonderful. But they should hand out wet-naps due to stickiness. $3.50
3. Key Lime Tart at Georgia & Aliou’s — Topped with a fresh raspberry and a few slivers of lemon zest, the yellow pastry looks like a beach scene if you squint your eyes. It’s every bit as tart and rich as you hoped, made for nibbling rather than biting. $5.50
4. Somerset at MeltKraft — This is perhaps the most doctrinaire of MeltKraft’s sandwiches, a good dose of gruyere oozing out the edges of a grilled sandwich, flavored with a thin slice of ham, cornichons, and grainy mustard. Yum! $8.99
5. Smoked Egg Salad Sandwich at Ellary’s Greens — Vegetarians take note: The smoked egg salad sandwich at Ellary’s Greens delivers much the same barbecue power as a slice of smoked brisket, with chopped kale adding to the textural terrain. $8
6. Avellino Focaccia Sandwich at Casa Toscana — The house-baked focaccia (sometimes known as pizza bianca) is thin and slightly crisp, and on it is piled mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, making for a simple and delicious sandwich, the way they do it in Italy. $9
7. Chocolate Fudge Brownie at Greyston Bakery — Wrapped for mass distribution, there’s no freshly made glamour attached to this brownie, but it’s rich and fudgie, and not at all cakey, and the price is right. $2
DIRECTORY OF FOOD AND COFFEE STALLS AT TURNSTYLE
Moving from north (Columbus Circle) to south (57th Street):
Dylan’s Candy Bar — Multi-branch chain sells many kinds of candy by weight, including chocolates and gummy things, along with branded fashion accessories. Seating: none
Starbucks — You know, the coffee chain. Seating: none
Fika — Swedish coffee chain with a glassed-in premises offering Scandinavian-style sandwiches, wraps, and pastries. Seating: many tables and two counters, totaling 22 seats, with Wi-Fi.
Gastronomie 491 — Gourmet grocery with café (not open yet)
By Suzette — New York mini-chain offers sweet and savory crepes (not open yet)
Georgia & Aliou’s — Coffee from Stumptown and a selection of sandwiches and pastries, including miniature and full-size cakes and tarts. Seating: none
Pressed Juicery — Juice in plastic bottles from a California chain, some of it with health claims attached. Seating: none
Nutbox — Brooklyn chain specializing in nuts and dried fruit. Seating: none
Blossom du Jour — Strictly vegan carryout with burgers, wraps, bowls, melts, and salads, plus dessert items. Seating: none
Doughnuttery — Tiny doughnuts, six for a dollar, recently made in a vat of boiling fat right on the counter, with a choice of flavored toppings in 28 permutations. Seating: none
Greyston Bakery — A small counter in the center selling pastries and cookies to promote charitable enterprises, founded in Yonkers in 1982. Seating: none
Yong Kang Street — Steamed dumplings and pre-made sushi via a Las Vegas chain, made to look like a sushi bar, though no freshly made sushi is available. Seating: Three tables and one counter, totaling 12 seats
Bosie Patisserie — Offshoot of a Greenwich Village tea parlor, offering French pastries, tea, and Toby’s Estate coffee. Seating: one table and one counter with five seats
MeltKraft — Toasted cheese sandwiches from New Jersey’s Valley Shepherd Creamery, some of them just strange and others strangely wonderful. Milkshakes available. Seating: none
Bolivian Llama Party — This six-month Turnstyle pop-up originated at Smorgasburg, and is the most exciting stall in the food court, offering sandwiches and turnovers with an Andean flair. Seating: three standing counter positions.
Casa Toscana — Sandwiches on pizza bianca stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto, smoked salmon, arugula, tomatoes, and the like. Seating: five tables with 10 seats
Ellary’s Greens — Natural foods cafe with bento boxes, paninis, rotisserie chickens, and egg and tofu breakfasts. Seating: four raised tables with six stools
The Pizza — Spawned by a small pizzeria under the Brooklyn Bridge, the idiosyncratic pies and slices here are thin-crusted and sport lots of cheese. Seating: none
2 Beans — Coffee bar also offering chocolate (not open yet)
Semsom Eatery — Lebanese sit-down restaurant specializing in hummus (not open yet)