Gansevoort Market has had a hard time of it. When it opened in MePa in October 2014, the food court was only partially tenanted, with several stalls remaining in the build-out stages. Still, with the High Line and the Whitney just down the block, the location was ideal.
Its character was distinctive for a food court: art on bare brick walls, lots of relaxed seating under a skylight, and quirky vendors specializing in things like Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, tacos slung from a VW bus, Spanish tapas, and sushi tendered by a well-regarded East Village sushi chef. Soon, the tourists poured in.
But trouble loomed on the horizon. By the next summer rumors were already circulating that the space would be the new home of Keith McNally’s Pastis, and by early 2016, the food court was kaput, after barely a year of operation.
Around Memorial Day 2016, it reopened on 14th Street near the corner of Ninth Avenue, retaining some of its old vendors, and adding a few new ones. But the new location was perhaps not so fortunate — Chelsea Market, the city’s biggest and best food court, was scarcely a block away.
While the new place retained much of the character of the old, there’s been turnover in the stalls, and four out of 24 remain empty, while others jockey to hone their menus. A cart selling jarred meals has been pushed out onto the sidewalk, along with chalked signage and other come-ons. Yet, the crowds can still be spotty. Even though seasoned tenants like the Meatball Guys, Luke’s Lobster, and Manhattan Chili Co. have moved out, others with novel concepts have recently moved in, including Chick ‘n Cone (selling flavored fried-chicken tidbits in sugar cones), boutique omakase Bou Sushi, and the soon-to-open Skinny’s Satay.
A week of grazing around the market demonstrated that, despite its ups and downs, there are great things to be eaten there. Here are our favorite six (though as with all food courts, the prices seem high).
Aji de Gallina at Mission Ceviche — Lines form at this popular purveyor of Peruvian ceviches, which are perfectly fine, though the proportion of fish to extraneous ingredients will remind you more of poke than ceviche. However, there’s also a short list of Peruvian staples, including the wonderful aji de gallina, a dish usually featuring an old hen cooked in a cheesy chile sauce as a sort of Andean chicken pot pie. Absolutely delicious, and spicier than other versions in town. $12.75
Marrow Burger at Burger, Inc. NYC — Normally, burger stalls in food courts are lackluster, overcooking graying pucks of meat that bounce if you drop them. Though this counter doesn’t look that great, the burgers are way better than they need to be — and cooked to order. In fact, the marrow burger is something of an instant classic, with a nice layer of gooey marrow on top helped along by a slice of white American cheese. $15.99
Pastrami Taco at Taco Delicatessen — Three roasted fillings are on display each day, including choices like pork belly, roast chicken, lamb barbacoa, and pork al pastor. Our favorite, and the one that rewrites the rule book on tacos, is the pastrami taco. It’s made with a smoky, pink, and briny beef brisket garnished with raw onions, cilantro, and pickled mustard seeds. $5.50
Summer Squash Empanada at La Sonrisa — Every day eight or so small empanadas are available at La Sonrisa, including ones featuring ground beef, ham and cheese, and mushroom, all with crisp fried pastries engagingly dusted with salt. Our favorite, however, a regular special, comes stuffed with cubed zucchini, which tumbles out when you take the first delicious bite. $3.75
Eggplant Parm Slider at Hold My Knots — This unusual concept (sliders made with garlic knots) seems made for a food court, a viand that may be eaten as an impulse snack, or ganged up to make a meal. We were initially skeptical, but the eggplant parm slider won us over. Glistening with oil and dusted with cheese, the pizzeria-style garlic knot makes a perfect platform for fillings, including this conventional take on eggplant parm. $4.50
Spicy Chicken Basil at Bangkok Bar — Despite its location in a Chelsea food court, this counter manages to convey the vibe of sitting in a street vendor’s stall in Southeast Asia. The spicy chicken basil is just what the name implies — a piquant toss of garlic, herbs, chiles, and ground poultry, searingly hot and served over rice. Pay extra for the fried egg, providing crispness and further goo. $12 (without egg), $14 (with egg).