The next phase of the Lower East Side’s biggest new development in years is here. Starting Friday, the flagship food hall and market at Essex Crossing — the $1.9 billion, decade-long project spearheaded and shaped by the city — will open its first 30 vendors.
Called the Market Line, the underground space is host to a slew of high profile new projects.
The team behind Wildair and Michelin-starred Contra is opening a natural wine store and accompanying bar here called Peoples. A longtime, family-owned seafood purveyor that’s worked with restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Le Bernardin is opening its first restaurant, a celebration of fresh seafood called Essex Pearl. And one of D.C.’s most revered restaurant groups will make its New York debut here, in the biggest space in the market. The Grand Delancey will focus on beer, with 50 craft beers on tap.
It’s just the first portion of the Market Line to open; in the next few years, additional vendors will make debuts as well. Once completed, the building at Essex and Delancey will host a total of 140 vendors, encompassing the Market Line and the new location of the historic Essex Market, which opened in May.
The Times architecture critic called the project “the anti-Hudson Yards,” noting that the mixed-used property has significant affordable housing — 70 percent of which was built immediately, according to Rohan Mehra, co-founder and principal of the Prusik Group, which worked on the commercial spaces for Essex Crossing.
That label applies to the food at the Market Line, too. Where Hudson Yards failed in diversity of cuisines and ownership, the Market Line prioritized it. Mehra and his team went to local community events before choosing vendors. They hired translators when a language barrier might have prevented a thorough dialogue.
“A lot of those types of [community groups], they look at a development like this and they assume ‘This isn’t for me,’” Mehra says. “It might be like that with shiny developments, that it’s for the well-known and wealthy. We wanted to make sure that’s not how they felt about it.”
As such, more than 50 percent of the vendors already have ties to the Lower East Side, and about 75 percent of them are either immigrant, minority, or woman-owned. There’s a grocery specializing in vegetables and dry-goods from Asian cuisines — the first retail business from Southeast Asia Food Group, a produce supplier that’s been in New York for 25 years and worked with restaurants such as O Ya and Pok Pok. Pickle Guys, the LES icon, also has an outpost here.
Such a line-up is made possible in part because each vendor pays a custom rent based on their business; low-margin businesses like the whole animal butcher pays less than the pizza vendor, where margins are much higher, Mehra says.
And though the layout of the space will feel familiar to anybody who’s been in a food hall in the last decade, the Market Line is set up a bit differently. Many of the vendors have their own seating, acting as mini-restaurants within a larger space instead of counters in a space with only communal seating. There’s also a bunch of retailers in the mix, including dry-aged meats from the butcher Ends Meat and German groceries from longtime UES market Schaller & Weber.
The idea, Mehra says, is that it will be similar to European markets or Pike Place in Seattle: an all-day place made for locals, but appealing to tourists and outsiders, too.
“If we can get the local community to come here, everyone else will follow,” he says.
Take a look around the space below, including a full list of vendors and more details on the most anticipated vendors in the space.
The Must Know
When Fabian von Hauske Valtierra and Jeremiah Stone first started pouring it at Contra six years ago, natural wine wasn’t nearly as trendy. Now, the duo frequently meets people who try to sell them wine as “natural” — only to look at the producers and recognize winemakers that don’t fall into their ethos of offering low-intervention, little-to-no sulfur-added wines.
“The more popular that these low intervention wines become, we’re finding people are jumping into the category that doesn’t always reflect what we believe in,” Stone says.
Their goal at Peoples, they say, is less about touting the term natural — which, unlike organic, isn’t an official certification — and more about emphasizing the people and stories behind the wine, hence the name. All of the wines happen to be made with grapes from organic farms and with little intervention during the production process, with bottles as low as $16, according to managing partner Daryl Nuhn, who’s purchasing wines and operating the space.
Peoples is organized into two parts: a wine shop and a next-door bar, which seats 20 and serves a tight list of snacks and 15 wines by the glass from $13 to $21.
Unlike at their restaurants, where the wine list must pair with food, the bar’s wine offerings are intended to show the variety available in the shop. And without a robust kitchen, the dishes are all small: chicken wings stuffed with pork and mushrooms, a sandwich with béchamel-like chipotle sauce inside, a hazelnut and chocolate cream puff. Later on, they’ll add a one-plate lunch set during the week.
Then, in the shop, the team made museum-like displays on the walls, where sets of wines sit. These are “boxes” that will be curated by winemaker, grape, region, or other metrics, with selections rotating regularly; the staff, many of whom have worked at the other restaurants, will be well-versed in their backstories. One could be all pinot noirs from around the world, while another could all be wines from a particular wine producer or small wine importer, Nuhn says. Shelves in the middle of the shop will be stocked more conventionally.
If the look is a bit like a museum installation, owners hope it’s “a friendly, fun museum,” as von Hauske Valtierra says. “We made the displays so that it’s less overwhelming than hundreds and hundreds of labels on the wall, not to make it precious,” he says. “It’s part of the reason we wanted to staff the shop the way we did, which is for people to be really engaging about those showcases. That’s kind of our goal. Be interactive and kind of change the model of what a retail shop can be.”
Peoples wine shop and bar will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with more limited hours for food.
One of the only full-service restaurants in the Market Line comes from a family with a long history in New York, though one that may not be well known to the casual diner. Essex Pearl comes from the family behind Aqua Best, a seafood purveyor that’s been on the Lower East Side since the 1980s — and over the last decade, has been sourcing seafood for fine dining restaurants such as Le Bernardin and industry players like chef Bill Telepan.
Siblings Steven, Freeman, and Lina Wong took over Aqua Best from the parents and now travel the world to meet fisherman and source rare seafood. Essex Pearl is their first restaurant, and an opportunity to serve their findings directly to the public in a restaurant setting.
They’ve partnered with chef Bun Cheam, who used to work at Brooklyn’s location of Talde. Essex Pearl’s 48-seat dining room sits on the other side of their fish market, which will offer also fresh seafood, with an emphasis on difficult-to-find options such as live Dungeness crab.
Expect a robust raw bar, including uni, langoustines, and ten kinds of oysters from the east and west coasts. All the seafood will be denoted with where it came from. Hamachi with pickled plum, fried squash flowers, and furikake is denoted with its Japanese origin, while mussels in a coconut curry sauce note their Prince Edward Island home. Lobster rolls all come from Maine specimen. Whole fish for the table is the core part of the menu; on the opening menu, Cheam will be cooking a snapper Southeast Asian style, with fish sauce and garlic.
For the Wongs and Cheam, the restaurant is a way to further connect people to the seafood they’re eating. Servers will be trained in how certain fish are raised if they’re farmed, or where they’re caught if they’re wild. “Not too many people understand where seafood comes from,” Cheam says. “We want to bring that awareness.”
And because the Wongs are experts in sourcing specific seafood for chefs, the menu may change based on what they find. “A chef’s dream is to have someone go out there and bring the freshest thing to you,” Cheam says. “It goes both ways,” Steven Wong adds. “If I see a cool seafood, I can say ‘Hey Bun, could you cook something with this?’”
The Grand Delancey Beer Hall
The biggest space in the first portion of the Market Line is going to the Grand Delancey Beer Hall. The bar — which will seat 200 in the sunniest corner of the underground space — is filled with banquettes for a more leisurely, bar-like environment.
It comes from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, an expansive beer-centric DC company that owns 20 businesses or brands that are wildly popular there. Those include Churchkey, one of the best craft beer bars in D.C., and beer director and partner Greg Engert is renowned for his taste in beer.
As such, a collection of more than 1,200 beers will be rotated into NRG’s New York debut. The bar will have 50 taps on deck, with different temperatures corresponding to different beers. There’s also an area where people can buy beer to take home.
Since beer is the focus, food is sourced from the rest of the market. People who stick around will be able to order from various vendors in the space.
Also watch for
- Slice Joint, a new pizza spot from Rachael Marie, a chef who worked at Roberta’s for four years. Expect both New York-style and Grandma-style pizzas by the pie and slice
- Tortilleria Nixtamal, the famed Queens tortilla maker from Fernando Ruiz, which will have a four-seat counter that serves tacos with tortillas made fresh on-site
- Veselka, the legendary East Village Ukrainian diner and pierogi experts will have an outpost here with ten seats and frozen pierogis available for purchase to take home
- Moon Man, an Indonesian dessert maker from cousins Nigel Sielegar and Wenny Purnomo that first made its debut at the Queens Night Market
- Gouie NY, a sake bar and izakaya from the Izakaya team that seats 36. It will open at a later date.
- Que Chevere, a first-time Puerto Rican restaurant with six seats, where a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Autism Speaks
- Ends Meat, an outpost of the Industry City butcher shop, which will sell dry-aged meats, plus prepared foods like bone broth, meat and cheese platters, and sandwiches
The full vendor list
- Ample Hills, a new location of the popular ice cream parlor
- Cafe Grumpy, the coffee shop has 12 seats
- Doughnut Plant, a counter with doughnuts from the longtime vendor, including new flavors
- Ends Meat
- Essex Pearl
- Four Sigmatic, a company that sells “superfood” mushroom-based drinks
- Gouie NY, a sake bar and izakaya from the Izakaya team that seats 36. It will open at a later date.
- Grand Delancey Beer Hall
- Kuro Obi, the ramen shop that’s an Ippudo spin-off
- Moon Man
- Nom Wah, the historic Chinatown dim sum parlor has an 11-seat space here
- Peoples Wine Shop and Bar
- Pho Grand, the popular LES pho restaurant has a four-seat space here
- Pickle Guys
- Que Chevere
- Rebecca’s Cake Pops, a bakery that specializes in artsy versions of the cake pops
- Rustic Table,
- Schaller & Weber, the German food purveyor has a retail market and three seats for sausages and other goods
- Southeast Asia Food Group (SAFG), the longtime Asian produce seller opens its first retail market here
- Slice Joint
- Substance Vitality Bar, a juice bar with six counter seats
- Tenement Museum, a space for the nearby museum
- Tortilleria Nixtamal