Over eight years ago, chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten met with Saul Scherl, president of the New York tri-state region for the Howard Hughes Corporation, about opening a food destination in what had been the Fulton Street Fish Market in South Street Seaport. Today, the chef and his partners will open a collection of six full-service restaurants, four bars, six counters, retail, and private dining in the entirely overhauled historic Tin Building.
Designed by Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors, the 53,000-square-foot marketplace will eventually employ 700 people. It’s one of more than 30 food halls across the city, but it is more like an Eataly, with an emphasis on retail; all restaurants are tied to Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as opposed to various vendors. The total cost to complete the Tin Building (96 South Street at Beekman Street) is $194.6 million.
A few blocks from where commuters exit the ferries, Double Yolk tucks along a wall where customers can order egg sandwiches with a choice of bread, eggs, styles, and sauce; the location doubles as a spot for Champagne and caviar in the afternoon. There’s also T Cafe and Bakery, featuring breads and pastries baked in the massive in-house commissary on the second floor.
Full-service dining includes the 19-seat Shikku, a Japanese sushi and sake bar in a black-box design with a marble counter. On the other side of the first level. Crepes and Dosas sells sweet and savory options like an organic egg dosa or a crepe with espresso, dark chocolate, and meringue.
Upstairs, there’s taqueria Taquito, with dishes like shaved beef a la plancha, and a roasted chicken taco with chiles, garlic, cumin and tomatillo salsa. Tucked in a corner that feels like a secret, there’s the Chinese restaurant, House of the Red Pearl, which features dishes like vegetable peanut tofu-skin spring rolls, longevity noodles, and stir-fried cumin lamb with chiles. Around a corner, there’s T Brasserie, accented with nouveau details; here, customers can order escargot or steak tartare, burgers, or rotisserie chicken.
The seafood counter speaks to the building’s history as Fulton Fish Co., with a raw bar, crudo options, fried clams, and fish and chips. For pasta and pizza, there’s the Frenchman’s Dough on the second floor, across the upper level, there’s the vegetarian Seeds & Weeds with its blonde midcentury interior.
Woven among retail and restaurants there are a handful of places to drink. They include the Wine Bar with selections from France, the Finger Lakes, California, and Maryland; Beer Here! with 24 beers on tap, as well as the Cocktail Bar.
Nearly a third of the building is dedicated to retail. Central Market is anchored by the fish counter across from an entrance. The market features daily rotating sustainably sourced meats, cheeses, and ready-to-eat foods. And if there’s a Union Square Greenmarket uptown the day of a visit, you’ll find farmers’ wares trekked to the Seaport, including Rick Bishop’s strawberries or Lani’s Farm greens.
There’s also Mercantile among the retail shops, a dry goods destination with a selection of conservas, vinegars, fancy jams, and dried pasta. Mercantile East, framed with red lacquer, sells salts, soy sauces, gochujang, chile oils, mugwort, teas, spices, and more.
Chocolate lovers might gravitate to Spoiled Parrot, a pink-bedecked candy store with light fixtures that look like balloons, selling high-end brands as well as private label chocolate in collaboration with Jacques Torres, Fritz Knipschildt, and others; don’t miss the boozy lollipops (above kid-height) at the entrance. There’s also an ice cream counter, where, yes, there is soft-serve.
Near the upstairs retail within sight of the fluttering installation of a squid and a whale, there’s the Tasting Studio with a built-out kitchen for private events as well as TV and podcast recording — rounding out the uses for this revamped historic building.
The Tin Building is one of a handful of efforts to revive South Street Seaport (now dubbed the Seaport) which includes restaurants like the Fulton, also by Jean-Georges, David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar (formerly Bar Wayo), as well Andrew Carmellini’s swanky chophouse, Carne Mare, all at Pier 17. The neighborhood’s transformation is set to continue with a polarizing building project at 250 Water Street.
The location resonates with Vongerichten. “The first place I came when I arrived in New York in 1986 was the fish market,” he says. Back then, it took him six months of visiting every morning before purveyors would sell to him directly.
The Fulton Street Fish Market in the Tin Building had been the most important wholesale fish market in the United States for well over a century, but the transition of fish deliveries from boats to trucks midcentury, followed by a four-alarm fire in 1995 set by an arsonist, accelerated the building’s decline. A decade later, the fish market relocated to Hunts Point in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, the building languished in disrepair. Prior to the company’s 100-year ground lease with the city, Scherl says that when he toured the building, he was asked to wear a lifejacket just to do the walk-through. Between that visit and a conversation in Shanghai between the Howard Hughes folks and Vongerichten, a plan for the building was set in motion.
The buildout was herculean, which included securing the building through reinforcing or replacing 200 concrete piles, the work of a specialized team of divers. The building also needed to be moved back 32 feet, the foundation needed restoration, and the building needed to be raised about six feet. Today, that foundation is solid: Diners can officially dine and drink at seats with unobstructed views of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Though Jean-Georges is French, the Tin Building is not a French marketplace. “This,” he says, “is a market that looks like New York.”
Hours through August are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.