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An off-white building with black trim seen from the bottom of the stairs.
The Tin Building once housed the Fulton Fish Market, and the Brooklyn Bridge still looms in the background.

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Three Glorious Food-Filled Days at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Tin Building

A BEC sandwich, onion soup, snails, dosas, and more

As a connoisseur of food courts I was dying to check out the Tin Building. This latest addition to the Seaport was masterminded by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and as operator of a behemoth collection of over 35 restaurants spanning the globe, his ability to marshal culinary resources and plot floor plans is undeniable. In fact, six full-blown restaurants and four casual dining options are found in the Tin Building alone, plus beer and wine bars, presided over by newly hired chefs, and often those from his 12 restaurants on loan to help with training and opening.

I was also curious because the building housed the Fulton Fish Market from 1939 to 2005, a site of early morning pilgrimage for all would-be chefs. Would the slick food court — two levels in a pale stately structure — do the building’s piscine heritage justice?

A chef in a white coat stands at the door as customers enter.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten claps the customers in.

During the preview weeks the Tin Building has only been open Thursday through Sunday afternoons, when I visited three times. Arriving at noon each day, I witnessed Vongerichten himself greeting the snaking line of early arrivals by clapping his hands, the applause echoed by employees inside standing at attention.

The Tin Building reminded me of our first Eataly, replicating its challenging maze-like arrangement, while striking a balance between groceries and prepared foods on one hand, and eateries on the other. The groceries run to meat, cheese, and fish on separate counters; fresh fruits and vegetables displayed in crates; a candy and ice cream store; a pair of pastry and bread bakeries; and a reach-in fridge featuring different kinds of French and Irish butter. A string of cases displays prepared foods for carryout and reheating in a Middle Eastern, Thai, soul food, and Chinese American vein, among other categories.

Additionally, there are two grocery stores on the second floor, one Asian the other European and American, approached via an escalator lit with colorful neon, giving your ascent a theme-park air. Could a wealthy person do all their grocery shopping here? Probably not, due to the absence of practical things like baking soda and toilet paper. But for food? Perhaps.

DAY ONE

I’d stopped on my way that first day to buy a BEC ($4.75) at a bodega, to see how the version offered at the Tin Building compared. Double Yolk announces itself with a yellow neon sign, and the menu directs customers to choose items from four categories to assemble an egg sandwich. The classic bacon, egg, and cheese ($13) features very yellow eggs cooked into a fluffy omelet, thick double-smoked bacon in short strips, and mild cheddar on a brioche. In contrast to the bodega version, the eggs dominate.

A counter with high stools and a yellow neon sign above.
The egg sandwich counter at Tin Building.
A pair of egg sandwiches on round rolls, one thin and squished, the other domed.
Comparing the BECs.

Yes, it was utterly delectable, though it lacked the agreeable plainness of the original, which can be eaten nearly every day without meal fatigue. After 5 p.m., the counter turns into a champagne and caviar bar.

A man stands behind a pair of circular griddles.
The crepe and dosa station.
A sweet roll drizzled with white frosting with yellow custard in the middle.
Don’t miss the custard Danish at the bread counter.

I’d gone with a friend, and we threaded our way through the swelling crowd past T Cafe and Bakery, displaying over a dozen types of bread, some enormous loaves of whole-grain sourdough, others baguettes pointy at both ends with crusts a little on the tough side. We tried a larger-than-average croissant and found it good, but our favorite was a super-buttery Danish filled with rich custard that visibly quaked as you ate it.

Our next destination was a station without any seating called Crepes and Dosas. We were excited about the latter, but the southern Indian flatbread took a back seat to the crepes, for which there was a catalog of sweet and savory fillings. No Indian fillings aimed at the dosa were offered. The dosa itself was perfect — crisp on the bottom, cushiony on top, and slightly sour — and we ate it with a cheese, egg, and avocado filling, craving the conventional potatoes masala.

Afterward we rode the escalator upstairs, where we examined the two grocery areas, and noted many high-end varieties of olive oil and soy sauce, among other mainly luxury products (including cheese straws sold in paint cans), and looked for the Tin Building’s Chinese restaurant. We couldn’t find it, and peered in the door of a video studio instead. This all by way of getting some exercise before heading downstairs to T Brasserie for our biggest meal of the day.

Offering views of South Street and the overhead FDR, the brasserie is smaller than most and also more studiously elegant. The menu is compact, too, featuring Gallic standards with a few seasonal Americanisms (like heirloom tomato salad) thrown in. We made a splendid meal of a dark and gooey onion soup, a fresh-tasting tartare topped with a quail egg yolk, and a handful of snails in herb-laced butter that was an arresting shade of green. Next visit, the hamburger beckons.

A small room with seated patrons and waiters meandering around in aprons.
The interior of T Brasserie.
Snails in green sauce, french fries, onion soup, etc.
Some satisfying lunch dishes at T Brasserie.

We swung by the patisserie brimming with brightly colored fruit tarts, fondant-clad cakes, cupcakes with elaborate frostings, cookies, and pies that looked dull by comparison. But they would have to wait for another day; we simply didn’t have any more room in our stomachs.

DAY TWO

On our next visit my friend and I literally ran up the escalator to the second floor, because we’d managed to find out where the Chinese restaurant was and feared not getting a seat. We made our way through a curtained door marked only with a tiny red fan at the rear of the Asian grocery.

The House of the Red Pearl turned out to be a rather grand room with booths and circular tables featuring low-slung plush seating and perhaps too many hanging lamps — very cocktail lounge-y. As we sat ourselves at the bar, the bartender told us in what seemed to be scripted remarks that the place was intended to evoke the world of James Bond in Dr. No, and indeed the staff wears stiff Mao-style military jackets. (Indeed, all of the employees at the Tin Building wear carefully conceived costumes, from the pink jumpsuits in the candy store to the long aprons of T Brasserie.)

A dramatically lit grocery store with a figure walking toward a curtained door.
Look for the sign of the fan in the Asian grocery.
A room like a cocktail lounge with lots of hanging lights.
House of the Red Pearl interior.
A hand holds a spoon with eggs and greens visible.
Tomato egg drop soup.
A stir fry with onions and chunks of lamb in a tilted bowl.
The cumin lamb was one of the best renditions in town.

While the decor is supposed to look retro, the menu is very much a modern one, filled with faultlessly prepared dishes. We ate our way through the usual soy-marinated cucumber salad, Sichuan wontons filled with shrimp and pork, an egg-drop soup heaped with greens, a version of Chongqing chicken that seemed too oniony and moist, excellent steamed pea shoots that swan in butter teeming with crunchy shallots and caramelized garlic, and, best of all, a wok-fried cumin lamb that may be the best version in NYC of this adapted Uyghur dish. We left $135 poorer, feeling like House of the Red Pearl was the most ambitious restaurant in the Tin Building, and maybe the best. But the theme made us slightly uneasy.

Two tacos with a lime wedge in a slotted container.
The beef tacos at the Tin Building’s taco window.

We next got a pair of shaved beef a la plancha tacos ($12), one of five choices at the Taquito window, right next to the beer bar overlooking the main entrance. The blue corn tortillas were dark and flavorful, but there was only one per taco, making the tacos quickly disintegrate. The avocado-cucumber crema was a nice touch but the sliced beef wasn’t quite right for a taco.

This was only a prelude to sliding downstairs to the Fulton Fish Co., a single row of seats that arcs along a raw bar with a luscious display of seafood — the dining option that does the most to evoke the building’s storied past. We enjoyed a taste of each of the oysters, two from Prince Edward Island, four from Massachusetts, as well as a lobster roll ($26) in which the meat was a little overcooked. The jewel of our visit was a pair of razor clams, served in their finger-like shells decorated with herbs and microgreens. Each bite was firm-fleshed and sweet — heavenly!

A curving counter with seafood on one side of the glass and patrons on the other.
The raw bar at the Tin Building.
A pair of long clams in their shells on ice with a red lobster in the background.
The razor clams were exceptional.

Afterward, we sought out the sushi bar Shikku, hidden in a dark corner just beyond the candy store. There was no one there except the lonely itamae, so we decided to skip it. We did stop at the bakery on the way out for a black-and-white cookie ($3.75), invented to celebrate Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river that came to bear his name. The cake was a little dull and dry; the fondant too thinly applied.

A horseshoe shaped sushi bar with a baldheaded chef seen from the rear and dramatic lighting.
Shikku, the sushi bar.
Pale lollipops taped to a column, with candy bars to the left.
The lollipop column in the candy store.

DAY THREE

On the third day I was on my own, scrambling to visit attractions at the Tin Building I’d heretofore neglected. Seeds and Weeds is the unappetizing name for the Tin Building’s mainly vegan restaurant, which has a wall with windows facing the rest of the food court, making it feel like a self-contained establishment. It has a menu that might remind you of Vongerichten’s ABCV, and the food is every bit as good. It provides two more uses for the dosas available downstairs, including one stuffed with eggs, cheddar, and sambal. On a menu that extends to 16 dishes, some highlight mushrooms, others grains. There’s a bread service centered on a blue corn and einkorn-wheat sourdough loaf, as well as a few dips.

A room with low slung rope chairs and windows looking out onto the rest of the food court.
The minimalist decor of Seeds and Weeds.
A bowl of red dip with peppers sticking out.
Jimmy Nardello and hazelnut dip.

One of those pita swishers is called Jimmy Nardello and hazelnut dip ($15), which made me think Jimmy might be an old pal of Vongerichten’s — it turned out to be a fruity red frying pepper, with coarsely ground nuts that made a crunchy dip something like Balkan ajvar. I also tried sweet-corn wontons, which echoed the dumplings found in the House of the Red Pearl, only tumbling out kernels into a broth with some serious and surprising Sichuan peppercorn action.

I scampered to the other side of the second floor to try Frenchman’s Dough, which is Vongerichten’s ode to the New York pizza and pasta joint. There is a snaking seating area that generally surrounds a flaming oven, but I sat at the cocktail bar adjacent, where the full menu is available. My starter of tuna tartare was ho-hum, but my pizza — chosen from a list of five that were conventionally Italian, was the only one that I might have called a French pizza. On a pleasantly puffy crust, charred here are there, thin slices of cured lemon were planted on a carpet of ricotta, fontina, and parmesan. At first I wasn’t sure about this pizza oddity ($18), but when I got the leftovers home — the cold slices were fantastic.

A counter with a flaming oven behind, and a handful of tables in front.
The Frenchman’s Dough is mainly a conventional pizza and pasta joint.
A round pie with slices of lemon and heaps of fluffy ricotta.
The Limone pizza at Frenchman’s Dough.

Still feeling a bit peckish I descended the glowing escalator one last time, and stepped up to the sandwich counter, which featured a very plain little eating area adjacent. Turkey and roast beef sandwiches led the menu, presumably aimed at the business lunch-break crowd. I knew that if I searched long enough at Tin Building, I would find nearly every dish made famous by our fast-casual culture — and here was the fried chicken sandwich ($15) I knew would be somewhere in the complex. This one, on the same brioche as the BEC that started my Tin Building adventure, featured a thin but very crisp cutlet.

A thin cutlet on a brioche, from the sandwich counter.
The fried chicken sandwich.

Like any food court, Tin Building offers very good as well as some mediocre food. But I’d have to say the average is higher here than many other food courts in town, with some outliers like the lemon pizza, snails in herb butter, cumin lamb, and custard danish that you wouldn’t find anywhere else all in one place, and are by themselves worth a visit.

Tin Building by Jean-Georges

96 South Street, Manhattan, NY 10038 Visit Website
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