Right on time, the new food court from the James Beard Foundation, opened on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., and the place flooded with a tumultuous crowd. There was a marching band, a DJ spinning classic rock, dogs on leashes, and babies in strollers. What’s more, every one of the 16 vendors was promptly in place and operating: unusual for food courts these days, where there are often a few empty stalls or vendors not quite ready to commence operations.
Market 57 fits like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a Disneyland-type campus of tourist attractions that include the Meatpacking District, Whitney Museum, Hudson River Park, Chelsea Market, and Hudson Yards, all strung like beads along the High Line. Go now before the place is so overrun that you won’t be able to get in, a fate that has befallen nearby Chelsea Market.
Accessed via one entrance down a long hallway that bypasses City Winery, Market 57 occupies the entire width of the historic Pier 57 until it peters out in a lobby that leads to the rooftop park, a magnificent new space for strolling and relaxing, where you just might want to take your food court purchases on a sunny day. Market 57 itself offers views of Little Island with its mushroom-shaped pylons to the south and the Chelsea Piers golf-driving range to the north from its window-side counter seats. Indoor seats include raised circular tables with stools and counters at some of the stalls.
The food seems more carefully curated than at other food courts, with stalls that include Indian, Thai, Caribbean, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese food counters, with prices on par with other halls but in many cases of higher quality. That doesn’t mean everything is great.
I ate as broadly as possible over two afternoons, sampling dozens of dishes. Here are the best five I found, good enough that I can heartily recommend them as justifying an immediate visit to Manhattan’s umpteenth food court.
Five Best Dishes
Masala dosa at Ammi
This offshoot of GupShup features dosas and chicken curry, among a handful of dishes. The masala dosa ($12) had a wrapper freshly made on the tawa, a round griddle, and stuffed with a masala potato mixture dotted with curry leaves, black mustard seed, and other spices. Two chutneys, tomato and coconut, came alongside, and though slightly smaller than most, this dosa is one of the most tasty and perfectly prepared in town.
Duck larb at Zaab Zaab
If you ever doubted that the food of a great restaurant could be recreated in a limited food court setting, worry no longer. This dish ($15) which I’d highly praised a year ago at the Elmhurst mothership, arrived here perfectly intact, featuring the same crunchy duck skin, tidbits of organ meats, savory ground duck, and most important of all, a botanist’s collection of Thai herbs, such that I had to ask one of the kids at the counter what a stalk with tiny green balls on it was (turns out it was neem). It is one of the best things at any food court in the city.
Raw oysters at Mother Shuckers
Good fresh oysters plucked from their bed of ice and shucked as you watch (three for $9) is the forte of Mother Shuckers, which might just as well be in New Orleans, given its loving obsession with oysters. Choose from West Coast or East Coast and pick among three toppings — classic, sushi, and candy apple, all good — or squirt on some lemon or nothing at all. Littleneck or cherrystone clams, shrimp, and various crabs are also available.
Mushroom carnitas costra at Mijo
This counter comes to us from paleta specialist La Newyorkina, and the mushroom carnitas is especially wonderful: woodsy tidbits of ’shroom with a crust of well-browned cheese stuck on top, adding memorable texture to the taco. All tacos ($4.75 or $5.25) are made with blue corn tortillas. Three taco varieties are available, plus one special filling, in this case pickled pigweed with potatoes. Only the barbacoa taco disappointed.
Berbere-spiced cauliflower at Good To Go
The cauliflower is perfectly cooked in a mild Ethiopian spice mixture and served atop a wheatberry salad, with a peanut sauce for dipping on the side. This fun dish ($14) is a completely vegetarian meal, and is one of several offerings by neophyte chefs at the James Beard Foundation’s own counter, made to recreate the mix of food preparation styles characteristic of the Beard House.
The full list of food stalls
Bird & Branch (coffee)
Bessou (Japanese fried chicken)
Due Madri (focaccia sandwiches)
Good Batch (baked goods)
Good To Go (James Beard Foundation rotating concepts)
Harlem Hops (craft beer)
Local Roots (Chinese snacks and bubble tea)
Lolo’s On The Water (Caribbean)
Malai (South Asian ice cream)
Mother Shuckers (raw bar)
Nom Wah (dim sum and noodles)
Raj Plant Based (vegetarian)
Zaab Zaab (northeastern Thai)