When food hall the Market Line opened on the Lower East Side in 2019, it attracted some of New York’s most established food names, alongside cool, newer restaurateurs. But recent closings — in the last month it lost Veselka, Que Chevre, Pho Grand, Cafe Grumpy, Slice Joint, and now, the Grand Delancey, its anchor beer spot — spell trouble for the food hall. Today, just a handful of original vendors remain, and several past and current vendors say foot traffic never returned from its pre-pandemic levels.
Throughout its more than four years, like any other food hall, it has struggled to keep vendors, in part because of the lasting effects of the pandemic and rising prices.
But the Market isn’t just any other food hall. It had more riding on it — and more potential — than the average food hall. It’s located inside the basement level of Essex Crossing — a multi-billion-dollar endeavor, “one of the largest developments in the city,” billed as the “anti-Hudson Yards” — a feat of an initiative that includes affordable housing units and a movie theater. Upstairs is home to the relocation of the city-owned Essex Market and includes many of the same vendors that were at its original location, plus newcomers like the acclaimed Dhamaka. Split between the two levels, 140 vendors were originally slated to open, the New York Times reported. Since 2019, Essex Market has attempted to carry on its identity as a longtime city market, separate from the newcomer Market Line in the same building.
Downstairs, the Market Line initially had around 30 vendors, and emphasized diversity, including the likes of Nom Wah and Schaller & Weber (both now closed), plus Peoples Wine, initially conceived as a combination wine bar and bottle shop by the duo behind Wildair (the bar has since closed but the bottle shop continues); the team also opened a burger spot called Mighties downstairs (the team says it’s only temporarily closed). Moon Man, an Indonesian dessert shop, Ends Meat, a butcher with an outpost in Industry City, Southeast Asian Food Group, a pantry staples shop, Essex Pearl, a seafood restaurant from supplier Aqua Best, and an offshoot of Ippudo were others.
Greg Engert, of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, with over two dozen restaurants in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, says that what attracted him to the Market Line was its lofty ambitions. Now, he is closing the Grand Delancey and its sibling Slice Joint pizzeria after service on February 18.
Few food halls have figured out how to keep customers into the night, “something all bars need to be successful...they pitched it as a night market of sorts, and had all of these great tenants lined up, which felt special and made us genuinely excited,” Engert said. Unfortunately, he and others say many of those ideas never came to fruition. For much of the pandemic, the Market Line remained closed. Engert said at one point, they tried running a version of their bar on busy Delancey Street.
Though the Market Line is listed as open until 2 a.m. on some days, some food vendors close around 8 p.m., says Engert, adding that made it difficult for his bar to sustain itself in the later hours.
Essex Market, at street level, appears to struggle less with attracting customers. Several vendors shared that the Market Line’s subterranean nature has been a hurdle from the opening to capture the same foot traffic. “It wasn’t consistent,” Que Chevre’s owner, Mike Petrovitch, told Eater last month.
Nevertheless, there have been some interesting events here and there. Recently, a stall in the Market Line was used as a temporary home for Yu & Me Books, while the team rebuilt their Chinatown spot following a fire.
Some departing and current vendors cited lacking communication between the building and tenants as well as a lack of outreach to the public. Eater has reached out to Prusik Group, an owner in the market, and the Market Line team, for more information.
What’s left of the Market Line feels like a shell of what was initially planned, but many of its issues fall in line with similar pitfalls of other food halls around town, such as figuring out how to navigate the lack of in-person office workers or changing tourist and neighborhood patterns at large.
Still, it is telling that several vendors are choosing to leave the Market Line and not give up on food halls altogether: Que Chevre remains at Urbanspace, revived under Steve Hanson, who is bringing in new vendors, some from longtime restaurateurs who have created satellite projects. Nom Wah opened an offshoot inside the James Beard Foundation-backed Market 57. Engert is looking to relocate Grand Delancey, and says doing so in another food hall isn’t entirely out of the question.