Located in the old Nabisco factory, Chelsea Market is a glittering wonderland for gourmands (it should be, considering the landmarked building also houses the Food Network). But even if you can’t score a visit upstairs to hang with Alton Brown and Rachael Ray, a walk down the lower concourse is more than enough to keep your tastebuds occupied. Not only will you find full-fledged fine dining restaurants like Morimoto and Buddakan, but there’s a wealth of fast-casual spots that put your average food court to shame. Lucy’s Whey, Ronnybrook Dairy and Dickson’s Farmstand Meats all have outposts there, along with top-notch bakeries like Amy’s Bread, Sarabeth’s, Ruthy’s and the Fat Witch. And the market has continued to grow by leaps and bounds in the past few months, boasting more quaint cafes and specialty shops than ever before. Here’s a rundown of the newest eateries to hit the Chelsea scene — all of them totally worthy of planning your lunch hour around.
Who knew that The Roots drummer, Questlove, was such a foodie? After his fried chicken showdown with David Chang on Late Night last year, the Jimmy Fallon bandleader teamed up with restaurateur Stephen Starr. The result is this chicken and dumplings-inspired spot, although the dumplings are actually Cheesed & Chard, Crème de la Crab, Tofu Tofu, and Mornay’s Truffled Egg-stuffed Wonton Wrappers, and the chicken (hope you like dark meat!) runs exclusively to drumsticks. Order a single leg for $4 or a 12-piece bucket for $41, and don’t forget dessert. Adventurous sweet tooth’s will appreciate the quirky “Questolicious Cupcakes,” like Beyond the Pineapple with Carrot-Thai Red Curry icing and the Tom Yum with Coconut-Lemongrass Kaffir Lime. What to wash it all down with? A Watermelon Jalapeno or Honey Ginger Lemonade “Loveslush,” of course.
Cull & Pistol
As confirmed seafood fanatics, we tend to browse the aisles of sparkling, shellfish-topped ice at The Lobster Place the way clothes horses window shop at Lord & Taylors. But since it’s tough to transport sashimi-grade Tuna and Whelks all the way back to our Brooklyn apartment, we’re thrilled about their new, adjoining restaurant, Cull & Pistol. Helmed by Bouley alum Dave Seigal, pristine market specimens are no sooner plucked from the ice than they’re deposited, deliciously, on your plate. Grab a wooden stool along the counter and watch the chefs in action, shucking Oysters for a raw plate, steaming Littlenecks for a clambake, tossing saline Uni with fresh Tagliatelle, grilling Fish for a Banh Mi sandwich, and brushing split Lobsters with an herbaceous Tarragon Butter.
This popular, Brooklyn-based confectionary just opened its first retail location in the Chelsea Market. And befitting their twee name, the space is diminutive — but they’ve sure packed plenty of flavor into a mere 270 square feet. You’ll feel like you’re in Willy Wonka’s factory as you peruse the shelves of Candy Bars, Popcorn, Lollipops and Caramels, in fun varieties like Apple Cider, Fig Ricotta, Butter Lemon and Banana Bread. And just try not to eat your weight in Slurtles (their signature, tipsy turtles), a Brooklyn Brewery Beer-infused caramel poured over pretzels or potato chips, and enrobed in a shell of pure dark chocolate.
Los Tacos No 1
New York may be lagging behind California when it comes to authentic Mexican food, but a group of friends from Tijuana are aiming to change that. They’ve brought Mexicali-style tacos to the Chelsea Market, and patrons have responded with super-sized lines (seriously, you’re going to have to work a little extra time into your lunch break for this one). You pay for your food first and order it from the cooks after, and considering how pared down the menu is, you might just want to get one of everything. Choose from corn or flour Tacos, Tostadas or Quesadillas, filled with Grilled Chicken, Steak, Cactus, or Marinated Pork. And definitely take advantage of the spread of free condiments along the counter; stone bowls holding limes, grilled jalapeños, salsa verde and scallions.
Num Pang Sandwich Shop
Although not new to the city (there are currently three other locations), this Southeast Asian sandwich shop makes a welcome addition to the market. It’s also appealingly situated right next to the waterfall… perfect for grabbing a bite on a bench during a break from work. Friends since college, industry vets Ratha Chaupoly (Blue Water Grill) and Ben Daitz (Tabla) make unique, flavor-forward Banh Mi, inspired by home-style Cambodian cooking. You’ll definitely want to try the duo of savory sandwiches specific to the Chelsea location; including Five Spice-Glazed Pork Belly with Pickled Asian Pear, and Roasted Cauliflower with Chinese and Thai Eggplant Spread.