In 1997, Chelsea Market set the stage for what would become an inevitable flourishing of factory and warehouse building conversions in the city. Today, with food-oriented public spaces sprouting up and occupying both new and old sites, Chelsea Market has managed to stay at the front of the pack with a constantly evolving roster of local, high-quality vendors serving a vast array of crave-worthy foods.
Also contributing to its popularity and success in its 18th year is the market’s commitment to managing a catalog of businesses and vendors that are anything but stale. Some of Chelsea Market’s most exciting and recent additions include LOLO, a cold-pressed juice bar with its own mixologists, and a small outpost of Corkbuzz from Master Sommelier Laura Maniec, now a happy hour hot spot for Food Network, NY1, MLB.com, Google, and many other employees in the building looking for Italian snacks and expertly selected wines.
The herds of slow moving tourists that wander the main hall are unfortunately responsible for Chelsea Market’s Mall of America-like reputation, but so many of these guests are there for the sight-seeing and not for the tasting. Lines are particularly short at Lobster Place, the massive, fresh seafood mecca of the neighborhood. Lobster Place has also very fortuitously not become a victim of tourist-induced prices, meaning high-quality fish and pre-prepared meals can sometimes run cheaper than the local grocery store. At the center of the space is also a daily changing omakase sushi table and oyster bar for those who are interested in seeing and eating their seafood at the same time.
While the Japanese fusion Takumi Taco serves up Japanese-inspired Mexican street food like the Spicy Tuna Taco with sashimi-grade big eye tuna, jicama, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo in a crispy gyoza shell, another vendor that makes what are arguably the best tacos in the ctiy also calls Chelsea Market home. At Los Tacos To. 1, the carne asada tacos are the stuff my south-of-the-border dreams are made of, and are always worth a quick wait in the long, though fast-moving line.
Other success stories in Chelsea Market include Friedman’s Lunch, a particularly favorable deli and luncheonette for the gluten-free crowd with a helpful to-go option, and Amy’s Bread, a beloved legend of a bakery selling hand-made crusty breads, pastries, sandwiches, and one of the best chocolate chip cookies in the city.
All of these shops make Chelsea Market a truly world-class food hall, even if shuffling past confused crowds during peak mid-day and weekend hours and struggling to find a seat in one of the ten free chairs that seem to be randomly scattered around the block-sized space have become the norm. Sometimes, however, joining the tourists is worth it, especially if theiy’re taking their tacos up to the High Line amphitheater during a warm spring day.