Imagine if your dining room was 15,000 square feet and contained eight miniature restaurants, staffed by world-renowned chefs serving artisanal food and drink, all day, every day.
This is the unusual amenity enjoyed by tenants of Gotham West, the new luxury apartment complex tucked into the back pocket of Hell’s Kitchen.
Located way out on 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, Gotham West Market is a large, glassed-in food market spanning the ground floor. It exists because of the building’s inconvenient address. When the developers were designing it, they wanted to include a high-quality, immersive dining experience for tenants (and to lure prospective renters so far west).
They reached out to several specialty grocers, who were all turned off by the odd space configuration, said Christopher Jaskiewicz, chief operating officer of Gotham Organisation, Inc. “So we decided to curate our own market,” Jaskiewicz told Business Insider.
His team spoke with 50 operations before narrowing it down to an elite nine, which would set up shop inside (Little Chef has since left the building).
So far, it’s working. From the moment patrons walk through the glass doors, Gotham West Market offers an immersive experience, allowing visitors to watch as their food is prepared before their eyes, and providing direct access to the cooks’ encyclopedic knowledge of the menu. It has become not just a convenient dining option for tenants, but a destination for all New Yorkers, including the business lunch crowd, weekend travellers, and tourists.
So if people are going out of their way to sample the gourmet purveyors, is Gotham West Market really a food court after all?
“We never use the word ‘food court’ because of the connotation it has,” Jaskiewicz says. “But if someone wrote ‘the best food court ever built,’ we’d take that. Maybe we are.”
Gotham West Market gives neighbours and tourists alike a reason to venture deep into Hell's Kitchen. It's located way out on 11th Ave., between 44th and 45th St.
This dining destination exists because of its inconvenient address. The developers of Gotham West, the new luxury apartment complex sitting above and behind the market, aimed to lure renters by providing a quality, one-of-a-kind dining experience under their own roof.
Forget your preconceived notions of food court fare. Gotham West Market features eight premiere artisanal food purveyors, plus a bike shop and beer locker.
When you walk inside, you're greeted by a hostess, who can play tour guide to your multinational culinary excursion.
Fliers and brochures advertising the apartment complex litter the reception desk and tables throughout the market, enticing diners to imagine life in one of the 1,238 units upstairs.
But the quirky signage makes up for the blatant propaganda. The board outside said, 'A meal without wine is called breakfast.'
The vendors are organised like mini-restaurants, each having its own aesthetic and seating area. Communal tables accommodate groups that want to order from different places and meet back.
First up is Cannibal, a rustic haven for meat- and beer-lovers alike. This bona fide butcher shop comes from chef Francis Derby, whose original Gramercy location has attracted a cultish following in New York.
Charcuterie is the menu's heavy-hitter. The small plates include a pork neck kimchi, a juicy sausage made of rock shrimp with fennel pollen, and a 'bacon board' -- a slab of various bacons and fig jam.
I found myself drooling over a customer's Pig's Head Cuban sandwich ($12), made with pig's head terrine, slivers of ham, pickles, Gruyere, and slick mayonnaise. The pig's head meat roasts at low heat until it's falling off the bone.
The beer fridge contains anywhere between 200 and 300 varieties of beer at any given time. Cannibal servers will expertly pair beers spanning the globe with your specific tastes.
Next on the tour is Genuine Roadside, an Americana-themed diner serving classic roadside-stand fare. The menu was decided after the cooks got together to talk about what foods they loved as children in the '70s.
The menu reflects a cross-country palate, from the Gold Star Grilled Fish Tacos to the Seoul Train Sandwich. The Buttermilk Battered Chicken Sandwich, topped with sambal mayo and celeriac-apple slaw, looked like a more filling, classy rendition of a fast food chicken sandwich -- but came with a hefty price tag of $US10.62.
Despite being on the pricey side, Genuine Roadside is worth a visit just to check out the throwback décor. Cassette tapes and vintage car photos line the wood-paneled walls, and there's one orange vinyl booth outfitted with a golden eagle.
Classic board games are up for grabs, as well. Where else can you fuel the nostalgia with a Strawberry Shortcake milkshake and Yahtzee?
Or maybe you're hungry for a more romantic ambiance. Look no further than El Colmado, Chef Seamus Mullen's classic Spanish tapas bar. Its Spanish wine and sherry menu will transport you to Catalonia or Bierzo.
One of the more experiential dishes here is the Ración Jamón Ibérico de Bellota ($23), mouthwatering flakes of cured pig that the cooks cut to order.
This type of pig roams farmlands along the border between Spain and Portugal, foraging for food and eating mostly acorns. Slicing it is considered an art form over there.
Time for a coffee break? Try Blue Bottle Coffee, the red-hot retailer that raised $US25 million from big-name tech investors earlier this year. After first taking Silicon Valley by storm, the cool-kid chain opened its fifth New York City location in Gotham West Market.
Drip coffee ($3.25) is the most popular item on the menu, which involves a brewing process that takes 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per cup and guarantees a fresh cup every time. Blue Bottle Coffee has come to be known for its pour-over method.
You can pick up a bag of whole beans to-go, or treat yourself to a crisp almond Biscotti or Snickerdoodle ($1.50 -- $US2) and stay a while. These ovenly treats were dreamed up by one of the Blue Bottle Coffee owners, Caitlin Freeman.
Lots of patrons seemed to be catching up with friends over cold-brewed iced coffee, sometimes over a game of Scrabble. There didn't appear to be the same get-in-get-out traffic you encounter at Starbucks.
The single retail outpost is the Brooklyn Kitchen, a one-stop shop for kitchenware, knives, produce, meats, specialty food items, and cookbooks.
As the name implies, the Brooklyn Kitchen offers a huge variety of locally made products, like the beautifully packaged chocolate bars by Williamsburg-based Mast Brothers Chocolate.
The Brooklyn Kitchen also offers daily cooking classes, taught by chefs and cookbook authors, in the rear demo kitchen. Learn to slice and dice like an Iron Chef during a knife skills class, or whip up 'Dutch Baby Pancakes,' as seen below.
Classes are open to the public and you can register online. Or, stop by for a free sample like I did. (Nom!)
A trip to the Gotham West Market is not complete without slurping back a bowl of ramen at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, the heart and soul of the whole operation. Its chef, Ivan Orkin, has become a celebrity in the ramen-enthusiast community for his unique broth recipe, signature rye noodles, and unexpected background.
A self-described 'Jewish kid from Long Island,' Orkin taught himself to make ramen in Japan and opened the top ramen shops in Tokyo, an unheard-of accomplishment for a foreigner. His roots find their way onto the menu in the form of the Smoked Whitefish Donburi rice bowl and Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda.
The Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is his first venture in the U.S. Orkin will open his flagship American restaurant in New York's Lower East Side later this spring.
One of the more traditional ramens, the Classic Shio, is a flavour explosion starring sea salt, chicken, dashi double soup, pork chashu, and Orkin's signature rye noodles. I ordered it 'fully loaded,' so it came with halved hard-boiled eggs and roasted tomatoes. Served steaming hot, it was fresh, savory, and honestly, just really fun to eat.
If you're a ramen newbie, Orkin devised a step-by-step guide, 'The Art of the Slurp,' to help you eat the noodles with chopsticks without looking silly. It's illustrated on the wrap-around counter and on the menu. The No. 1 rule: Eat it while it's hot.
After making the rounds, you might want to burn off some calories. Fortunately, the hipster-renowned bike shop NYC Velo is located just around the corner, still in the building.
It offers an expansive selection of bicycles and apparel, bike rentals, full maintenance and repair, and professional bike-fitting services. Admittedly, I was too deep into the food coma to really browse.
Despite being a little on the pricey side, Gotham West Market had me hooked -- from the impeccable service to the unbelievable variety and quality of the food. It wasn't a food court, it was a culinary immersion experience. I'll definitely be back.
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