I have not been thrilled by my past food hall experiences, to put it lightly. In fact, I can feel my chest tightening anxiously just thinking about the crowds, the noise, and the gimmicky food (Raindrop cake! Rainbow grilled cheese!). But when I heard about a new, expansive food hall opening on Manhattan’s West Side, I was very curious. Market 57 is not just any old tourist trap, after all: It was curated by the James Beard Foundation, the organization known for its prestigious chef and restaurant awards. I thought, maybe, it would be a food hall with taste.
Located in the cavernous Pier 57, the aptly named food hall brings together restaurants from around New York—plus one original kiosk that acts as a rotating incubator space for chefs in the Beard House Fellows program, a mentorship initiative run by JBF. Though the JBF hosts chefs for ticketed dinners at the home of the late James Beard, this food hall marks the foundation’s first entry into something more closely resembling a restaurant space. The announcement of a JBF-approved food hall generated a lot of buzz. Critics had high hopes. The foundation was certainly involved in the food hall’s creation, but to say that the James Beard Foundation opened a food hall is an over-simplification. The property comes from the real estate firm Jamestown, the same company behind nearby food hall and shopping center Chelsea Market, and its president Michael Phillips said that, while JBF provided a longlist, Jamestown actually had final say over restaurant selection.
Could this food hall, specially (or at least, partially) curated by the James Beard Foundation, live up to the high standard the organization itself has set for restaurants and chefs?
In the name of journalism, I tried dumplings, fried chicken, and fresh oysters. I chased a samosa with an entire lobster roll. I bravely had an upset tummy from overeating and barely complained. I spent hours trying more than twenty dishes over three days at what ended up feeling like a good but not particularly unique food hall.
A big part of the food hall’s purpose is to “expose the world to the work of chefs who are really leading the industry forward,” according to Kris Moon, president and COO of the James Beard Foundation. That mission came through more at some stands than others. Highlights included creative dishes from small businesses like the fried chicken spot Bessou and the Harlem-based Caribbean standout LoLo’s. The presence of other tenants, like the iconic Nom Wah, were, while delicious, a bit more confusing—does the nationally acclaimed Chinese restaurant really need more exposure? And on my visit, the foundation’s own stall was not quite there yet. After much eating, here were my main takeaways.
The foundation brought some beloved restaurants from across NYC into one space
While New Yorkers have the luxury of exploring across all five boroughs at their leisure, most visitors don’t have the time or energy. It’s here that Market 57 proves to be invaluable, bringing exciting offerings from around the city into a single space that can serve an audience of tourists and locals alike. Many of the best food stands are offshoots of popular neighborhood spots, and these independent restaurateurs will benefit from the increased foot traffic and mainstream exposure of a central location and the James Beard name.