Store Tour: A New Crop of NYC Food Destinations
Amid challenges for established supermarkets, New York’s retail scene is booming with new outposts of specialty chains, more food halls, and niche openings.
Illustration: Shaw Nielsen
The past year has been one of tumultuous change in New York City food retail. Relative newcomers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market have opened new locations, applying unwelcome pressure on local supermarket stalwarts. D’Agostino accepted a financial assist from the parent company of longtime rival Gristedes, which may evolve into a joint venture, while Fairway’s struggle to remain viable after a rapid expansion led the company to bankruptcy court to restructure its debt.
Whole Foods is also dealing with challenges: In January, the natural food chain reported its sixth straight quarter of falling sales. In response, Whole Foods shuttered nine stores nationally and, in an effort to combat its “Whole Paycheck” reputation, continued its rollout of 365 by Whole Foods Market stores, which will include a location in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Wegmans fans across the City continue to wait impatiently for the beloved chain’s first store, slated to open in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2018.
Food halls like Gotham Market and Eataly capitalized on their popularity by opening outposts in new neighborhoods. And as more real estate developers across the city are recognizing the value of the food hall as an amenity for residential and commercial tenants, new food halls are in the works in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the South Bronx. Even older food halls are being reinvented: In Flushing, Queens, an extensive renovation of the traditional food court at the Queens Crossing mall made room for nine new on-trend vendors, including Young Street Poke Co., a poke stand, Curry Bo curry shop, and Happy Lemon, a Taiwanese bubble tea spot known for serving tea with whipped rock-salted cheese.
Independent food entrepreneurs are not lost among larger chain and food hall expansion either. The City continues to foster innovative retail/foodservice hybrids, notably new outposts making stars of single products like yogurt or cookie dough.
Here are eight openings adding to New York’s eclectic food retail offerings:
Yogurt Giant Teams Up with Target to Expand Fast-Casual Concept
Chobani is on a mission to get Americans to eat more yogurt. “Yogurt consumption in the United States is still about one-third per capita than what you see in European countries,” says Michael Gonda, Chobani’s vice president of corporate communications. “Increasing that [number] starts with helping people see how yogurt can be used beyond one meal, and beyond one flavor profile.”
Last fall, the company launched its second cafe in New York City, nestled in a prominent corner of Target’s new Tribeca store. The fast-casual concept features grab-and-go Chobani yogurt products, in addition to an array of freshly-crafted sweet and savory dishes inspired by Mediterranean cuisines, including yogurt mixed with red pepper harissa, feta, mint, and extra virgin olive oil, or mango, avocado, jalapeños, and cilantro with yogurt.
Cookie DŌ NYC
A Village Spin on a Secret Snack
Walk down LaGuardia Place just below Washington Square, and you’ll bump into a long but orderly line of people, patiently waiting to enter Cookie DŌ NYC. The cafe, which opened in January, is the brainchild of St. Louis native Kristen Tomlan, whose childhood passion for baking—and for sneaking bites of raw cookie dough—evolved into New York City’s latest dessert destination.
The cafe features classic flavors like Signature Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal M&M, as well as a regularly rotating roster of seasonal favorites. Shoppers can eat their dough straight-up, mixed with toppings or ice cream, or even opt to whip up a batch of cookies at home.
Eataly NYC Downtown
A Celebration of Italian Cuisine Moves South
Nearly 16 years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center complex is once again teeming with commercial activity. Several foodservice options have moved in to feed the throngs of Wall Street workers and tourists pouring into the area, but none more enticing than the new downtown outpost of Eataly, which opened this past August.
Like its Flatiron District counterpart, Eataly NYC Downtown’s market offers New Yorkers a comprehensive array of Italian specialty foods, including counters where mozzarella and pasta are produced fresh each day. Eataly’s food hall includes sit-down and to-go options, perfect for visitors looking for a respite from the bustling neighborhood. Foodies looking to deepen their Italian cooking skills can tap into daily tastings and demos at Eataly’s Foodiversità.
Signature Specialty Foods Arrive in Suburban Brooklyn
This January, the iconic New York City grocery store Fairway opened its second Brooklyn location in Georgetown, a shoreline community sandwiched between the borough’s southeast neighborhoods of Canarsie and Mill Basin. The 44,000-square-foot store on Ralph Avenue features an extensive selection of fresh, natural, and organic products, prepared foods, and hard-to-find specialty offerings, along with a full assortment of conventional groceries. In addition to hundreds of locally sourced items, a cheese counter, a sizable coffee selection, and an olive oil area, the store is catering to the needs of Georgetown residents with a robust kosher selection that includes a fully-stocked kosher bakery.
“We’re thrilled to become a part of the Georgetown community in Brooklyn and offer the neighborhood a shopping experience that is enjoyable and has something for everyone,” says Jack Murphy, CEO of Fairway Group Holdings Corp.
Gotham Market at the Ashland
Popular Manhattan Food Hall Crosses the East River
Fort Greene, Brooklyn’s expanding cultural district (home of Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays Center, among others), welcomed its first neighborhood food hall this January. The Gotham Market at the Ashland features Italian and southern cuisine offerings from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que founder John Stage, tapas from restaurateur Yann de Rochefort, as well as cocktails from Bar Granger (named for Walt Whitman’s favorite brass band). According to Gotham’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Jaskiewicz, a primary focus of the project is to celebrate and support Brooklyn producers and entrepreneurs.
“One of our concepts is a neighborhood incubation program—a rotating pop-up shop, where we’ll host Brooklyn-based restaurants,” he says. Gotham also commissioned the market’s handblown chandeliers from neighbor Urban Glass.
HoneyGrow, Brooklyn Heights
Fast Casual Chain Comes to Brooklyn Heights
Since its launch in 2013, HoneyGrow has expanded its reach around the mid-Atlantic, from Philadelphia to locations in Washington, D.C. and northern New Jersey. With a focus on stir-fries and salads, the growing fast-casual chain eschews frozen and pre-packaged foods, offering up dishes made from scratch, with fresh ingredients sourced locally and sustainably where possible.
“I wanted HoneyGrow to be totally different, I wanted to keep it simple, and I wanted to be great at a few things,” says HoneyGrow CEO Justin Rosenburg. “I hired David Katz [HoneyGrow’s Culinary Director], who has a fine-dining background, before I could afford him. I wanted to differentiate us from the pack, and David really knows good food.”
This April, HoneyGrow made its foray into New York City, opening a storefront in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of the City’s hippest borough. Rosenburg was drawn to the neighborhood’s relatively low commercial rents (compared to Manhattan), as well as its mix of high office density, and bustling residential traffic. It was also a homecoming of sorts—the third generation entrepreneur spent his summers helping out in his grandfather’s Greenpoint plant.
Flexible Dining Concept Wins Big in Union Square
Combined, Union Fare’s restaurant and gastrohall occupy 24,000 square feet of retail space in a landmarked former mercantile exchange near Manhattan’s Union Square. Since it opened in May 2016, Union Fare has quickly captured the daytime loyalties of neighborhood tech firms and fashion-brand staffers with its bakery, food hall options, and laid-back communal atmosphere.
“We thought about running this just as a restaurant, but we realized we could capture thousands of people each week—as opposed to hundreds—if we opened this all up as communal seating,” says Development Director Ryan Harris. “We wanted to be a community space during the day. It’s a comfortable and beautiful space, and there’s no pressure to leave. It creates kind of a nice community.”
In the evening, Union Fare caters to residents and tourists from nearby hotels, seamlessly transforming into a fine-dining space with an adjacent sports bar and a basement speakeasy.
Whole Foods Bryant Park
Destination Shopping Near Times Square
Whole Foods Market’s new Bryant Park store caters to Midtown’s wide-ranging customer base—residents, office workers, daily commuters, and tourists from around the globe—with a primary focus on prepared culinary offerings from some of the City’s most recognizable chefs and producers. These include Italian classics from Frankies Sputino, traditional Japanese omakase by Genji Sushi, and a raw bar in partnership with Chef Daniel Boulud. The 43,000-square-foot store also features two levels of retail space filled with the natural and organic foods customers have come to expect from Whole Foods Market.
For harried New Yorkers still fighting the good fight to get a healthy homemade meal on the table after a long day at work, the new location’s produce department offers the services of the Produce Butcher—a Whole Foods staff member who will cut, slice, dice, julienne, chop, and grate any produce item upon request.
As New Yorkers show no signs of tiring of the concept, real estate developers across the city are incorporating food halls into their building plans. At press time, downtown Brooklyn’s City Point development is slated to launch DeKalb Market in early June and will feature a diverse collection of nearly 40 local and regional food outposts, including Katz’s Delicatessen’s first venture outside its original location on the Lower East Side. Three high-profile halls to watch out for: The Bruckner Market on the South Bronx waterfront is slated to open between fall 2017 and spring 2018. The launch date for Anthony Bourdain’s highly anticipated food hall at Pier 57 has been pushed back to sometime in 2019. And Urbanspace, which in 2014 opened Urbanspace Vanderbilt, has reportedly signed a lease for its second high-end, fast-serve food hall in East Midtown, Manhattan. An opening date for the new location has yet to be announced.
Amy Blankstein is a freelance writer and former grants and communications director for Just Food NYC.
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