Great Eats,  Traveling

USA 2016 Travel Diary: A food-filled afternoon at Chelsea Market

While researching for this trip to New York, I was looking for some unique food-related places to visit. It was really difficult to filter through all that NYC had to offer, because there are so many eateries to visit in every borough! But there was one that stuck out to me because I kept seeing it pop up all over, and that is the Chelsea Market.

Taking the A/C/E train to 8 Av-14 St. Station, we arrived at Chelsea Market early in the morning. The streets were still quiet and there weren’t too many people milling about just yet. I got a chance to see the facade of the Google office, which was awesome. It was a pleasant stroll from the subway station to Chelsea Market during the early hours, but later on it becomes a different story. 😛

I didn’t quite realize how massive Chelsea Market was until I saw it for myself. The beautiful brick building is an inviting sight even from miles away. It’s impossible to miss as well because of the signages!

Upon entering the 9th avenue side of the building, you’ll immediately see a listing of the offices and restaurants located here. The names on the top portion are the companies, and the smaller (and much more numerous) text are the eateries and shops operating here. There are quite a few!

Just like The High Line, the Chelsea Market was also something completely different before it became one of the most popular food halls in New York. The history of the building can be found scattered throughout the market, but to put it simply, this building used to be a Nabisco factory– as in, the home of the Oreo cookie!

Chelsea Market is only a small portion of what used to be a gigantic 6-storey factory, but looking up and all over you can see the signs of what it was in the past. Metal fans and exhaust pipes are left as decorative touches and it adds a lot of personality to this place. I love that they put up a display of old original adverts and tins of all the different Nabisco cookies too. So nostalgic!

The architects that revived this old factory added some new touches to the industrial elements already present, giving Chelsea Market a fully unique vibe.

I utterly love this particular corridor in the Chelsea Market. I’m not sure if they change this up seasonally, but during the time we visited, we got to pass through a corridor adorned with some lovely white Christmas lights. It gives the whole place a bright and festive mood, methinks!

Taking inspiration from a place that first brought the world what is now an icon in Oreos, it seems like Chelsea Market wants to continue in this direction. The set of eateries here are so diverse, it doesn’t take a lot of trying for all of them to bring the residents and visitors of New York an unforgettable foodie experience. I literally readied my wallet for a mini food trip here!

The shops at the Chelsea Market are a mixture of specialty stores, bakeshops, restaurants, as well as shops that sell fresh seafood and produce. They all open at different hours, and some don’t open until around 11AM. The thing that I really like about Chelsea Market is that they encourage a community where the members support each other, since I do believe many of the fruits & veggies, meat & seafood vendors supply the restaurants with the fresh ingredients they need.

Of course the main focus my Dad and I had here was getting to sample some of the food! There’s a map at the other entrance of Chelsea Market that shows the shops here in greater detail. My Dad was in the mood for lobster rolls, so guess where we headed first?

The Lobster Place is like the ultimate seafood emporium. I kid you not! It’s basically a seafood market that also houses The Cull & Pistol Galley. If seafood is your thing, this is where you go. If you’re looking for some lobster, this is definitely the place to do it.

These are the largest crab legs I have ever seen in my entire existence.

Apart from being a market where you can buy your fresh seafood to take home, there’s also a 20-seat raw fish counter where you can have an Omakase meal. The Chef will readily serve you with some of the freshest raw seafood and sashimi, from tuna to uni and whatever your heart may desire from the menu.

Apart from the Omakase bar, most of the sites and blogs out there about the Chelsea Market will recommend that you go to The Lobster Place and have some– you’ve probably guessed it– freshly steamed lobsters! They even have a little place where you can eat set up nearby. Lots of Chinese tourists were enjoying their lobsters over here, and I could see how much meat there was inside those red shells.

My Dad and I wanted something light taking into consideration the other places we wanted to try out, so we ordered from the Cull & Pistol Galley instead. There are a good number of options here including warm hearty soups, but I was more in the mood for sandwiches.

Seeing the menu, it’s rather difficult to pick once you read all the names and descriptions of the offerings. Thankfully they have a sampler option for the undecided. I tried out their Slider Sampler ($17.50 plus tax) which consisted of mini versions of all the three rolls on the first row.

Left to right: Coconut Shrimp Mini-Roll, Mini Crab Club, and a Mini Lobster Roll. The toasts are lightly toasted with butter, and all the sweet freshness of the seafood just come bursting out with every bite. I loved everything!

Before you exit, you can actually buy some things to take home with you, like cooking condiments, canned seafood, or even shirts and other merchandise!

When you visit Chelsea Market, I definitely recommend paying a visit to The Lobster Place. It’s a great experience for anybody looking for a different experience, or an Omakase meal that’s fit to bill as fine dining minus all the fancy-schmancy stuff. It gets real busy around 1PM so maybe try coming here for an early lunch so it’s not too crowded. But hey, Chelsea Market in general gets really busy around lunch and dinnertime!

After having all those sandwiches, I was feeling really thirsty and there was one thing that I had in mind to drink. Horchata! People on the web have been raving about Los Tacos No. 1 and their Horchata, so we went to look for it. And just as I expected for a taco place widely regarded as the best in New York, there was a line! It wasn’t long though so we went ahead and ordered.

Fairly full from the rolls we had, my Dad & I shared a cup of Horchata and a Nopal Taco ($3.25 plus tax). Our curiosity about eating the Nopal Taco was too much to bear, because I have never eaten cactus before! Cactus, guys. It might not be a big deal for others but that’s not something that you come across at all in my neck of the woods!

The nopal is definitely something of an acquired taste if you eat it on its own. The nopal is soft and kind of squishy, with a rather bland flavour. You have to get it with meat and pico de gallo for sure to give it a boost. In hindsight, we probably should’ve gotten the Adobada or even the Carne Asada, but this was certainly a unique experience! 😛

Los Tacos is located in a shared space with some other purveyors, and I couldn’t help but stare at the array of spices and colours over at Spice & Tease. I didn’t buy anything, but this area really reminded me of the spice souk in Dubai. One of my favourite places there.

I completely forgot that there’s a small Sarabeth’s here. I initially planned for my Dad and I to have a little time for an actual brunch at one of their Manhattan restaurants but couldn’t work it into the limited time we had in New York. I guess I’ll have to try one of the branches in Asia.

Instead, we decided to head to Amy’s Bread to buy some stuff for breakfast the next day. Every time I see a wide array of breads displayed in a bakery I go weak in the knees.

To be honest, none of the things we bought ended up lasting until the next day because we ate them all as we were walking around. They were delicious, especially the Pistachio Croissant Twist. I forgot to take a picture because I gobbled it up too excitedly!

Before heading out, we made another little stop at Fat Witch Bakery to take home some treats. This place has a way of drawing you in thanks to the witchy logo and the name. How cute is the hand-drawn witch icon, seriously?

I recognize this place because they released a cookbook some time ago, and I know they’re very well known for their brownies and blondies that come in an array of flavours. This was basically the target. 🙂

What I didn’t know is that they were also selling premixes of their famous brownies. I didn’t buy any, but I did buy something else…

Ta-dah! Fat Witch Bakery has lots of these gift boxes in different sizes and quantities; perfectly packed to give as pasalubong to family at home. I bought some for my brothers because they do like their brownies. This is also a great way to try out the different flavours of Fat Witch’s brownies and bars. These baby ones are beyond adorable!

After a good amount of time walking around Chelsea Market, it was sadly time to go home. It was early afternoon by then and New York has fully awakened. I was a little surprised to find all these food trucks parked right outside! It was empty and really quiet earlier in the day.

I guess if you can’t find anything to like inside– an impossible feat!– you can always step out and eat from any of the food trucks parked outside. You probably can’t lose, either way!



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