Food halls and markets, one of the hottest trends in New York City dining over the past few years, got slammed extra hard by the pandemic, with the experiential qualities that make them so appealing to so many — multiple vendors selling shareable dishes in a big communal space — particularly ill-suited for dining out in the COVID-19 era. This is especially bad news for those of us who care about supporting small businesses, because when a food hall shuts down, it takes a lot of individual restaurants and start-ups down with it.
Several of the city's most popular food halls, including The Market Line on the Lower East Side, Dekalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn, and Smorg To Go (a.k.a. Smorgasburg) in Williamsburg, have recently begun experimenting with ways to make the format work while keeping workers and customers safe. And now the Time Out Market in DUMBO, one of the largest and most ambitious of them all, joins the ranks of the reopened, with contactless ordering, a greatly reduced number of vendors to ensure indoor distancing, and some 10,000-square-feet of dedicated outdoor seating.
First, the food. Only seven (of 21) vendors are operating upon reopening. They had planned on inviting more back when Phase 4 was to include indoor dining, and even installed plexiglass shields along the long tables inside, but all of that is on hold for now. Bessou is here, though, starring chef Emily Yuen's excellent Crispy Rice Sushi triangles, and Jacob's Pickles, as popular in DUMBO as it is on the Upper West Side, slinging its oversized Southern Fried Chicken Sandwiches and tubs of Mac and Cheese.
Ivy Stark of Dos Caminos and Rosa Mexicano renown is back with Tacos and Guacamole, acclaimed Thai seafood house Fish Cheeks is serving Coconut Crab Curry and Prawn Karee, among other fiery delights (in fact, the best thing I had last night was their Vegan Green Curry), and Pat Lafrieda Meat Purveyors are grilling up Burgers, Sliders, and Cheesesteaks. Rounding out the food options are Felice Pasta Bar and hall-of-famer ice cream parlor Ice and Vice, though the latter will be open on weekends only for now.
As far as pandemic protocols go, the Time Out Market is fortunate to have some 250 comfortably-distanced outdoor seats, both at ground level and on the fifth floor terrace. There's also the whole of Brooklyn Bridge Park at your disposal. You do have to go inside, however, to order your food, to wait for your food to be ready, and/or to pick up your food from the individual vendors. Drinks, too, must be purchased at one of the various indoor bars, and then taken outside. A quick elevator ride is involved as well, maximum four people at a time please, if you choose to go up to the terrace.
This indoor time wasn't a huge deal on reopening day this week, in the early evening when attendance was light, distancing was easy, and mask compliance was nearly 100%. But except for subway rides, it was also the longest I've spent inside, in public, since March. The Time Out Market app helps a little with its remote ordering capability (it's also really handy for checking out all the menus in one place), but because it doesn't alert you when it's ready there's still a lot of standing around indoors, waiting to get your food.
Time Out Market is located at 55 Water Street in Dumbo, on the first and fifth floor of the Empire Stores building, with additional entrances on Old Dock Street and Empire Fulton Ferry Park. Current hours are Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday (timeoutmarket.com)