How do you uproot a 15,000 square-foot public market open since 1940, move it across the street underneath a giant movie theater and a fancy new apartment building, and spruce it up without turning it into a disgusting luxury mall? The new Essex Street Market (or Essex Market, if you prefer the rebranding) manages to maintain the charm befitting New York City's oldest public market in a bigger, brighter space.
All of the old vendors are here—that means you can still get your cup of coffee and 55-cent caramel, your $6 breakfast burrito, your pumpernickel everything, your sacks of pinto beans and bananas, your $2 loosie Pacificos, your whole branzino, your hair cut, your warm hazelnut chocolate croissants, your cornbread, your caviar, your spices, your bouquets, your breakfast order taken with a wry smile, your flatiron steak, your mounds of cheese and mangos. All the grocers, butchers, and fishmongers still accept EBT.
The endearingly weird brick-linoleum high school gymnasium feel is gone. There are entrances on Broome, Essex, and Delancey Street. This market is for precise pre-dinner date errands and oh-crap-I-forgot-the-bread Tuesday nights and hungover Saturday mornings and aspirational Sunday afternoons. The weekday hours have been expanded til 8 p.m.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
The original 21 vendors were enough of a draw, but there's new blood too: fancy gut-busting sandwiches, Moroccan food, vegan cheese, Thai fried chicken, schmancy ice cream, lasagna, ceviche, beer. Beer! The 40-foot glass wall abuts a large seating area with a bar overlooking the whole market. The restrooms are new. There are more vendors on the way.
One 68-year-old patron of the old market told Gothamist last month that one of the things she enjoyed most about the old market is that "it’s not inundated by young people." If the new market's official opening weekend made anything clear, is that it will be inundated with young people. And old people. Lots of people.
it's perfect pic.twitter.com/Da28l12HLE
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) May 18, 2019
On a recent visit, vendors who usually spent their afternoons perched glumly on a stool were slammed. Lots of people were smiling, even the Shopsin's gang.
The narrow aisles are not conducive to crowds. But even at its worst, a crowded Essex Market feels like a more virtuous and delicious Hudson Yards. This isn't an Instagram destination, it's a living space with a purpose. You're eating a variety of food amongst a variety of people. So what if you have to wait 10 minutes for your lunch?