The first day I was in New York (March 25, 2016), I embarked on pretty invigorating food exploration considering I’d just gotten off a 14 hour flight, and a few hours of travel time added on either side of the journey.
After connecting with my fellow travellers in Chelsea where our Airbnb was located, I freshened up and set off with them, and we ended up at Chelsea Market.
I wasn’t expecting anything (bear in mind I’d gone on this holiday with little to no planning whatsoever), and it was a very cool surprise. Words like industrial, street food, food hall, boho, sprang to mind.
The inside of the market was filled with shops that sold clothes, groceries, chocolates, and then we went on to the actual food! Bakeries, gelateries, wine bars, cupcakes, desserts, seafood, Japanese-inspired Mexican (yes, really), doughnuts… It wouldn’t stop. Every corner revealed a “I’d like to eat this, and this, and this and this too” moment.
So here’s my journey through the market, in chronological order:
1. Sarabeth’s Bakery
OK seriously, 14 hour flight with travel time on either side. I needed my caffeine hit. Sarabeth’s Bakery was suggested by my one-and-only PR friend (we’re good friends to the point where he was invited to my birthday) and while I’m sorry I was unable to try the baked goodies (which all smelled fantastic btw), the coffee hit the spot. No sugar needed, and none offered. Thanks Sarabeth’s. You can peer into the large kitchen and watch them make all the goodies on the spot, which was a treat.
2. Lobster Place
Right. On to some real food. If you can’t handle fishy smells, stay away from Lobster Place. We were confused initially because it looked like a fish market, but there were definitely people holding lobster rolls and salmon sandwiches in their hands, so there had to be food somewhere. Be prepared to walk in and not know what’s going on.
From fresh fish counters with fishmongers serving the freshest catch you fancied, to an area where sushi rolls were being served out quick… it was all there. We walked (or rather, pushed through the throngs of people) all the way to the back, where lobster roll ($17.50, including chips and a pickle), smoked salmon sandwich ($10.50), and lobster bisque (ranging from $4.75-7.95, depending on the size of bowl) were ordered. There’s no specified dining area. There are high tables where people are crowded around, with their rolls, whole lobsters, and napkins. Find a spot, hover creepily until someone leaves. Don’t expect a sit-down experience; this is real, gritty, eat on the street.
And it did not disappoint. The lobster bisque blew me away. The consistency and flavour packed into it was astounding – I wanted to have more and more, one bowl shared between the two of us just wasn’t enough! The lobster rolls were fresh, the meat tasting as if it had just come off the freshest lobster possible. The roll was generously heaving with the tender, juicy meat – stingy it was not. I was amazed that my first real food in New York was mind-blowing. The salmon sandwich was average in comparison, but it might have just been the power of the lobster overshadowing the salmon.
If you are in the area, and love fresh seafood, definitely try this spot, I’d highly recommend it.
*and a break*
We headed to a shop (whose name I very absent-mindedly did not write down) where we ended up purchasing all manner of biscuits and treats. There was a British celebration going on, and I even found goodies all the way from Ipswich, from a shop I’ve been to. But after that, we continued with the food exploration.
4. Bar Suzette Creperie
Sweet things! We love sweet things! We found a food hall within the food hall that was Chelsea Market, housing all sorts of little stalls, and first settled down at this creperie. I must admit I was rather boring in my choice, and went with Nutella and strawberry ($7). It tasted warm and gooey, and was all I really wanted in my crepe – wrapped up in paper in a way which meant I could hold it rather easily. But if you don’t want sweet crepes, they also had savoury in the form of truffled mozzarella, squash and goat cheese, apples & brie, and much more. Sit on the high stools and watch your crepes being made…it just adds to the overall experience.
We clearly hadn’t had enough of the sweet. One of my companions nipped off to the next-door stall called Doughnuttery. Bite-sized doughnuts are fried right before your eyes, and we tried the cinnamon sugar (and to be honest, two others, which I can’t remember!) – little bites of fluffy fried happiness. They are all more-ish, and I remember wondering how many more we should order to stay happy. There are also a variety of dipping sauces available.
And then we found a wine bar! Well, that was a good way to end the excursion, we thought. With wines by the glass ranging from $10-38, depending on varietals, it definintely had something for everyone. My wine of choice was the Moscato (I love me some dessert wine) at $14. While there is space to sit towards the entrance, you can sit deep inside the restaurant to find a space away from the hustle and bustle of the market. There is a bar menu, but we were too stuffed to have anything!
All in all, a successful trip to the Chelsea Market – and if I ever go back, it will be difficult not to try these spots again…but there was a lot more to explore! If you’re into trying different kinds of food, in a very street atmosphere, this is a must-visit.