Walking through the subterranean, industrial infrastructure of Chelsea Market, there is a bombardment of sight, sound, smell, and taste that is simply glorious. It is a sprawling, trendy, quirky, traditional, diverse, crowd-pleasing stroll rolled up in an epicurean’s paradise that always leaves me craving more.
This underground bazaar winds through the belly of the old Nabisco factory with its concrete floors, iron-gilded arches, exposed beams, and bare bulbs conjuring up the past. The space was once the world’s largest baking factory, taking in 2,500 barrels of flour a week and churning out Oreo, Marshmallow Sandwiches, and Nilla Wafers for distribution the world over. Today, at one bend, a wishing well with cascading water asks for spare change, and at the next, a canopy of Christmas lights welcomes visitors.
One thing remains to link the new Market with the old National Biscuit Company’s bakery: the food. Distinct smells from savory to sweet linger around the curves and corners of the market, overtaking and enhancing the experience. The Lobster Place, which also sources fresh seafood to Cull & Pistol, offers an intensely salty and fishy aroma. The ginger, cardamom, and hibiscus are just a few prominent scents from Spices and Tease blends, which help distract the long line of people enticed by Los Tacos No. 1 during lunchtime rush. Next door, whiffs of ground coffee beans come from Ninth Street Espresso. Concentrated in one corner of the 15th Street arcade, The Doughnuttery, Bar Suzette (a crepe bar), and Li-Lac Chocolates never let a passerby forget to indulge after delighting in the vegan offerings at Beyond Sushi, an eatery that takes pride in fresh and local ingredients.
On the specialty side, Dickson’s Farmstand is a butcher shop that works with small family farms and The Filling Station is committed to sourcing oils, vinegars, salts, and craft beers organically. A Manhattan staple, with an emphasis on organic and local, Amy’s Bread serves up delicious loaves from tangy sourdough to walnut raisin. The Green Table, a small haven for actual dining, also offers local, sustainable, and organic dishes including roasted pasture-raised chicken and a harvest salad. L’Arte Del Gelato‘s amaretto, panna cotta or mascarpone are only a few examples of the enticing flavors for the adventurous ice cream lover. People are constantly lining the narrow aisles to gather up the quality and well-priced fruits and vegetables from Manhattan Fruit Exchange or lingering in Buon Italia, with its bounty of imported Italian goods.
Although gastronomy dominates, the Market is not entirely filled with food vendors. Anthropologie anchors one end of the market, and, wandering farther down, there is Posman Books, with an excellent selection of titles and greeting cards. Not only can chefs find absolutely anything necessary for their restaurants at Bowery Kitchen Supplies, but there is also an abundance of fun and useful items for the everyday cook. The colorful décor at Imports from Marrakesh constantly draws people inside. Artists & Fleas has found a permanent home just inside the Tenth Avenue entrance where Brooklyn’s emerging artists sell an ever-changing, well-curated collection of vintage goods.
The farm-to-table sentiment is certainly not lost in the market with its vendors focused on high quality, ethically sourced ingredients – bringing rural roots to an urban environment. Chelsea Market is a retrofitted factory made into a concourse of culinary dreams, reminiscent of Grand Central Station and the vaulted, underground promenades of Paris.
Read more about the shops of Chelsea Market.
The store is a mosaic in itself. Denes Petoe, CEO, and Graham Barr, president, have laid out their showroom to facilitate the nearly 1, 000 varieties of natural stone, as well as to capture the eye of each customer. Style here is in the eye of the beholder, not in the hands of the retailer.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store, ” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games. Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me. ”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination. ” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues, ” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices. ”
On any given day when passing by, there are legions of young, hopeful actors hanging around outside this building in between classes. Lee Strasberg, known to moviegoers for his role as gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, founded his institute in 1969, almost forty years after he participated in the formation of the Group Theatre (an ensemble of actors that were committed to putting on productions representative of "the life of their times. ") As artistic director of the Institute until his death in 1982, Strasberg continued to train his students through Method Acting - a technique that has been recognized internationally. Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, and Marlo Thomas are only a few of the actors who were taken under Strasberg's wing and taught to fly. Today, the Institute continues to flourish as it turns out many fine actors both here and at its Hollywood location. For those who would like to watch some of this training in action, there are two theaters (The Marilyn Monroe Theater and the Lee Strasberg Theater) connected to the Institute where students perform.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.