Walking into Gansevoort Market is like entering food heaven - one can find almost anything that one could possibly want under one roof, which is exactly what founder and owner Chris Reda had in mind when designing this novel concept. Though originally in the hospitality industry, Chris was inspired to open his first food hall by a desire to have all his favorite foods in a single space. Initially, the business gained fame and recognition on Gansevoort Street, but after a short time, in 2016, he revamped his idea for the next iteration of the market to appeal to a wider public on West 14th.
After I walked through the market, sampled the various culinary delights it has to offer, and chatted with the owners of several businesses within the space, the reasons for its success became obvious. Simply from an aesthetic perspective, the market’s design is very appealing - Tanya Shevloff, the market’s director of operations, described it as a “throwback to old New York in a modern space.” All the vendors are within one large, open room that has a series of long tables for communal dining in the back, reminiscent of the layout of European food halls. One can easily venture from stall to stall to sample from the diverse array of foods and then enjoy sharing it while seated alongside other diners in the inviting and relaxed setting. The market’s multiplicity of options is another feature in its favor, as patrons can try out anything, including fresh, authentic Peruvian ceviche, pizza, hamburgers, waffles, ice cream and cookies to name only a few.
Regardless of one’s choice, the food will not disappoint, as each of the places in the market was handpicked by Chris for its high-quality food and innovative concepts. Many of them are also first-time businesses, or at least new to having a brick-and-mortar location. In fact, Chris said that the market has been called an “incubator for small businesses,” since after setting up in Gansevoort Market, many of these previously unknown places have gained widespread recognition that has allowed them to expand.
Tanya and Chris both attested that having only small, local businesses in the market made for a more personal experience for their patrons that is lacking in the chain- and corporation-dominated environment of the city. They explained that when an established business sets up a stall in a market, the stall is usually run by an employee, since the owner’s priority is the primary location of the business. However, because many of the purveyors here do not have other locations, the stalls are run by the owners. “This is their baby, which means the owners are often behind the counter, so customers can experience their passion for what they do and interact with them regularly,” Tanya remarked.
Though the market has already been very well received, Tanya and Chris have further plans to continue improving and expanding. A bar heavily focused on local craft beer, wine, and artisanal spirits will soon be added to the back of the space. The addition will enhance the social ambiance and encourage patrons, especially those in a younger demographic, to see the market as a place to “eat during the day and hang out at night,” explained Chris. When asked what other projects they are working on, they revealed that they will be opening another food hall in Dumbo with a similar concept but different vendors.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.