If you are visiting the Big Apple and looking for something to do other than seeing the iconic sights or shopping Fifth Avenue, consider a visit to two of New York’s best indoor markets. It’s a great way to spend your day, especially if the weather is not cooperating with your visit. A culinary experience on all levels awaits you as you drink, eat and shop your way through Eataly and the Chelsea Market.
Plan to make Eataly your first stop. You can easily spend 4 hours there if you want to see and eat all that Eataly has to offer. After you are done exploring Eataly, get started on your walk (about 20 minutes) over to the Chelsea Market. Taking your time to explore the shops at Chelsea Market with the obligatory stop at the Lobster Place should take you about 2 hours.
Let’s Get Tripping!
Eataly is a gigantic Italian-food market that opened in New York City in 2010. The first Eataly was actually opened in 2007 in Turin, Italy by an Italian businessman, Oscar Farinetti. Since the first opening of Eataly, several more have been opened throughout Italy as well as in Dubai, Istanbul, Japan and the US. In the US, only two cities have an Eataly, New York and Chicago. The New York market is the flagship store in the US, and it is owned by Oscar Farinetti along with celebrity chefs and food personalities, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich.
It is truly has an enormous footprint on Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets across from Madison Square Park. With over 50,000 square feet of market and restaurants, it seems a bit daunting at first to try to move around the market especially with the large crowds. But have no fear, Eataly makes it easy to navigate the food emporium by offering maps at the Guest Services desk at the 23rd Street entrance. Pick one up as you enter the market and get ready for an experience that is surely not to disappoint regardless if you are a foodie or not.
Time for some eating in Eataly!
As you make your way around the market, you’ll notice that there are more people eating at the various restaurants than there are shopping in the food aisles. It’s true, Eataly is a foodie destination, and if you visit, you should definitely experience a restaurant or two (if not three) while you are there. I would recommend a visit to Birreria first (make reservations ahead of time) for a beer, a great view and the delicious brussel sprouts and funghi misto. I would next put my name on the list at La Pasta to try the pizza, and if there is a wait, do some shopping in the market. Finally, I would stop by La Piazza for some wine and cheese.
So, here’s the deal with the restaurants. There are 6 sit down restaurants, but only Manzo and Birreria take reservations. If you want to eat at the other restaurants, you’ll have to visit the hostess stand next to each one and put your name on the list as they are “first come, first serve.” Wait times for these restaurants can be as long as 90 minutes on busy weekends or during lunch time.
If you don’t want to wait for a table, try La Piazza. You can’t miss this restaurant, as it is located right in the center of the market, and you’ll end up walking through it at some point. You’ll notice many standing tables right in the center of the main walkway where people are standing and sipping on Italian wines while feasting on meat and cheese platters. No need to put your name on a list here. Instead, you’ll need a bit of luck and a watchful eye to grab an empty seat at the counter or squeeze into a space at one of the standing tables. As soon as you grab your spot, an attentive waiter will come by to take your order. La Piazza has a limited menu, and it’s really the place to go for meat and cheese platters or raw bar offerings.
The two restaurants that take reservations are the more formal restaurants at Eataly. Manzo is located indoors and specializes in beef, and Birreria, an open-air rooftop restaurant, offers cask ale beers and comfort food (not to mention a decent view of the skyline).
Once you put your name on a list, stop at one of the wine stands located throughout the market. You can sip on your wine as you shop the market or while you are standing around waiting for your table.
It is so tempting to fill up on all the delicious food offerings, but you’ll definitely want to save room for dessert. There is also a Gelateria where you can enjoy some house made gelato if you don’t mind waiting in a ridiculously long line.
For Nutella fans, you can skip the pastries and gelato and just head straight to the Nutella Bar for a nutella crepe or other sweet treat filled with this delicious hazelnut spread. The Nutella Bar is located right next to Guest Services at the 23rd Street entrance.
Time for some shopping in Eataly!
After you are done eating, you’ll want to revisit some of the market areas to pick up those must-have items that caught your eye earlier. Eataly offers some exceptional brands and unique items of not only food but kitchen and cooking gadgets and accessories as well. Here is a sampling of the goodies you will want to take home with you.
THE CHELSEA MARKET
Once you’ve had your fill of everything Italian, head down to Chelsea and spend some time walking the block-long indoor market that is filled with some unique shops and restaurants.
The Chelsea Market was built in the former National Biscuit Company’s factory complex where the Oreo Cookie was invented. It now houses several shops and restaurants including the famous and popular Buddakan and Morimotos. It has retained a very rustic feel, and it’s always an enjoyable experience to wonder its rustic halls as you shop and eat.
My favorite stops in the Chelsea Market include the following:
The Filling Station – The Filling Station specializes in Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Specialty Oils, Balsamic Vinegars, Exotic Salts, Facial & Body Scrubs and Craft Beers.
You can sample all the salts, vinegars and oils and then select one of three sizes of the ones you like the most. My favorites include cranberry pear balsamic vinegar, strawberry balsamic vinegar, honey ginger balsamic vinegar, white truffle salt and the Tuscan herb infused olive oil.
If you live locally, you can bring in your empty bottles and jars to be refilled and receive a 10% discount. Before you leave, try one of their craft beers. You can walk around the Chelsea Market with an open container, just be sure to finish it before you leave the building.
Amy’s Bread – Once you pick up your vinegar and oil, you’ll want to stop by Amy’s Bread so you’ll have something to dip in it. This bakery is known for it’s delicious breads, which can be found at many restaurants and markets around town. Definitely try the semolina-fennel-raisin, it’s delicious, and they are famous for it.
Spices and Tease – I love spice markets, and this one does not disappoint with its large selection of exotic imported spices and peppers.
Here you’ll find over 70 spices and seeds and over 30 varieties of homemade spice blends as well as gourmet salts and peppers. While you are there, check out their tea collection with over 180 imported teas as well as naturally flavored teats.
The Nut Box – Stop by the Nut Box for your nut fix. Here you’ll find fresh, savory, wholesome, natural and organic nuts, trail mixes, dried fruits and granolas.
The Chelsea Wine Vault – If you are looking for a nice bottle of wine to compliment all the goodies you’ve picked up throughout your day visiting the markets, stop in the Chelsea Wine Vault. Here, you will also find a nice collection of wine gadgets including wine sleeves in case you want to take your wine purchase on the plane with you. You’ll find a wide range of tastes and budgets at this friendly wine shop.
The Lobster Place – It’ll be hard to walk by the Lobster Place without sticking your head into this popular and always business fish market to take a closer look. Here you’ll find Maine lobsters of all sizes for sale to take away or to eat at the market. It is the main attraction, and there are more people eating lobsters than there are places to sit. Expect to see people jockeying around the market holding a freshly boiled lobster as they look for a spot to eat it. In no time, you’ll be craving one for yourself even after all the eating you did at Eataly.
While you are at the Lobster Place, consider trying the chowder and the sushi. You can also get lobster rolls or freshly packaged lobster meat.
Try the reasonably priced raw oysters at the Lobster Place. They offer a wide selection, and if you need help choosing, simply ask the helpful staff for recommendations.
The perfect way to end the day, the High Line
After your long day of exploring the markets, why not take advantage of your location right next to the High Line and walk off some of the calories you took in throughout the day. The High Line is open until 10PM, so a walk along the park is the perfect way to end a day of eating at the markets.
I’m surprised that some New Yorkers, let alone tourists, don’t know what the High Line is. So just in case you fall into that crowd, let me explain. It is a public park built on a historic freight rail line on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan. What makes it unique compared to your typical city park (besides the fact that it’s built on an old railroad track) is that it is elevated above the busy streets of Manhattan. It sits between 10th and 11th Avenues and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.
You can easily reach the High Line from the Chelsea Market by taking the 10th Avenue exit out of the Chelsea Market and walking a block south to the 14th Street entrance. Visit the High Line website for more information including a Self-Guide.
I hope you enjoy your day exploring what I think are two of New York City’s best indoor markets.