A Guide To New York City’s Best Food Markets

As a five foot three, 115 lbs, petite female most people can’t guess my overwhelming love for food just by looking at me. And while I do have a deep love for salads and vegan burgers, I can also chomp down on a large domino’s pizza or a four-course dinner with no problem. Out of all my friends I’m always the only one finishes the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s, who eats their whole meal on a date (and I’m not talking salad this time), or who surfs yelp for new, cool restaurants when I’m bored in class. So if you can’t already tell by that description, food is my thing – and food markets are a foodie’s fairytale dream come to life. I frequent a lot of food markets, and although I like going with my parents the best (I am a foodie who was bred from two other foodies), it really only matters that I’m there with someone who is open to trying a variety of interesting and sometimes bizarre foods – as well as sharing them. My recommendation, go with a few of your closest friends or family and pick out five or six things that intrigue everybody, and then share. Think of it like a pseudo tapas.

Want to try a food market but don’t know where to start? Luckily, I’ve been to my fair share just here in New York. Below I’ll list my thoughts on my favorites in the City, along with a few I haven’t gotten the chance to try.

1. Smorgasburg

If you’re going to try one food market out of all the ones I recommend – make it this one. They have two locations, one in Prospect Park and the OG in Williamsburg. I’ve been to both, and while the Prospect Park one is cute and much closer to us Manhattanites, it really is no comparison to the OG one in Brooklyn. Set near the water, the Williamsburg location is perfect for a warm afternoon day. You can stroll around, collect some tasty bites, and munch on them in the open space on the side of the market while basking in the view and the warm breeze. The market offers a large variety of cuisines, both vegan and non-vegan, and even houses a booth to previous Top Chef contestant Fatima Ali. And if you’re not already convinced, both locations are also in close proximity to indoor flea markets, so you basically have your whole Saturday afternoon set.

2. Chelsea Market

I live in very close proximity to Chelsea Market, I’m talking five blocks close, so unfortunately for my waistband and my wallet, it tends to be my go-to place for killing time with a friend or a date. Chelsea Market is an indoor market located in a used-to-be warehouse. Unlike some other indoor markets, it contains a plethora of options – from fine dining restaurants to taco stands to chocolate shops. Towards the back of the market, there are is also a handful of book and novelty stores and even its own little flea market. Now you would think since I find myself here so often it means that I’ve tried most of what’s there, but in actuality, I can’t seem to separate myself from this one outstanding taco spot. It’s called Los Tacos (you’ll probably notice it from the line), and although the open kitchen can make it a little intimidating for first-timers, don’t let that stop you – the tacos are cheap, authentic, and overall just incredible. My one warning about this market is that the hallways are narrow and there’s not much room to eat, so it’s actually better to stop by on a weekday when the crowd is a little more controlled.

3. Canal Street Market

Every time I end up at Canal Street Market, it’s because I end up stumbling upon its doorstep while running errands in the area. Due to its location in Chinatown, its offerings are primarily of Asian origins, but there are also some non-Asian standouts. The great thing about this market, unlike Chelsea Market, is that it has a large, open eating area. With both high tables and quaint wooden benches, there’s plenty of room for you to relax and enjoy a good conversation over some juicy dumplings. Canal Street market also has a non-food market joint to it, where you can find small wonders from an assortment of small and local vendors. Any Man Repeller fans will remember this location from their first pop up shop for the MR by Man Repeller shoe drop.

4. Madison Square Eats

Another outdoor market! Despite the market’s compact size, it is jam-packed with interesting and exciting choices. It’s located in the little pocket of Madison Square, so be aware that there’s not much room to roam or frolick while there. But where it lacks in size, it makes up for in flavor.  The market is powered by Urbanspace, the company that runs several other food and holiday markets in the city, which explains the market’s potency. Surprisingly I’ve had some of my favorite market food at this spot. My recommendation, try the Chinese street crepes (‘jianbing’, 煎饼) from the Mr. Bing stall, I had the Peking duck one my first time there and it was truly life-altering.

5. The Plaza Food Hall

The last food market I’ve had the fortune of trying was the Plaza Food Hall. This food market is a little bit of a hidden gem, as it is located in the basement of the Plaza Hotel. There is little signage indicating its existence, and you actually enter through a door on the side of the hotel. But once you descend the elevators into the magic that is this “basement”, nothing else matters (I mean it’s still the Plaza for heaven’s sake). The Plaza Food Hall isn’t as widely stocked as some of the other food markets I mentioned, but it is the perfect place to grab a bite after spending a warm afternoon in Central Park. The only thing to be aware of is the prices since it is situated inside the Plaza Hotel the prices tend to reflect that.

If none of those mouth-watering options sound appealing to you, I figured I would shout out a few noteworthy food markets that I still have on my bucket list:

  1. TurnStyle
  2. Gotham West Market
  3. Urbanspace Vanderbilt
  4. The Pennsy
  5. Hudson Eats
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