When I went to Seattle at the beginning of the year, Pike Place Market entertained me for hours. I tasted samples, grimaced at googly-eyed fish, admired teeny tiny cakes and enjoyed rustic slabs of pie. It was an indulgent, leisurely treat – one I’ve also had in London, Philadelphia and Boston. And yet, the whole time I’ve been in New York, I’ve not even considered if there was an equivalent here.
I was having a browse of (my saviour) Time Out recently and my memory was jolted: Chelsea Market. I’ve walked past the enclosed market – which is on the West Side of the city at 16th Street and 9th Avenue – a handful of times, but I’ve never given it much thought. Tonight I decided to see how it compared to all of those other markets I’ve enjoyed.
Chelsea Market is basically a long corridor with stalls, shops and a few restaurants lining its edges. And my favourite places to look at were just as I expected – twee shops selling specialised products: Flavoured cooking oils, Australian veggie pies, mini doughnuts or chunks of cheese.
Like Pike Place, there were a few kitschy neon places that I could have done without – but the whole market definitely had more of an atmosphere than its Seattle counterpart.
After walking the length of the market, I headed back to Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich shop, for a spicy tofu sandwich and a watermelon juice. Oh. Good. God. It was so simple – sweet tofu, carrots, cucumber, some sort of sauce between crunchy, toasted bread – and yet so, so tasty. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat it all, but I wolfed it down in no time. The watermelon juice was as refreshing as I’d hoped – it was just a little chunky for my liking.
By New York City standards, the market isn’t very big, but I suppose we have scores of seasonal markets – such as Smorgasburg in Dumbo and Williamsburg and Madison Square Eats – for more variety. Even though it was a mere food market, I found the browsing really enjoyable. I think that the only reason I knew so little about Chelsea Market is simply because this is New York and there are a thousand other attractions at any given time. And (sorry Seattle, you know I love you) perhaps those other cities just don’t have those sorts of options.
Before leaving, I realised it would be dangerous for my health if I didn’t get a scoop of ice cream from the stand at the end of the hall – we’re in the middle of a heat wave after all. I chose mascarpone which was creamy and sweet and different and, with the sticky cup in hand, waddled the two miles home for a much-needed rest.
(Before thinking about when I can go back again.)