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. Just thinking about it again makes my mouth water, it makes me want to go get another sub near me, because they were delicious but so are my local ones! Also, 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.)