Food courts invoke extremely negative connotations. Thoughts about greasy Chinese food and the seductive smell of sticky, sweet Cinnabons spend chills running down your spine. When branding Gotham West Market, they were extremely conscious to stay away from the idea of a food court, a collective grouping of cuisines that make no sense together. Yet, this new market filling an old warehouse space in Hell’s Kitchen no-man’s land on 11th Avenue, combines pate with ramen with artisanal coffee. And it works.
Eight food vendors and a bicycle shop fill the large, industrial space. Each restaurant occupies a long narrow bar area of their own, stylized and branded to fit their personal niche. The counter tops offer seating exclusive for that restaurant, re-creating the bar style seating I love. It’s conducive for dinner with one other individual, or dining alone with the extremely friendly attentive staff creating witty banter and making you feel comfortable without having to rely on a book or Candy Crush as a crutch from the lonely world.
Groups, do not fear! The market is designed explicitly for friends who cannot decide on one kind of cuisine yet want to eat together. Picnic bench style tables fill the entire interior section of the market, providing seating for big groups. You can each order food at every stand, order and pick up a plastic number card and each stand will deliver a tray to your table. This way, one person can enjoy a Patatas Bravas from El Colmado, while another person devours Braised Beef Ribs from Little Chef.
I made the cross-town trek from work to Gotham West on a chilly afternoon. While waiting for my friend to arrive, I scoped out the food situation, knowing that Ivan Slurp Shop (a new and much raved about Ramen bar) would definitely be on the hit list for the evening. I eventually found myself occupying a seat at The Cannibal, the newest outpost of a Kips Bay favorite. I admit I was lured by Happy Hour, mainly their draft cocktails which included a mean Manhattan.
The extremely friendly waitstaff immediately made me feel right at home, telling me a bit about the new establishment. They’re open until midnight, daily, attracting a wide range of customers, especially those from down the block at CBS (trust me, if we had something like this near NBC, we’d be all over it like pate on toast). After the wild success of Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, this creates an indoor market for foodies every day of the week and tucked away from the bitter cold. It’s a brilliant idea, especially for those like myself, who normally solely habitate on the West Side of the Island.
Shortly after finishing my first Manhattan, my friend, Mike arrived. We decided to have a few appetizers at The Cannibal before heading across the space to the much-talked about Ivan Slurp Shop. My new friends behind the counter provided much needed recommendations, allowing for us to decipher the menu. We began with a deconstructed Eel Deviled Egg with Rye Croutons.
These little bites are ridiculous. Instead of whipping the egg yolks like a traditional deviled egg, the yolk and white remain in tact topped with a creamy smoked eel mixture. Crispy pieces of black rye sit on top of the eel and eggs added a much needed crunch to the creamy rich, smoky bite. In theory the combination sounds bizarre, eggs and eel and rye? But trust me, these guys know what they are doing. Meat and weird combinations are their specialty.
When our waiter suggested Chicken Liver Mousse with Coco Nibs, we happily ordered this bizarre combination.
Who in the world would have thought that chocolate and liver are a match made in carnivorous heaven? The Cannibal, that’s who. The creamy, slightly sweet mousse could stand out on its own, but the coco nibs makes it absolutely ridiculous. The pieces are small and crunchy, not over powering, while the shallot jam adds another element of sweet and slightly spicy. Put all of the ingredients on slightly charred bread, and you have a winner.
Finally, we finished our meal at The Cannibal with a soft Pretzel and Mustard Cheddar spread. As Wisconsin kids, Mike and I have a serious affinity toward creamy cheese, especially when paired with pretzels.
Dip the homemade salted, soft pretzel into the creamy and sharp cheddar cheese and you’ll realize why I loved going to school in Wisconsin. Cheese and Mustard on a Pretzel, tell me what could possibly get better then that?
We closed our our tab at The Cannibal, perfectly satisfied and ready for a bowl of piping hot Ramen. Slinging our coats over our arms, we made the short walk across the space to the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, staring at the large board reading a variety of options as we watched the chefs stir giant pots and create beautiful bowls of soup. Being the foodie that I am, I immediately recognized Ivan standing adjacent to the register and quickly asked the master for advice on what to order. He suggested if we were sharing to add egg to the his favorite, Classic Shoyu. We were extremely grateful for his recommendation, ordering exactly as we were told.
Ivan’s back story is fascinating. He grew up in Long Island, a nice Jewish boy with a love for all things Japanese. He set out on a mission to Tokyo to make Ramen, ultimately opening his own shop to high critical acclaim. This impressive feat proved his skill and ability to make a ridiculous bowl of noodle and soup. Gotham West Market fortunately houses his first outpost in the United States. New Yorker’s are extremely lucky.
The slurp shop currently does not have a liquor license, but that’s when the beauty of the space comes into play. Mike walked across the way to El Colmado purchasing two glasses of white wine to sip as we slurped our ramen.
Beautiful bowl of rye ramen noodles and dark, brown broth immediately sets this bowl apart from many other variations found throughout the city. The noodles are chewy, curled and excellent. The flavors are pure, straight forward, no gimmicks. Especially during a time when the trendiness of ramen seems to be at an all-time high, it’s refreshing to find a place that doesn’t need to add while and crazy combination to attract the crowds.
Luckily for now, Gotham West Market is a poorly kept secret. Many east-siders might be deterred by the cold and three-block walk from the nearest subway. But for those willing to battle the wind, you’ll be warmed up quickly with a hot bowl of ridiculously good ramen or a warming draft Manhattan. This place will attract crowds, very, very soon, mark my word. Try and get there while you can, explore all the different markets, talk to the fabulous people working there and try their recommendations, that’s half the fun.
Gotham West Market – 600 11th Avenue – New York, NY
Location: Hell’s Kitchen, NY
Perfect For: Impressing Foodies, Neighborhood Hang, Late Night, Dining Solo
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: Chicken Liver Mousse, Eel Hard Boiled Egg
Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop
Location: Hell’s Kitchen, NY
Perfect For: Authentic Dining, Impressing Foodies, Adventurous Eating, Dining Solo
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: Classic Shoyu