Foodventures : The High Line and Chelsea Market

High Line: Gansevoort & Washington Street to 30th Street, along 10th Avenue.

Chelsea Market: 75 9th Avenue.

It’s that wonderful time of the year after the trees of New York City have unleashed their eldritch swarms of face-melting pollen during the spring, but before the excessive heat and humidity in the summer. As a result, New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike have taken to the streets of the city by the millions to take advantage of this pleasant weather, and the de facto location of choice for the discerning food aficionado and/or hipster is the High Line, right along the Hudson River in Chelsea.

This place has always been somewhat special for me, if for no other reason that I actually found the revitalized park entirely by accident when it was under construction back in 2009. Back in high school and undergrad, the old West Side Line above-ground railway was just a decaying relic from the now-rerouted train routes out of Penn Station. It used to be a really shady place.

And then one day, when I was walking nearby, I saw a shiny set of stairs sticking out of some construction.

Completely inconspicuous.
Completely inconspicuous.

Walking up, I found myself in a strange panorama floating over the Meatpacking District, with the city on one side and the Hudson River on the other. I had no idea what I was looking at. After a little bit of cursory research I found that this was a effort to revitalize and enrich the neighborhood by creating park and source of community in a location that could really use one that wasn’t steeped in drug usage or mob “cargo” disposal. Some might argue its presence is further evidence of gentrification slowly sapping out the “true” soul of the city, though I’d say that in this particular instance it’s a welcome replacement.

The High Line is a mile-long stretch of spectacle after spectacle.

The aesthetic of the High Line itself is a decidedly eclectic one, combining the dark metal components of the original construction with modern, sleek brushed steel-and-glass panels, smooth concrete, and a carefully selected collection of borderline alien-looking flora. The result is a mile-long stretch of spectacle after spectacle, where one can take in views of the greenery, the skyline in the distance, as well as a constantly rotating collection of “visionary”/bizarre sculptures.

Also completely inconspicuous.
Also completely inconspicuous.

After an afternoon of walking around, the opportunity to chow down and undo all the exercise you’ve just done is an enticing one indeed.

Right in the middle of the High Line at 16th Street, the park passes through a building and has a small enclosure where a whole bunch of stands set up shop and sell their wares. The stalls run the gamut from top-quality espresso in the form of Blue Bottle Coffee, to lovely (and seasonally appropriate) gelato from L’Arte Del Gelato, to Mexican street food from The Taco Truck that fills the entire area with the scent of meaty goodness. And after an afternoon of walking around, the opportunity to take a rest, look at some art, chow down on some tasty food, and undo all the exercise you’ve just done is an enticing one indeed.

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And, well, once you’re in an eating mode, then it’s only natural to head downstairs to Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market is part shopping mall, part food hall, and wholly awesome.

This place is an absolute delight to visit, even if you’re not planning to eat anything. Located in the literal birthplace of the Oreo, Chelsea Market is part shopping mall, part food hall, and wholly awesome. It sits directly underneath Food Network’s New York studios and several floors of Google and YouTube offices – With that kind of pedigree overhead, you’d expect their stuff to be nothing but top-notch. Several of the stalls that stand on the High Line are actually based out of the market proper below. You’ll also see produce stores, novelty craft shops, and Morimoto, the New York-based restaurant named after and helmed by Iron Chef (and personal culinary hero) Masaharu Morimoto.

For me though, The Lobster Place is my absolute go-to store every time that I visit. Its narrow pathways are always packed with customers, and for good reason – it’s hard to think of a better source of super-fresh and super varied seafood than this place. Contrary to what its name implies, The Lobster Place doesn’t just sell lobsters, though they are amazingly flavorful and meaty; their selection of fish is unparalleled, and their raw bar is a wonderland of different shellfish from the world over.

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Oysters! Oysters everywhere!

One taste of this stuff and most standard seafood restaurant fare will look like Filet-o-Fish sandwiches.

I like to start with about a dozen Little Neck clams and a smattering of whatever interesting-sounding oysters they happen to have on hand that day. The raw bar is literally just built into where they sell their shellfish as a regular seafood market, so it doesn’t really get much fresher than that. Look for seasonal specials, like crawfish or sea urchins – One taste of that stuff and most standard seafood restaurant fare will look like Filet-o-Fish sandwiches. (Not that those aren’t delicious or anything, it’s just that you’re looking at a completely different league of quality.)

So, the next time you’re in the Chelsea area, I hope you take a swing around these places. A wonderful experience for all the senses is all but guaranteed.

And as always, until next time, be well. 🙂

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