Courtesy of eaterny.com
When the Elton John movie Rocketman came out we dashed to the new Regal Cinema at the new Essex Crossing. We were enamored with the new Lower Eastside home.
The 37,000-square-foot space houses Shopsin’s, tons of food vendors, groceries, and more.
Essex Street Market just got a serious glow-up. The city-owned food hall and market went from a dingy, low-ceilinged building to a state-of-the-art, award-winning-architect-designed space that has floor-to-ceiling windows, an impossibly high sloped ceiling, and all-new kitchens and stalls. It’s three times the size and even has a shortened new name: Essex Market.
Of the 21 legacy vendors, longtime restaurants, including Ni Japanese Deli (Japanese snacks), Dominican Cravings (empanadas and lunch plates), and Puebla Mexican Food(tacos and burritos) are revived here. Bodega-inspired sandwiches from Smorgasburg-started Heros & Villains, Thai-style chicken from Eat Gai, and Peruvian marinated fish from Don Ceviche are three of the 16 new options, and two full-service restaurants will open down the line.
The full list of vendors at this 79-year-old market, which also houses butchers, spice shops, fishmongers, and groceries, is here. It’s part of a much bigger project. This new location — at 88 Essex St., at Delancey Street — is a part of the Essex Crossing development, a 1.9 million-square-foot complex with retail, office space, apartments, and parks.
Perhaps most highly anticipated in this move is the latest iteration of Shopsin’s, that cult-beloved, quirky, and sometimes exclusive diner. After the recent death of its larger-than-life leader Kenny Shopsin, daughter Melinda was apprehensive about the change. She’s now running the show with her twin sister Tamara and brother Zack. “I was afraid that something was going to be lost. This is our fourth move now,” she says.
But because the process began about five years ago, Melinda started planning it with her late father, who she’s sure “would have fucking loved it here.” “I’ve come to a zen place and realized wherever we are is where we are and that’s okay,” she says.
The new space seats 12 at tables and eight at the counter looking into a semi-open kitchen, where Zack can frequently be found. There are some changes with the move, including a larger kitchen. But then there are also nods to the restaurant’s past, like lights from the Bedford Street location and a collection of tchotchkes — which is pictured on the Wikipedia page for the word — from over the years. Cell phones are still not allowed.
“One of my regular customers came in and said this space feels like an amalgamation of all four spaces,” Melinda says. “But it’ll take us a little time to get our dirty paw prints all over it.”
Next door is new vendor L.E.S Ice Cream Factory, an outpost of the popular Chinatown Ice Cream Factory known for its Chinese flavors such as black sesame and taro. Here, second-generation owner Christina Seid has included new flavors such as squid ink, dulce de leche, and horchata.
She and Melinda say all of the old and new vendors have supported each other throughout the move. Seid calls them all a “small family,” and indeed, they’ve overcome a lot together.
Essex Market has a long history dating back to 1940, when the city opened it as a place for street merchants to conduct business. The New York City Economic Development Corporation took over in 1992 after a period of decline, and it’s been a long, drawn-out, fraught process of finding a new home and convincing the neighborhood it was a positive change. It’s taken significantly longer than expected to make the move out of the building that, though historic, did not inspire much foot traffic.
“The community of vendors is what made us fall in love with the market. It’s an insulated space from the gentrification around us,” Melinda says.
While vendors were setting up — all at the city’s expense and at the same rent price per square foot — owners’ children ran and played throughout the space. It contributed to Melinda’s positive outlook on the market’s future — and she thinks her dad would approve, too.
“I feel him here,” she says.
Essex Market is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Several vendors are cash only with some differing hours.