So long, boring soup-and-salad joints. The newly expanded Plaza Food Hall brings the city’s best indie cuisine to 59th and Fifth.
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Midtown dining has long suffered from a split personality, with some of the city’s most inspired restaurants on one hand and a wholly uninspired selection of quick-bite lunch spots on the other. But now, The Plaza hotel has opened an enormous, European-style food hall on its lower level. With more than 20 outposts of popular NYC eateries, it feels like a marriage of Eataly and the oh-so-hip Smorgasburg.
It was only two years ago that Todd English opened his trailblazing Food Hall on the hotel’s concourse level and began to transform the little-trafficked space into a worthy destination. Today, English still offers everything from sushi and oysters to burgers and pasta, but the new wing adds a dose of unpredictability and local artisanship, with vendors such as No. 7 Sub (famous for its branch at the Ace Hotel), Luke’s Lobster, Sushi of Gari, Billy’s Bakery, and Tartinery.
The entire concourse, designed by Jeffrey Beers, was meant to evoke a city streetscape—complete with storefronts and old-fashioned street lamps—which makes you want to stay and dine (even though, ahem, the park is across the street). Park bench–style seating and Parisian café chairs and tables dot the space, and cool, glittery black and white mosaic tiles make up the flooring.
“I basically created a big wish list of all my favorite places in the city,” says Kristin Franzese, the Plaza’s executive vice president of retail, who dreamed up the food court concept. “Incredibly, we almost got all of them in here.” The mix of high-society staples like François Payard and hipster joints like Luke’s Lobster was carefully curated and strategically planned. “We want to take the Plaza forward and bring it to a new generation of people,” says Franzese. “Everything here is both aspirational and attainable. You can have an incredible meal for under $20.”
What’s more, each kiosk offers something exclusive to the Plaza’s food court. Tartinery has a duck tartine, No. 7 Sub put a turkey and bacon sandwich on the menu, Pain d’Avignon created a walnut cream croissant, and Lady M will offer a banana chocolate cake.
A handful of retail shops (food-related, of course) makes up the rest of the tenants, like Kusmi Tea from Paris, YoArt frozen yogurt, and the Town & Country Living store, which sells tableware and gifts.
Perhaps the most telling sign of the new food court’s prospects is that, despite the touristy location, as many as 70 percent of the visitors so far have been locals—no doubt eager Midtowners looking to turn their midday meals into something inspired.