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$20 Dinner

Chelsea’s Pier 57 Is a Shockingly Good Place to Eat Food and Hang Out

Several of the Market 57 vendors are serving up some exceptional food hall fare. 

12:55 PM EDT on May 4, 2023

Saffron soft serve from Malai held up in front of one of the green spaces on Pier 57 in Chelsea.

Saffron soft serve from Malai, one of the food vendors at Pier 57 in Chelsea. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Pier 57, a massive structure that juts out over the Hudson River around 15th Street has lived more than a century's worth of lives. It's seen maritime glory, deadly fires, rebuilding, rebranding (remember SuperPier?), hawker market dreams, and bus storage. It was even a penal colony of sorts for a minute, when the NYPD arrested so many demonstrators at the 2004 Republican National Convention that they turned the place into a temporary detention center, dubbed "Guantanamo on the Hudson." 

In 2018, though, Google money swept onto the waterfront, as the tech behemoth took over all 630,000 square feet of the hulking structure. An epic renovation ensued, and about a month ago the whole place reopened. Most of it is the company's office space, of course, but there's also a noteworthy amount of public space, including a large and well-appointed "living room" with free Wi-Fi; a two-acre rooftop park; and Market 57, a food hall with 16 vendors curated by the James Beard Foundation.    

You don't have to buy anything to hang out in the living room, which has spiffy couches, little seating areas, and workstations, or at the park (technically part of Hudson River Park). The park has benches along the perimeter, a grassy area, and an amphitheater setup that will soon host Tribeca Film Festival screenings.

Right now, it mostly serves as a cool, quiet hang spot. In a city where it's increasingly difficult to find any sort of comfortable place to just sit and chill, no questions asked, no purchase necessary, it feels like some sort of secret privilege to lounge about at Pier 57, like this crumb of corporate largesse will get taken away from us if we act too happy about it.  

Skyline views from the rooftop park, open from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Still, that's all good news. And if you do decide to buy something to eat while you're here, you're in luck, because several of the Market 57 vendors are serving up some exceptional food hall fare. 

The James Beard Foundation was in charge of assembling the Market 57 vendor lineup, and they are clearly making an effort to distance the organization from its historic preference for nominating white men for their prestigious (and potentially career-making) annual awards.    

I haven't tried all 16 booths, but the best thing I've eaten here so far—and one of the best dishes I've had all year—was the Langano Bowl at Ras Plant Based, an outpost of Romeo and Milka Regalli's awesome vegan Ethiopian restaurant that opened in Crown Heights right before COVID-19 hit town. This is a lively, hearty mix of sauteed seitan and various vegetables, mostly soft and stew-like, served over rice and held together by kicky sauces and the pleasant crunch of what appear to be injera croutons. It's deeply satisfying comfort food that also makes you want to congratulate yourself for eating healthy. Good job, you!  

Lagano Bowl from Ras Plant Based, $18. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The Ras Plant Based stand here at Pier 57 was forced to open without all of their equipment in place, so look for the Regallis to expand their menu once that all gets sorted out. 

Another compelling reason to cross that 11th Avenue car sewer and eat at Market 57 is the Zaab Zaab booth, an extension of the acclaimed Isaan Thai spot in Elmhurst that's been called one of the city's best restaurants. Zaab Zaab's menu is limited here in Chelsea by the lack of venting at their stand (only four vendors at Market 57 can actually cook, and the rest basically prep everything elsewhere and assemble and/or reheat on site), but they do offer the restaurant's signature dish—the insanely good duck larb, a funky and fiery pile of ground duck breast, charred galangal, chunks of fried duck liver, and crackling bits of duck skin. Served with a ball of first-rate sticky rice, it makes for a memorable meal.

Duck lard from Zaab Zaab, $17. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

One of the stands that does have venting is Maiko Kyogoku's Japanese comfort food spot Bessou, and she puts the fryer to good use by cranking out some terrific karaage, or fried chicken, served either stacked high and covered in sauce or stuffed into a couple of different sandos. Also here are Kyogoku's excellent fried triangles of crispy rice, topped with sashimi or mushrooms. And if you can't decide which way to go, get one of Bessou's fun (and filling) combo options. 

Three-piece karaage combo with crispy rice piece from Bessou, $19. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The indefatigable "regenerative agriculture cheerleader" Wen-Jay Ying has a branch of her Carroll Gardens cafe Local Roots at Market 57, where, as she puts it, "90 percent of our menu ingredients are sourced from small, local farms." That includes an Asian chicken salad served on greens with Sichuan breadcrumbs, a vegetarian lo mein, a delicious sesame miso chocolate chip cookie, and my pick, a rich and gooey scallion pancake cheese melt with pickled onions and green goddess sauce.      

Scallion pancake cheese melt from Local Roots, $12. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

If you're in a meaty mood, Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest's Due Madri is the spot for you. The couple, both whole animal butchers who trained with James Beard Award winner April Bloomfield, are focused here on rustic Italian sandwiches. The meats are all house-made—of course— and sandwiches feature combos like mortadella and stracciatella cheese, prosciutto and pecorino cream, braised beef and pickled radicchio, and, my dinner one night, a beautiful porchetta number drenched in salsa verde and aioli.  

The "Lupa" porchetta sandwich from Due Madri, $18.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Other choices at Market 57 include a taco spot called Mijo from Fanny Gerson of, among other endeavors, the great Fan-Fan Doughnuts in Bed-Stuy; Jimmy Rizvi's Ammi, featuring dosas, dal, and biryani; the "Cape Cod and Caribbean mashup" Lolo's on the Water, an offshoot of Harlem's Lolo's Seafood Shack; and Good to Go by JBF, which functions as an incubator for small businesses to experiment with their fast-casual concepts. 

And for dessert? Hit up Malai, Pooja Bavishi's stellar ice cream shop, possibly the best in NYC, with its full menu of South Asian-inspired flavors like rose with cinnamon roasted almonds, cardamom pistachio crumble, and mango and cream, all ready for scooping. There are pints too! Bavishi has also jumped into the soft serve game, with a monthly special here at the pier that in April was saffron (delightful) and in May is masala chai (also delightful). Grab a cone, head up to the roof, and take a minute to be grateful for how good life can be.

Market 57, the public "living room," and the rooftop park are all located within Pier 57 at 25 West 11th Avenue, jutting out over the Hudson River at about 15th Street. Market 57 is open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m daily; the rooftop park is open from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

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