Whether owing to the desire to eat multiple cuisines at once or nostalgia for teen years spent hanging around mall food courts, food markets have been a growing trend among adults recently, with the addition of spots like Gotham West Market, Smorgasburg, Berg’n, and more. Even Anthony Bourdain has one on the way. As of next week, though, City Kitchen (700 Eighth Avenue) is the new food hall on the block, bringing with it a slew of eateries in one open space.
Set on the property of Times Square hotel Row NYC, City Kitchen aims to bring some of New York’s hottest cuisines together in the middle of midtown. Taking inspiration from the food truck trend, the idea was to create a curated selection of foods that people crave, says brand strategist Heidi Avedisian.
Over the course of two years, Avedisian and her crew devised categories they wanted to see occupied and then sought out to find vendors to fill the void. Some were obvious: She knew she wanted to include lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster and burgers from Whitman’s. Others were more like flipping through Tinder to find a soul mate. “I think I have eaten at every taco truck in the city of New York in an attempt to find ‘the one,’ ” says Avedisian. “Ironically, it wasn’t a truck at all that fit the bill, but a mid-sized restaurant on the Upper West Side where they make tortillas right in front of you all day long and serve a perfect ceviche.” (She’s referring to Gabriela’s.)
There will be nine permanent vendors as well as seasonal options including Azuki Sushi, Dough, ilili Box for Mediterranean, Kuro Obi by Ippudo, shaved snow from Wooly’s, and Sigmund’s pretzels. Together, the merchants represent institutions from across the city, from Brooklyn and the Lower East Side all the way uptown to the Upper East Side, bringing a selection of locally approved eateries to tourist-filled Times Square. “This ended up inspiring our advertising, where we take a fun, cheeky shot at all the other boroughs who have traditionally shared a much sexier reputation than Times Square when it comes to food,” says Avedisian.
The idea came together through a number of factors; the hotel brand has been developed around offering an authentic New York experience to guests. The tagline is “More New York Than New York.” So, when it came to creating a new culinary program, it would have seemed slightly hypocritically to install an Applebee’s in the lobby. Instead, Avedisian wanted to offer “A totally New York and ‘of-the-moment’ food experience.”
It wasn’t her objective from the beginning, but in the end, Avedisian oversaw the entire design of the facility. The space itself was built to be simple and clean, with a bit of a nostalgic diner feel to it. It’s filled with white subway tile, marble, reclaimed wood, gingham, and glass chandeliers, as well as fixed steel and turquoise leather stools.The signage for the individual vendors, however, reflects each one’s distinctive brand. And after years of planning, it’s finally coming together.
City Kitchen opens to the public on Thursday, March 5. Room service (or what they call delivery) will be offered to hotel guests in the near future.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.