Why New Yorkers Are Headed to Chelsea Market Right Now

October 13, 2017

In our ongoing quest to find the best products and ingredients around, we've partnered with Chelsea Market to highlight some of the shops and goods in New York's most famous food hall.

Below the pulse of the main Chelsea Market thoroughfare, underneath diners slurping ramen and munching on soft doughy lobster rolls, there blasts an unfamiliar rhythm. This past Thursday, to the tune of a brassy marching band’s rendition of “Sir Duke,” revelers inaugurated the newly minted Chelsea Local.

Enter through the staircase. Guests eagerly filed into the subterranean space. Photo by Amanda Widis

While the upstairs Chelsea Market we know and love leans more food hall, with its array of restaurants and tasting counters, think of the Chelsea Local more as a marketplace. Located in the building’s cellar, it offers shoppers a unique grocery experience: it feels like an Italian piazza, a main square bordered by stalls, each selling hand-crafted products and high quality foods.

A fiery jazz band christened the space with music and dancing. Photo by Amanda Widis

The businesses filling this new space are Manhattan Fruit Market, selling fresh produce; Italian importer Buon'Italia; Ronnybrook Farm Dairy; Dickson’s Farmstand Meat Counter; Saxelby Cheesemongers; and hot sauce purveyor Heatonist.

Say cheese! The staff at Saxelby Cheesemongers handle all dairy related inquiries. Photo by Amanda Widis

Wandering around the launch event, I tasted my way through an afternoon shopping spree. Saxelby Cheesemongers specializes in farmstead American cheeses. There you can find wheels from the prized and precious Jasper Hill Farms of Vermont, or creamy little delights from Nettle Meadow Farm in the Adirondacks. Next door are the folks from Heatonist, purveyors of some of the world's hottest hot sauces. I stopped here only for a chat, and to watch those braver than I push their taste buds to their fiery limits. I opted instead for a cold glass of milk from Ronnybrook Farms. At their stand, they offer tall glasses of milk, literally, as well as a variety of other dairy dreams.

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I continued along my way, moving counter-clockwise around the room, to find myself face to face with Dickson's Farmstand Meats. I sampled some of their freshly sliced salamis while ogling their marbled short ribs. Next, I entered the produce heaven that is Manhattan Fruit Market and was practically bowled over by the explosion of color. Inside their shop, shelves bloom with the juiciest fruits and most tender vegetables. Unlike the other vendors, the Manhattan Fruit Market is not just a stall but a verified store with aisles and fridges and dewy produce displays. I rounded out my visit at Buon'Italia, the biggest of the Chelsea Local stores, where I considered getting lost in the rows of imported cheeses, fresh pastas, jars of black squid ink, and inordinate selection of espresso varieties.

Guests taste the selections to be had at Dickson's Farmstand Meat Counter. Photo by Amanda Widis

Together, the stores provide a distinct experience to their upstairs counterpart. I think of the Chelsea Local like less of a destination and more of a neighborhood joint. If you're lucky enough to live nearby, you could shop there for almost all your grocery needs and be guaranteed only the highest of quality. The focus downstairs is less on the meal and more on its components. Granted, I shouldn't stop you from popping down for a quick snack—the stores have plenty to offer those who aren't looking to walk away with a laden grocery bag.

Guests carouse and nosh outside of Buon Italia, the Italian import emporium. Photo by Amanda Widis

So, next time you venture into the culinary playground that is Chelsea Market, move beyond the throngs of taco hungry tourists. Instead, head below ground, and shop around for some of the finer groceries Manhattan has to offer.

Have you visited the Chelsea Local yet? What was the best thing you found? Tell us in the comments!

In our ongoing quest to find the best products and ingredients around, we've partnered with Chelsea Market to highlight some of the shops and goods in New York's most famous food hall.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.