NEW YORK — It’s unlikely you’d go out of your way to dine in a food court in this bustling metropolis. But if you’re in lower Manhattan for business or a visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, an upscale food hall in neighboring Wall Street is a good place to find lunch.
Hudson Eats in Brookfield Place is a bright space, with rectangular white marble counter seating, and plenty more along a wall of windows overlooking the Hudson River. You won’t escape office crowds at lunch and foot traffic will increase exponentially when the majestic 1,776-foot One World Trade Center opens a block away. But you may not mind all that when you see Hudson Eats’ 14 fast-casual eateries with varied fare such as barbecue, French-style tartines, Cambodian subs, sushi, chopped salads, cupcakes, and more.
The food hall, which opened in June, is part of a $250 million renovation of Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center), a large office, dining, and shopping complex. “What we wanted to do was create a neighborhood that spoke to the new downtown that has emerged,” says Edward Hogan, national director of retail leasing for Brookfield Properties. To choose 14 diverse eateries, he says, “We looked at who creates energy with their unique brand and could deal with the high volume of traffic.” Almost all of the eateries have footholds elsewhere in the city.
A handful of the shops are open for breakfast, including Black Seed Bagels, offering Montreal-style wood-fired bagels, fish spreads, and other schmears. But the real crowds come between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., says a security guard, noting that the longest lines are at Umami Burger, Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue, and Num Pang. “Nothing is more crazy than Umami Burger.”
The California-based Umami chain churns out 6-ounce patties with various toppings, including the original (with Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and caramelized onions), truffle burger (truffle cheese), and “manly” burger (cheddar, onion strings, and bacon).
At Mighty Quinn’s, folks line up for brisket, burnt ends (brisket bites smothered in BBQ sauce), ribs, and pulled pork. “I’m a big barbecue fan,” says Jeff Chin from New Jersey, who has a tray laden with three meats. The most striking is a caveman-worthy beef slab on a Flintstones-size bone called the brontosaurus rib.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are on the menu at Little Muenster, including a meaty Cuban of roast pork, ham, melted Swiss, and pickles. The slightly fancier Tartinery offers French tartines, the classic open-face sandwiches, on long slices of Paris-based Poilane bakery sourdough or Balthazar country bread. Popular choices are the croque monsieur (prosciutto, Gruyere, and bechamel), poulet roti (roast chicken, herb mayo, shaved fennel), and fig and blue cheese.
For Cambodian-style subs, similar to Vietnamese banh mi, wrap your hands around Num Pang’s pulled pork, pork belly, or peppercorn catfish, all of which come with cucumber slices, pickled carrots, cilantro, and chili mayo.
Skip the bread altogether and dig into a healthful meal at, yes, Dig Inn, a reasonably priced farm-to-counter shop. Selections include spicy meatballs, charred chicken, and grilled fish, each with two sides and a helping of grains. Across the aisle is Chop’t Creative Salad Co., where you choose the salad, such as a Cobb or Mexicali vegan with avocado and black beans. Contents are spilled onto a cutting board, and a salad-meister deftly chops the ingredients using a mezzaluna. Salads are dressed and served in deep plastic takeout bowls.
During the lunch rush, it’s easy to tell the experienced patrons, who move quickly to the food stall of their choice; newbies look bewildered. First-timers wear that what-should-we-eat and where-do-we-stand gaze. Jake Morrison of New York, who works nearby, appreciates the varied dining options. “I like that they’re all real places that are now in food-court form,” he says.
Other eateries include Skinny Pizza, Dos Toros Taqueria for burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, Olive’s, a SoHo cafe known for takeout salads, sandwiches, and soups (unrelated to Todd English’s former Charlestown restaurant), and the more recently opened Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar. A Chinese spot called Northern Tiger will open in the fall.
The new places that have not yet proved themselves elsewhere will do that at Hudson Eats.
Brookfield Place, 225 Liberty St., New York, N.Y.; www.brookfieldplaceny.com