Everything to Know About the Market Line, LES’s Big Food Destination Opening Friday

By Serena Dai

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The next phase of the Lower East Side’s biggest new development in years is here. Starting Friday, the flagship food hall and market at Essex Crossing — the $1.9 billion, decade-long project spearheaded and shaped by the city — will open its first 30 vendors.

Called the Market Line, the underground space is host to a slew of high profile new projects.

The team behind Wildair and Michelin-starred Contra is opening a natural wine store and accompanying bar here called Peoples. A longtime, family-owned seafood purveyor that’s worked with restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Le Bernardin is opening its first restaurant, a celebration of fresh seafood called Essex Pearl. And one of D.C.’s most revered restaurant groups will make its New York debut here, in the biggest space in the market. The Grand Delancey will focus on beer, with 50 craft beers on tap.

It’s just the first portion of the Market Line to open; in the next few years, additional vendors will make debuts as well. Once completed, the building at Essex and Delancey will host a total of 140 vendors, encompassing the Market Line and the new location of the historic Essex Market, which opened in May.

The Times architecture critic called the project “the anti-Hudson Yards,” noting that the mixed-used property has significant affordable housing — 70 percent of which was built immediately, according to Rohan Mehra, co-founder and principal of the Prusik Group, which worked on the commercial spaces for Essex Crossing.

That label applies to the food at the Market Line, too. Where Hudson Yards failed in diversity of cuisines and ownership, the Market Line prioritized it. Mehra and his team went to local community events before choosing vendors. They hired translators when a language barrier might have prevented a thorough dialogue.

“A lot of those types of [community groups], they look at a development like this and they assume ‘This isn’t for me,’” Mehra says. “It might be like that with shiny developments, that it’s for the well-known and wealthy. We wanted to make sure that’s not how they felt about it.”

As such, more than 50 percent of the vendors already have ties to the Lower East Side, and about 75 percent of them are either immigrant, minority, or woman-owned. There’s a grocery specializing in vegetables and dry-goods from Asian cuisines — the first retail business from Southeast Asia Food Group, a produce supplier that’s been in New York for 25 years and worked with restaurants such as O Ya and Pok Pok. Pickle Guys, the LES icon, also has an outpost here.

Such a line-up is made possible in part because each vendor pays a custom rent based on their business; low-margin businesses like the whole animal butcher pays less than the pizza vendor, where margins are much higher, Mehra says.

And though the layout of the space will feel familiar to anybody who’s been in a food hall in the last decade, the Market Line is set up a bit differently. Many of the vendors have their own seating, acting as mini-restaurants within a larger space instead of counters in a space with only communal seating. There’s also a bunch of retailers in the mix, including dry-aged meats from the butcher Ends Meat and German groceries from longtime UES market Schaller & Weber.

The idea, Mehra says, is that it will be similar to European markets or Pike Place in Seattle: an all-day place made for locals, but appealing to tourists and outsiders, too.

“If we can get the local community to come here, everyone else will follow,” he says.

Take a look around the space below, including a full list of vendors and more details on the most anticipated vendors in the space.