BY MORGAN FECTO, JENNIFER BRADLEY FRANKLIN, APRIL FULTON, JULIET IZON, AND JESSICA VOELKER
From New York City to Northern California and many places in between, American food halls are popping up with increasing frequency and all the sustained buzz of a bona fide dining revolution. And while they may channel the same fast, social, and customizable approach as food courts in the megamalls of yesteryear, this new breed of market offers a legitimate culinary experience, complete with sous vide techniques. Sous vide saves on cooking time as well as space in these cramped kitchens, and the technique helps deliver highbrow takes on comfort food. Hungry for something indulgent? Los Angeles offers sous vide poached eggs nestled in brioche. Is delicate and refined more your style? Great Northern Food Hall in New York City serves aromatic sous vide dishes with Nordic ingredients. So skip the standard fare at your local shopping center and scan our coast-to-coast round-up of sous vide–savvy food halls that’ll tantalize your taste buds.
NEW YORK CITY
The Big Apple boasts several food halls, with more opening regularly, but none are as “niche” as Great Northern Food Hall (89 E. 42nd St.), which exclusively serves Scandinavian-inspired cuisine. This 5,000-square-foot market, located in the west side of the historic Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, is the brainchild of Danish culinary entrepreneur Claus Meyer. Meyer, who is often credited with creating the now-ubiquitous New Nordic cuisine, is perhaps best known for Copenhagen’s acclaimed Noma. While his food hall concept is decidedly less pricey than a dinner at the lauded restaurant, you can expect the same inventive culinary spirit.
In line with that experimental philosophy is the use of sous vide. Executive chef Jonas Boelt uses the technique for his chicken breast, which is served at the hall’s sit-down offering, Almanak: The Restaurant. To create breast meat as tender as it is flavorful, Boelt seals the chicken in a Cryovac bag with sunflower seed oil, thyme, and lemon peel before cooking it in the water bath for an hour and a half. His cauliflower preparation also makes good use of the sous vide machine; for this dish, the cauliflower is first pan-fried, then added to a bag with sea truffle and browned butter to create a vegetarian dish as complex as any carnivorous creation. Whether you’re noshing on veggies or meat, one thing is certain: The Scandinavian concept of hygge—defined as comfortable conviviality that causes a feeling of contentment—is evident at every station in the hall.
At R. House (301 W. 29th St.), White Envelope Arepa Bar sous vides blood sausage for La Morcilla, an arepa with grilled white cheese, pickled onions, avocado and jalapeño sauce, and a cream called nata. “We cook the blood sausage overnight for eight hours,” says chef Federico Tischler. “With sous vide, it doesn’t need to be checked constantly. I check it in the morning, and it’s gonna be perfect.” Sous vide saves time and conserves space in Tischler’s tight kitchen, while also helping to coax delicate flavors into his cuisine. Another favorite of Tischler’s: his rosemary and thyme seasoned sous vide portobellos.
For the ultimate in savory food hall fare, head to The Block (4221 John Marr Dr.) in suburban Annandale, Virginia. It’s next to a Kmart, but don’t let that fool you. Inside the sleek market, find Balo Kitchen serving Asian-inspired comfort food, including sous vide cumin lamb chops, pork belly bánh mì and rice bowls, and Pig Frites, chef Huy Nguyen’s update on a loaded baked potato. He tops fries with sriracha-smoked mayo, scallions, and sous vide applewood-smoked bacon—cubed, deep fried, and tossed in fish sauce caramel.
Back in the District at Union Market (1309 5th St. NE), TaKorean also unpacks sous vide spins on Asian eats. Tacos and bowls of Korean–Latin American fusion are often topped with perfect sous vide eggs—they’re soft yet solid, from yolk to white. “A poached egg is not only more time consuming to make, but the egg white is more firm than a sous vide egg,” says creative director Nicole Shearer. She recommends ordering Steak & Eggs, a favorite in the TaKorean kitchen that includes half white rice and half pickled cabbage slaw, bulgogi, lime crema, and “gochu-pow” (a house-made hot sauce). Chefs finish the bowl with cilantro, sesame seeds, and the sous vide egg.
Ponce City Market (675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE), housed in a ’20s-era Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, is easily Atlanta, Georgia’s most-hyped dining destination. There, Minero can sell through more than 150 carnitas tacos (filled with jowl, chicharones, and pork butt) a night, so chef de cuisine Josh Sample uses sous vide to transform tough cuts into his signature melt-in-your-mouth texture. “It’s worry-free cooking,” he says of the spice-rubbed jowls he cooks for 24 hours in a 176°F-degree bath. “It almost takes the human error out of it.”
At Biltong Bar, an eatery dedicated to South Africa’s signature jerky, beverage director Sean Gleason uses sous vide for his cocktail program. “It allows us to do otherwise impossible infusions,” he says, like steel cut oat–infused Irish whiskey and spiced rum. “Plants and spices infuse better at high temperatures, but with the sous vide you don’t run the risk of losing alcohol.” Gleason also appreciates the near-instant gratification sous vide provides. “We know in 20 minutes if it’s going to work,” he says, rather than waiting for a week to confirm an infusion will succeed. One such success story is the “See You Space Cowboy,” which combines sous vide spiced rum and Sichuan peppercorn bitters with bourbon, ginger, yuzu, lime, and prickly ash.
At The Hall on Franklin (1701 N. Franklin St.), which opened last year in a 1920s car showroom in Florida, four of seven eateries leverage the sous vide technique to delight visitors. North Star Eatery’s ramen comes topped with impossibly tender sous vide pork belly; The Collection serves an umami-filled martini made with black truffle-infused Tito’s vodka; and Bake’n Babes sous vides its signature crème brûlée for a silky texture. And even at Poké Rose—where poké fans might expect an all-raw menu—executive chef Jason Cline uses sous vide to achieve just the right texture for tender shrimp, eggs, and even vegetables. “We cook spaghetti squash to 117°F, so it’s still considered raw,” he explains. “It gives a much more intense flavor and weakens the squash just enough to shred.”
New food halls aren’t the only ones turning out interesting culinary concoctions—for a not-to-be-missed market experience that’s earned its keep, check out L.A.’s bustling urban Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway). It’s been in continuous operation since 1917, and today boasts 39 vendors ranging from traditional Latin American grocers hawking homemade moles to a Jewish deli. The most popular stall in the market is Eggslut, chef Alvin Cailan’s cult-like egg sandwich shop. Cailan’s crew serves poached eggs that are just the right amount of runny, placed inside freshly-baked brioche buns for the hungry people who wait in the long queue daily. The sous vide technique is used for the coddled egg in the stall’s signature dish, The Slut, which tops potato purée poached in a glass jar with gray salt, chives, and the sous vide egg. It’s served with baguette slices for dunking.
Nestled in downtown Napa, Oxbow Public Market’s (610 and 644 First St.) focus on supporting local and sustainable farms and its diverse blend of vendors attracts locals in search of good food and wine. Since veteran San Francisco chef Todd Humphries first opened the wood-fired rotisserie at Kitchen Door there in 2011, he has been offering the casual comfort foods marketgoers craved: bánh mì sandwiches, ramen, substantial salads, and brined roast chicken. The restaurant relies on so
us vide cooking for consistency and preservation of locally sourced products. “I’ve done everything—steaks, octopus, fish, duck, squab, all that sort of stuff,” says Humphries. The menu changes often, but look for “an al pastor octopus with lots of chilies, apple cider vinegar, and garlic,” he says. “We marinade that and cook it in the bag, then put it on the grill for a nice char.”
Perched on the edge of Elliott Bay, Pike Place Market (First Ave. and Pike St.) may be one of the country’s oldest continuously operating markets and food halls, but its labyrinthine halls house plenty of modern approaches to everything from ice cream floats (at
Rachel’s Ginger Beer) to Korean fusion (at Chan Seattle). For impeccable sous vide–cooked dishes like luscious chicken liver mousse, head to local favorite Matt’s in the Market. Lined with half-moon windows, this little restaurant also offers some of the city’s best waterside views—particularly at sunset.