I’m not sure it’s fair to say the pandemic was a mixed blessing, but it has certainly shaken up the local dining scene in ways that no one could have predicted. The ascendency of the food hall — a phenomenon that traces its roots to Harrods in London — has been rivaled only by the rise in omakase pleasure palaces, as well as the capital needed to finance a visit to one.
Chop Cheese at Olly Olly
A number of the vendors at Olly Olly Market, located on 26th Street near Twelfth Avenue, started as pop-ups during the pandemic. That includes one of the newest residents of the food hall, Shmackwich, which cultivated a following for its chop cheese (also known as chopped cheese) sandwiches. Popularized by New York’s bodegas, the sandwich is made by chopping together ground beef, onions, and cheese on a flattop griddle, using the side of the spatula. Shmackwich, run by three Brooklyn natives, takes the humble sandwich up a grade by using wagyu beef, a three-cheese blend, roasted tomato aïoli, and bacon leek marmalade, in addition to lettuce, and tomato, the entirety mounded up on a crusty baguette. The ingredient list explains the price, which is $15 for a half, $25 for a whole.
Omakase at Wegman’s
Last year food retail giant Wegmans announced that the next step in its expansion into New York would be acquisition of the 82,000-square foot space in Astor Place that had been home to K-Mart. That’s a hefty parcel of real estate for even a supermarket to occupy, so the chain further revealed that some 2,600 square feet would be converted into a “seafood-forward restaurant serving lunch and dinner.”
But the crowning touch of the Wegman’s dining experience, according to What Now New York, will be “a 10-seat sushi bar, where guests can enjoy an exclusive omakase dining experience.”
Omakase multi-coursers can run well into the hundreds of dollars per person and span an entire evening. Are New Yorkers ready to make that type of commitment to a restaurant housed inside a supermarket?