Best Street Vendors/Food Markets?
I am coming to New York (staying at North end of Times Square) for just a few days (Sunday-Thurs). There will be 4 of us, 2 teenage girls and 2 women from Colorado. I am a foodie and looking for the most unique, inexpensive, fun New York food experiences. We can do a sit down meal, but I'm most interested in ethnic or interesting street vendors, wandering through food markets, ice cream, and bakeries. We will be going to the usual tourist places - Empire State, Central Park, 9-11 Memorial, Met, so places close to those are a benefit. If you could give suggestions or point me to the right threads I would be grateful!
The Union Square Greenmarket is the most obvious choice—you could visit on either Monday or Wednesday. There are lots of fruit and vegetable vendors, but plenty of sellers with prepared pastries, pies, and snacks. (Since it's the summer, there are great berries, tomatoes, stone fruit, and other goodies that you can just snack on while you walk.)
It sounds like you would also enjoy Eataly and Chelsea Market. Eataly is massive Italian-focused grocery with multiple restaurants inside and a wine store adjacent, whereas Chelsea Market is an old biscuit factory that's been turned into an indoor food mall with lots of shops, restaurants, and vendors.
The types of things you are looking for won't be really close to the 9/11 Memorial. The 9/11 Memorial area is still a huge construction zone with lots of closed off areas, redirected pedestrian traffic, etc. Expect to do a lot of roundabout walking in that area. Also IIRC there are no restrooms. There's not a lot of foodie-worthy destinations in the immediate area.
A short walk from the 9/11 Memorial is the World Financial Center's food trucks. Weekday lunch only.
You could also walk north to the All Good Things market in Tribeca, but it's not super close.
Central Park is HUGE so hard to give recommendations without knowing where in the park you will be. UWS, UES, southern end near Midtown, northern end, etc. On the UES, you'll probably be near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum Mile (see my recs below). On the UWS, you can plan to be in the 70s/80s and therefore close by Zabar's and Fairway, two upscale grocery stories. On the SE corner of Central Park, you'll be by the Plaza's Food Hall.
I assume you mean the Metropolitan Museum of Art and not the Met Opera. If you're up on the UES/Museum Mile already and willing to walk a bit, you can visit a LOT of different bakeries: Lady M, Maison Kayser, Laduree, William Greenburg, Two Little Red Hens, Payard, etc. These are spread out quite a bit, though, so just be prepared.
Open air markets with vendors selling prepared food that you might be interested in:
Smorgasburg - Williamsburg, Ft Greene, both in Brooklyn, weekends only - Sunday would be your only chance to visit
Hester St Fair - Lower East Side - Saturdays, Mondays, and Thursdays
The High Line - Chelsea - Daily
See also Chelsea Market, which is an indoor market, and has a mix of vendors, some (but not all) sell prepared food. There are also a few restaurants inside as well as a bar.
You could easily start at Chelsea Market and then go up to the High Line and continue noshing there.
If you're not necessarily interested in prepared food and just want to browse produce/meat/dairy/etc, some of the best food markets include:
Chelsea Market - south end of the Chelsea/near the Meatpacking District
Essex Street Market - Lower East Side
Despana - Soho/Nolita
Union Sq Greenmarket - Union Square, M/W/F/Sat ONLY
Kalustyan's - Murray Hill
Murray's Cheese - West Village and also in Grand Central Terminal
Russ & Daughters - LES
Di Palo - Little Italy
For Eataly try to visit on a weekday. Mornings are best. The layout has a lot of bottlenecks so please be aware of locals who are just trying to get some grocery shopping done.
Chelsea Market can be nuts too on the weekend, especially around lunch. BYO bag if shopping at Manhattan Fruit Exchange. And use the facilities elsewhere--there's about one restroom for 100 people.
Note also: Kalustyan's offers a 5% discount if your purchase is $10.00-$49.99 and you pay cash. They bump it up to a 10% discount if your purchase is $50.00 or over and you pay cash. Good if you're planning to stock up on some spices.
You can also check who is at the Union Sq Greenmarket using this link:
Best ice cream, well, some of the well-known places are in Brooklyn, and you'll also find that this is more of a gelato town, especially if you're in the West Village. That said:
These macaron ice cream sandwiches look awesome, too:
Best bakeries? It really depends if you want French style or American style. I think French style has really taken over in visibility esp. with the Dominique Ansel "cronut" thing.
Notable food trucks/carts:
Best lunches in Midtown:
Definitely checkout midtownlunch.com, they have a lot of food truck coverage. Most of the trucks converge there during the weekday lunch hour rush, and aren't necessarily there on weekends.
Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and Whitney and Guggenheim, ish):
Near the Empire State Building, you could also walk south ~10 blocks to Eataly on 23rd St and 5th.
Also, for a unique NY experience, I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:
I agree with Eatly and Union Sq Farmers Mkt....You should also try Grand Central Station...the have a HUGE food court now with a lot of specialty foods. You can also try Mulberry St (touristy I know) but Chinatown is a really neat experience with street vendors. You must have a slice of NY pizza...I prefer Rays over most. Enjoy. Ooops one other comment ...if you have the time and the $$$ you should try Del Posto Mario Batali's restaurant...AMAZING
Wow! Thank you so much for all the great advice already!! I'm so excited about this trip. All excellent suggestions which I will print and take with me. The info about restrooms is especially helpful too.