Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Plaza Food Hall

There is a place to eat and drink in midtown Manhattan where you will have no idea what the weather is doing outside.  Nor will you have wifi or be able to receive a cellphone signal.  But if you can deal with these barriers for an hour or two, you will be rewarded by far-better-than-adequate food, reasonable prices, a varied menu and plenty of languages in a bright and shiny room underneath The Plaza.
This is The Plaza Food Hall.  I can't say enough good things about it, for what it is.  First, it's kind of a pleasant surprise - just the fact that it exists, just where it is, and that it isn't killer expensive (mostly because of where it is)!  Second, that you can find it and that not everyone else in that neighborhood is there is a sweet treat.  (Geez, I had been at the Apple Store right before I went there most recently, around 4:30pm on a Friday - it was cheek-to-jowl, as they say (who says that anyway?), and unimaginably claustrophobic at the Apple Store, but right across Fifth Avenue, down an escalator just inside both the north and south side entrances to The Plaza, is this large  and very calm refuge of cuisine, somehow quietly unknown to the rest of the bustling crowds above.) 

For variety, it cannot be beat.  Bring the family!  Bring the out-of-towners!  Everything everyone from out of town wants to see is right nearby, as are a gazillion hotels, so all the languages are there to be heard, too.  And since all seating is at counters surrounding eight different food stations (sushi, grill, raw bar, stone oven pizza, etc.) plus a few communal counter-height tables, you can make new friends.  Above all, of course, the food is fresh and well-prepared and the ambiance is a breath of fresh air (to the extent one can have a breath of fresh air in a basement food hall).
Eggplant and spinach flatbread pizza
I was there once during the Christmas holiday, and mashed between many shopping bags were the friendliest faces and most exhausted feet from all over the world.  Being the rare New Yorker at that table, at that season, I was able to do what I enjoy so much - sharing with the group my inside scoop on great things to do in New York!  We discussed theater options, shopping, neighborhoods and other must-dos.  It's perfect for families because everyone can find something they like.  Every item from all the food stations is offered on one menu and can be ordered from any counter.  It's casual but feels special enough to be The Plaza. 

There are also take-away options, a market, a bakery and other goodies from Todd English. 

PS - important note for midtown sightseers.  The bathrooms down there are fabulous!  You never know when you're going to pop out of Central Park and need one.  Come to think of it, the Apple Store and Bergdorf's, too, but maybe that's another blog I should start.  How pathetic. 

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