In a city with seemingly-endless great dining options, sometimes it can be challenging to pick a restaurant. On top of that, if you are going out with other people with dietary restrictions and/or preferences, it may be hard work to find a place to accommodate everyone involved. Fortunately, a place like Gotham West Market exists, providing an excellent mix of top-notch food and drinks, cafeteria-style seating and a relaxed overall atmosphere.
Called “heaven on earth” by New York Magazine and one of the “50 Coolest Places In NYC” by Complex Magazine, Gotham is popular among foodies and tourists alike. It recently played host to a launch event for Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s Stubborn Soda. Its list of vendors includes the sushi fushion of Uma Temakeria, the healthy options of Indie Fresh, the top-rated ice cream of Ample Hills Creamery, the acclaimed Blue Bottle Coffee, the meat and cocktails-oriented The Cannibal, the tapas of El Colmado, the American roadside-influenced GENUINE Roadside, the authentic ramen of Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, and the Mexican fare of Choza Taqueria. It may be easy to label Gotham West Market as “an upscale food court,” yet that description shortcharges the quality of what is on-site.
Downtown had the opportunity to speak with representatives from almost all of Gotham West’s vendors. So much great content was offered up that the second part of those Q&As will post at a later date. In the meantime, more info on Gotham West Market can be found at www.gothamwestmarket.com; the market is also active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Within the past few years, New York City has become host to a number of upscale foodcourts. To you, what makes Gotham Market different from the others?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: Gotham Market has a genuine sense of community. Not only were we the first to jump into this idea of a communal dining market, we did it with a diverse offering of options. It’s a place where you can be just as comfortable popping in for a quick lunch, an after-work cocktail, a casual dinner or a leisurely brunch.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: I think a lot of people who are building/constructing their own food halls have looked to Gotham Market for inspiration and as the pioneer of New York City food courts. Maybe not the first on the scene, however they are certainly the most influential. I think Chris and the Gotham team have built a uniquely-special place where people can gather as regulars or for events and have it feel equally appropriate. All of the operators here are friends and we look forward to seeing each other at work. Isn’t that the way its supposed to be? It is to me these days. Have fun at work.
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: To me it is still the best market available. We have enough seating to accommodate the number of vendors, the variety is varied enough to satisfy almost anyone, without compromising on quality.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: Gotham Market is small and highly-curated…I think this creates a sense of community among the restaurants lucky enough to be there, and this feeling carries over to customers. There’s a collective energy at Gotham that feels missing in some of the other larger, more sprawling food courts in the city.
How did your restaurant wind up in Gotham Market?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: We had always planned on opening a casual tapas bar and were looking for locations when the developers approached us about being a part of the market. All over Spain there are great markets that have small tapas stalls and the idea of Gotham West Market really resonated with us.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: My good friend Chef Seamus Mullen and my partner Matt Wagman’s friend Christian of Cannibal, both were in the market already, suggested we pursue the vacancy. Gotham was looking for concepts that had chef presence and would serve the Gotham clientele and residents in a meaningful way we felt we would fit in well.
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: Through networking and contacts with other current vendors.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: The folks at Gotham reached out to us and invited us to be there.
How would you describe your restaurant to someone who hasn’t yet been there?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: We are a traditional tapas bar with a small kitchen behind the counter and a great mix of classic Spanish tapas paired with an approachable, affordable and well-curated wine program.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: Choza is my take on a fast casual Mexican restaurant. The focus is on big flavors with some creative takes on classics. Like carnitas, but flavored with tamarind and chipotle. Tacos are the core of what we do but we also offer salads, bowls, tortas and burritos.
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: Uma Temakeria is a sustainably sourced made to order sushi concept.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: Ample Hills is an ice cream shop dedicated to making playful, fun flavors that transport people back in time to their childhood, and that joy of discovery we all felt the first time we had a scoop of ice cream. We like to tell stories with ice cream flavors, and each of our shops has a flavor unique to that location. Gotham’s is Hell’s Kitchen Sink, an ode to the neighborhood, and the Irish past. It’s a Guinness dark chocolate ice cream with toffee, brownies and cookie dough. We make everything from scratch, including the mix-ins, in Brooklyn.
Do you have a favorite item on your menu?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: We always have fun, different riffs on deviled eggs. I’m a huge egg fan so this is definitely my one of my go-to tapas.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: Tortilla soup!
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: The Luke’s Lobster temaki or sushi burrito.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: For me it’s probably our “SNAP, MALLOW, POP!” flavor. It’s basically a deconstructed rice krispie treat. We melt hundreds of pounds of marshmallows into the ice cream base and then we make our own krispie crunch mix-in. It tastes like the first time you had a rice krispie treat as a kid.
Aside from your restaurant, what is your favorite dining spot in New York City?
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: I always choose my restaurants…so after that, Mary’s Fish Camp. I’m a diehard supporter. I have always loved being there. Oysters and a grilled Pompano — when they have it available — are my favorites!
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: I love Umi No Ie.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: That’s tough. There are so many great spots in New York. It changes all the time, but maybe Battersby in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: I’m a cyclist so I’m always on my bike, whether racing, traveling or commuting. I’ve also been hard at work finishing my second cookbook, Real Food Heals, which will come out in August of next year.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: Spending time with Ela, my daughter is the most fun. After that, I still play a lot of bass guitar still. I just bought an effects board so now I am totally engulfed in weird sounds I can make with my bass.
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: Mostly with my family, or cycling.
Brian Smith, Ample Hills Creamery: Playing with my kids. They are 7 and 10 and at the perfect age of still — mostly — wanting to play and hang out. Go to the movies, playgrounds, day trips.
Do you have tickets to any upcoming concerts?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: Talib Kweli at Brooklyn Bowl in November!
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: Time Stand Still, the RUSH documentary about their 40 years together…will the be nerdiest group of people in one room possible. I can’t wait!
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: I just say Chance The Rapper and Kanye at the Meadows. Nothing immediately planned.
At one point you had games tables/ping pong at Gotham West. How have you seen the crowd dynamic and/or clientele shift since then?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: We’re less of a clubhouse and more of a proper place to have a meal and hang out.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: The market has always been a family-friendly place. It seems to be a bit more inline with what the operators are serving without the ping pong tables. Although I am an, self-proclaimed, excellent ping pong player.
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: We still have games! Can you say Hungry Hungry Hippos?
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Seamus Mullen, El Colmado: Come and cozy up! The Market is a great place to graze and lazy on an autumn day.
Akhtar Nawab, Choza Taqueria: Eat tacos!
Chris Jaeckle, Uma Temakeria: This is the best market to bring your friends, plenty of room to hang out.