UrbanSpace Vanderbilt Is Even Crazier Than You’d Expect
The things we do for you, dear readers. On Friday, I entered the belly of the beast by attempting to find some affordable food at UrbanSpace Vanderbilt on its second official day of business. I was anticipating crowds and waits in line, but I had not braced myself for total mass chaos.
I arrived a few minutes before noon and I had to stop myself from turning around and running away. The place was mobbed with people. It really reminded me of photos I’ve seen from Times Square at New Year’s Eve. There was barely any empty space in the building. I got knocked around left and right trying to make my way from one kiosk to another to see what my options were. I overheard everyone who walked by me say variations on the same thing: “This is crazy!”
And it was crazy. Aside from the hype this place has been receiving, another big problem is the layout of the space. Despite having over 20 vendors, it’s actually not that big and when lines form they just merge into one big clump in the aisles so people can barely get by. A cramped seating area sits in the center of the room where you can watch the madness, if you’re lucky to get a seat.
I preservered and managed to try two dishes from two different stands. The most exciting option was the fried chicken from Daniel Delaney, but I left that for Yvo to try and her review will be coming in the next few days. I was a bit disheartened to see that two drumsticks cost $10 with sides costing extra.
Of course, we are in overpriced territory here so finding a filling meal for under $10 will be a challenge.
But Mayhem & Stout has expanded their menu from their market locations and they have a few sandwiches just under that mark. A few of Roberta’s small personal pizzas are just under $10 as well. And if you want to go vegetarian, No. 7 has a few veggie burgers and tacos within budget. But more common are $6 tacos (yes, for a single taco) at La Palapa and $13 chicken gyro sandwiches at Amali Mou.
I found my way over to Mimi’s Hummus, which had a shorter line. I’ve heard lots about this place out in Ditmas Park, but had never tried it.
Their hummus was great. But like everything else here, it was overpriced. 9 bucks bought me a platter of creamy hummus with a richly flavored mound of spiced mushrooms and one round of excellent pita bread. It was no question a glorified appetizer and didn’t come close to filling me up. But it was some tasty hummus. I’d be willing to splurge on their sandwiches if they’re bigger in size.
The other place I wanted to try that didn’t have too big of a line was Maiden Lane. I’ve eaten at their location in the East Village and it transported me back to my visit to Portugal. They specialize in tinned and preserved fish. I know that sounds crazy, but I discovered that a fancy tin of sardines or mackerel will make you forget all about tuna salad sandwiches.
They have a bar here, so my guess is this is more geared toward after work drinks and snacks. That being said, they did offer quite a few salads and sandwiches and I was intrigued by their Spicy Sardine sandwich.
For $12, I got totally duped this time. The sandwich was composed of a chewy ciabatta stuffed with a few sardines, parsley, chili, and plenty of mayo based aioli. Again, the flavor was good, but the messy sandwich was way overpriced and too heavy on the mayonnaise.
There were quite a few dessert options, including cookies and cakes from Ovenly, gelato from AB Biagi, doughnuts from Dough, and crepes from Bar Suzette. But after I spent all my money and the crowds just got bigger and hungrier, I got out of there as fast as possible.
Hopefully the crowds will subside in the coming weeks, but I doubt the prices will go down. Aside from a handful of gems, this place is really more of a splurge or somewhere to go for a light lunch or dessert.
UrbanSpace Vanderbilt, 230 Park Avenue (at 45th Street), (212) 529-9262