Standard Dekalb Market in downtown Brooklyn reopens with curbs
Food Halls, one of New York City’s most relentless restaurants for the past five years, seem uniquely unqualified to reopen during a pandemic. Overcrowded, sometimes subterranean interiors where you have to wander through narrow corridors and all tables are communal? Uh, yes, no thanks.
However, the concept of having multiple restaurants with a wide variety of dishes in one place remains attractive even when you go for takeout. And if there is safe public outdoor seating nearby, the potential for a convenient neighborhood lunch break or even dinner is high.
The Dekalb market in the basement of City Point Mall in downtown Brooklyn (also the seat of Alamo Drafthouse, Target, Century 21 and Trader Joe’s) was one of the most popular food halls in town when the coronavirus shut everything down in mid-March. Now, nearly four months later, the market is coming back to life, and a heavily abbreviated, rotating list of vendors is piling up “orders” on the roadside sidewalk of Albee Square West.
The logistics here are simple. Every salesperson – six were on duty on Tuesday, but more are promised soon – has a table outside with a menu and a masked agent to take your order. Your food will be cooked down in the market and then delivered to you on the sidewalk in full take-out mode. You don’t even have to enter the building unless you want to use Target’s bathroom on the second floor.
It’s a shame that a massive construction site as a neighbor prevents Albee Square West from being labeled as an open street with tables and the like. But Albee Square itself, around the corner from Fulton Street, has some seating a fair amount of space, and the newcomer Willoughby Square Pop-Up Park on the block has plenty of dead space, including a large lawned space to sit in comfortably Picnic.
Katz’s Pastrami Sandwich ($ 22.95)
Scott Lynch / Gothamist
There were many good options among the six vendors who were part of the Dekalb Open Air Market during one visit this week. The legendary Katz’s are here for many of their classics, including pastrami (as great as always) and corned beef sandwiches, hot dogs, matzo ball soup, and potato knishes. Likkle More Jerk has some fiery jerk chicken, as well as other West Indian favorites like an oxtail platter and goat rotis.
The Hana Noodle Station offers a wide variety of dishes with hand-drawn beauties, as well as all kinds of bubble milk teas. I decided to try the Shanghai Cold Noodle with Shredded Chicken and it was delicious, but any number of other preparations here looked just as tempting. You can also get Fujinese delicacies like Char Siu Rice Bowls and Fish Ball Noodle Soup at 100% Mr. Lin.
The sellers were rounded off yesterday by the Pierogi Boys (get a tasting plate to try all three types of dumplings) and The Flo with cold brewed coffee and chewy biscuits in jumbo size. Other restaurants that might pop up in the near future: Kopti Donor with their Donor Kebabs, Andrews Hard Times Sundaes with top notch burgers and roadside fries, and BK Jani with dishes like Chicken Tikka and Seekh K’babs.
The setup isn’t ideal – the city should definitely let them take over the currently barren pop-up park on Willoughby Street – but these vendors all do a good job of getting along with and serving the little that has been given them some very good food while you’re at it.
Picnic areas at Willoughby Square pop up half a block away
Scott Lynch / Gothamist
The Dekalb Open Air Market will be set up in front of 445 Albee Square West between Fulton Street and Willoughby Street and is currently open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays (dekalbmarkethall.com).