After months of delays, the DeKalb Market Hall is here.
The subterranean food hall, initially scheduled to open in November, is slated to debut Friday in Downtown Brooklyn at 445 Albee Square West at 11 a.m. When it does, it will be the largest of its kind in the city, with 40 vendors.
We took a tour of the food hall before its opening day. Scroll down to see photos.
Founder Anna Castellani, who owns the market Foragers, was inspired by the food halls of Asia and Europe when envisioning the DeKalb Market Hall, which is located in the City Point development that is also home to an Alamo Drafthouse, Target and, soon, Trader Joe’s.
“When we showed it to almost everyone here it was empty,” Castellani said on Wednesday, two days before the opening, as vendors were busy putting the finishing touches on their stalls and making samples from the kitchens.
Watch our Facebook Live video of the market's pre-opening party on Thursday to see the stalls for yourself.
Castellani brought many of the vendors, which are all New York City-based, onboard. When she pitched them, “I brought up neon,” she said. “And the fact that New York did not have a [food hall that was] vibrant, casual, not overly defined, not heavily bogged down with architecture. We gave these guys a pad on the floor and said have fun.”
Vendors had free reign in the design of their stalls, with one exception – they all needed to have a neon sign. Unlike most food halls, where the vendors cycle in and out, Castellani said the concepts at DeKalb Market Hall “will be here for a long time.”
“It’s not meant to be a transitional space,” said Castellani, whose own business, Foragers, has a presence in the food hall, with a butcher, market and rotisserie. “I wanted people here and excited and creating a home.”
New York City is not lacking in food halls, with the Canal Street Market, Queens Crossing in Flushing and, nearby, Gotham Market at the Ashland among just the recent openings. But Castellani said she hasn’t seen anything quite like hers yet.
“The main difference is it’s not real estate driven – it’s food driven,” she said. “It’s much more casual. When I think of the existing food halls, I don’t see this.”
In addition to the vendors, the market has a performance space slated to open in September with a full bar.
“Once the event space is active I want to do a night market in here,” Castellani said.
There are also two restaurants opening soon next to the food hall – Han Dynasty and Fortina.
Here’s a look at a few of the vendors opening in DeKalb Market Hall, from established players to brand-new concepts.
A Taste of Katz's
One of the biggest stalls belongs to Katz's Delicatessen, which is making its first expansion since originally opening on the Lower East Side in 1888. Co-owner Jake Dell said the timing was right to give the New York institution's regulars another place for its pastrami sandwiches. "They were pushing for it," he said. The grab-and-go stall will sell "the classics," Dell said, including sandwiches on rye filled with one of Katz's "big four" meats -- pastrami, corned beef, brisket and turkey -- as well as hot dogs, potato latkes, steak fries and more. "I don't know if people want that much more than what's here." The stall pays homage to the Houston Street original with a giant Katz's sign running nearly floor to ceiling. "It's a real authentic Katz's experience that is going to happen, even if it's just a taste of it," Dell said.
Jimmy Tu quickly built a following for his Vietnamese street food when Bunker first opened in Ridgewood in 2013. It followed him to Bunker's new, larger Bushwick space, which opened earlier this year. Now he's bringing his banh mi and pho to Downtown Brooklyn.
The menu is based on Tu's travels and what he ate growing up in Thailand and Elmhurst, Queens. The four banh mi on the menu at the food hall include the Saigon, which features five cuts of pork (pork loaf, roast pork, sweet sausage, head cheese and pate); grass-fed beef steak ("It's kind of like a Philly cheesesteak," Tu said); a veggie option with mushrooms; and one inspired by the famed Vietnamese dish cha ca la vong. "It's a turmeric ginger fish fry, we translated it into a sandwich."
Sides include crab chips and a papaya salad. To drink there's a Vietnamese iced coffee made with a dark roast from Vita Café, shiso limeade with basil seeds and a variety of tropical juices.
Once the weather cools, Tu looks to add chicken pho to the menu, which is a hit at the restaurant. He also plans to add summer rolls.
Skateboarding fans will also be able to snag a Bunker-branded board for $48.
Pain D'Avignon has made its mark on eateries across the city as a wholesale bakery based in Long Island City, but the bread maker has been dipping its toes in retail, too.
It opened its first retail location at the Essex Street Market, and five years ago expanded to the Plaza Food Hall, selling quiches, scones and croissants. With DeKalb Market Hall, it will be able to sell similar goods, as well as bake bread and pastries on the premises.
"When we were invited here we asked for more space for that reason," owner Uliks Fehmiu said. "We have one of the larger spaces here."
The café will sell a variety of its breads, including brioche and baguettes, as well as quiches and sandwiches on croissants, including a bacon, egg and cheese. To drink, there's Stumptown coffee.
"We love coffee," Fehmiu said. "In the last 10 years, you have this third wave of coffee in America and a bunch of cool coffee shops, but the food is not always on the same level, and vice versa. We like to believe the quality of our bread equals the quality of our coffee, and vice versa."
Throughout the market, you may also come across Pain D'Avignon's bread - Belle Cheese, Foragers, Bunker and Fulton Landing Seafood all use it.
Andrew's Classic Brooklyn Bagels by Hard Times Sundaes
Andrew Zurica has not one but two concepts at the food hall, right across from each other: Andrew's Classic Roadside Hamburgers, and Andrew's Classic Brooklyn Bagels.
The latter is a brand new venture for the Mill Basin native, who's gained a following for his no-frills roadside burgers. He's sourcing bagels from Mill Basin Bagel Café.
"I grew up having their bagels," Zurica said. "We're doing real-deal kettle-boiled bagels. It's real, old-world flavor and texture."
Along with bagels, the stand will sell homemade salads, like chicken and tuna, rolling out over the next few weeks. "We're making everything ourselves; we're not buying anything premade," he said.
Zurica has a hand in every aspect of his company's brand Hard Times Sundaes -- he built out his original luncheonette, his food truck and even the signage for his stalls at DeKalb Market Hall. So naturally he is also learning the craft of bagel making himself from the Mill Basin shop. He plans to ultimately open a commissary later this year where he can make the bagels and go wholesale.
"That's the next thing," he said.
Polish natives Krzysztof Poluchowicz and Andrzej Kinczyk couldn't find any pierogis worth recommending in New York City, so they'd invite their friends over to their Ridgewood apartment and host pierogi parties.
Now, the public can get in on the pierogi love with their new stall, which specializes in traditional dumplings. Offerings include potato and cheese with fried onions and bacon; sauerkraut and mushrooms with a mushroom gravy; and a meat pierogi with braised pork and beef.
They also plan to add a borscht -- cold for the summer, hot for the winter -- to the menu. "We want to have one soup because it's so good," Poluchowicz said.
Both have restaurant experience (Kinczyk manages a Foragers in DUMBO), but this is their first venture on their own.
"Everyone has been really nice sharing advice," Poluchowicz said of the other food hall vendors. "We are like sponges taking advice."
One tidbit they learned: offer two different sizes of dumpling plates, since visitors will likely be sampling from a few different vendors.
The Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea vendor is opening its first daily venture at the DeKalb Market Hall.
While other jianbing purveyors in the city, like Mr. Bing, specialize in the Beijing style of the popular Chinese street food, founders Reuben Shorser and Tadesh Inagaki do Shanghai style. That means a thin pancake "that's dry to the touch," as opposed to oily, Shorser said. They also serve their jianbing with a homemade sweet and savory sauce that is distinctive to the Shanghai style.
Protein fillings include chicken, beef, tofu and their 13-spice pork. The stall also serves ji dan bing. "That's more like a taco made out of a scallion pancake," Shorser said.
Agatha Khishchenko, a practicing attorney who lives just a couple blocks away from the DeKalb Market Hall, is sharing her love of cheese with this shop. "This is a big passion project for me," she said.
Belle Cheese will sell between 60 to 80 cheeses, both domestic and international, along with crackers, chutneys, honeys and more, with a focus on small producers and brands. Eventually the shop will also sell sandwiches.
Many of the offerings are inspired by Khishchenko's travels, with a heavy focus on British, French and Spanish cheeses, as well as Germany and Bulgaria.
"The mission of my shop is travel through taste," she said. "Someone might not be able to go to the Alps or Basque Country. I want this shop to be a fun experience."
A current favorite of Khishchenko's is an Alp Blossom from Austria, which is covered in wild edible flowers. "That is a new discovery for me," she said.