In a city where you can’t throw a bao bun without hitting a buzzy new food hall, yet another has made its grand (partial) debut in New York. This one, however, stands out from the pack thanks to its waterfront locale at Manhattan’s historic Seaport (née the South Street Seaport), sumptuous interiors, and helming by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Dubbed Tin Building by Jean-Georges, the 53,000-square-foot Lower Manhattan foodie mecca is housed within a historic Seaport structure of the same name that stands as one of just two major surviving buildings from the old Fulton Fish Market, which packed up its ice blocks and decamped to Hunts Point in the Bronx in 2005. Built in 1907, the Tin Building underwent an exhaustive, years-long transformation led by SHoP Architects in which the corrugated tin–clad structure was lifted, shifted, and rehabilitated from top-to-bottom—dissembled and recreated, essentially—at a new location just 32 feet to the east of its original spot. Developer the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is leading the larger and the sometimes contentious revival of the Seaport district, celebrated the topping out of the reborn Tin Building in November 2019. Construction work wrapped up just last year, five years after the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) first approved the conversion of the building into a food hall.
Earlier this month, Howard Hughes bought a 25 percent stake in Vongerichten’s restaurant empire, Jean-Georges Restaurants. The 40-location restaurant group is leasing the Tin Building from the developer.(In related news, Vongerichten’s longtime Soho staple Mercer Kitchen announced earlier this month that it will close at the end of the year following a 25-year run.)
Considered Manhattan’s oldest intact neighborhood and populated by a wealth of historic mercantile buildings, the former maritime district now known as Seaport is undergoing a sea change in hopes to revive it from an extended slump. Adjacent to the Tin Building, the once-fading waterfront hotspot-slash-shopping mall Pier 17 reopened in 2018 following a SHoP-helmed overhaul; last May, Howard Hughes at long last won approval from the LPC for its mixed-use tower, designed by SOM, at 250 Water Street following a considerable scaling-back.
Back at the resuscitated Tin Building, locals and tourists alike will encounter a food hall that’s more akin to Eataly than to, for example, the new Essex Street Market (also a SHoP project) or Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall in that it’s pure Jean-Georges and not a diverse assemblage of different independent food vendors.
Still, those looking for variety won’t be disappointed in what Jean-Georges Restaurants describes as a “never-before-seen culinary destination.” Spread across two levels, Tin Building by Jean-Georges is home to six full-service restaurants, a half-dozen more quick-service counters, a quartet of bars, a private dining area, and three specialty retail outposts including a candy store and Asian food boutique. The space is anchored by a traditional Central Market offering a rotating selection of fresh and locally sourced produce, meats, cheeses, specialty items, and of course, seafood.
As far as the restaurants go, the offerings are diverse. Full-service options include the House of the Red Pearl, a “clandestine” upscale eatery featuring a “Chinese-inspired” menu; a French brasserie, a seafood counter with raw bar, a sushi and sake bar, a pizza and pasta spot, and a plant-based bistro with the memorable moniker of Seeds & Weeds. On the casual/to-go front, there’s a commuter-friendly coffee shop selling fresh pastries, a taqueria, a crêpe and dosa counter, and a gourmet breakfast sandwich stand that transforms into a caviar bar (!) in the evening. Standalone wine and cocktail bars along with a taproom cater to those visitors on the prowl for pre- or post-meal libations.
While SHoP gets credit for the painstaking reconstruction of the building itself, Roman and Williams joined by Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors were tapped to bring the massive, nearly $200 million marketplace to life in a manner that “honors the history and legacy of the site” while “taking inspiration from the 1920s and ‘30s heyday and adapting it for a contemporary context,” a press release detailed. “Drawing on extensive research into markets from around the world, Roman and Williams layered in traditions and features unearthed on their travels to create a global market for the ages.” Furbished-to-a tee, the interior of the revamped building is replete with brass, turned wood, marble, and handmade tiles in “maritime blues and greens.”
Although the pervading atmosphere of Tin House by Jean-Georges is period maritime chic, the individual restaurants and retail spaces have all been bestowed with their own “distinct identities and designs” as a means of “creating texture, energy, and a journey of senses and discovery.” The House of the Red Pearl, for example, strikes an unmistakable mood with its Chinoiserie wallpaper, velvet-upholstered banquettes, and lantern lighting. Meanwhile, Shikku, a 19-seat sushi bar, offers “sexy black box design with walls lined in charred shou sugi ban millwork and a dusky marble sushi counter.”
This all said, Tin Building by Jean-Georges, located at 96 South Street, has not fully opened and is operating in preview mode throughout August with limited hours of noon ‘till 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. A larger grand opening is slated for fall. Save your appetite.