I sat admiring the scene unfolding at Brookfield Place, the new retail and restaurant complex in Battery Park City. The glass-filled atrium, with views across the Hudson River, was packed with men and women in suits and tourists wearing socks with sandals, all scurrying around, on the hunt for the best lunch spot.
Five years ago, when we lived just down the street, this building was empty. It was a retail wasteland, thousands of square feet of space devoid of life, save for a smattering of sad stores that never seemed to have any customers. Even the two towers connected to this sad retail experience sat mostly unused, with dozens of floors completely vacant.
My, how things have changed in Battery Park City. So let us show you the best restaurants in Battery Park City, a now thriving foodie destination.
Battery Park City is one of Manhattan’s newest neighborhoods. And by new, I do not mean that some real estate firm, desperate to charge more for their luxury condos, mashed together words to rename an existing area, like Nomad (North of Madison Square Park) or Nolita (North of Little Italy) to create a new “neighborhood”.
No, Battery Park City is the newest piece of land in Manhattan, created during the excavation for the World Trade Center in the 1960’s. All the rock and debris removed to create the foundation was splashed into the Hudson River right next to the site, and Battery Park City was born.
Since then and up until a few years ago, nothing exciting happened on this new landmass. High rise condos went up, and that was about it. What’s crazy, is that the location is ideal for all kinds of development. It sits on the Hudson River, and is close to the Financial District and the perennial hip and trendy Tribeca.
Now, Battery Park City is finally getting its due. The Brookfield Place has been a major driving force in developing the area, along the Goldman Sachs headquarters right next door. This brought thousands more people each day into Battery Park, which means that new restaurants sprung up to feed the hungry (and well paid) new neighbors.
The developers were able convince big restaurant names, like famous NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer, to open new projects, bringing buzz and loyal followers as well. He opened Blue Smoke, a barbecue restaurant featuring a variety of regional barbecue styles, North End Grill, a high end spot featuring a massive scotch selection, and the perpetually packed Shake Shack. Shortly after, restauranteur Stephen Starr from Philadelphia opened the Mexican themed concept El Vez, the ideal spot for some happy hour margaritas and delicious guacamole.
Battery Park City, so hot right now.
Battery Park City is located on the southwestern tip of Manhattan, stretching from Chambers Street all the way down to the aptly named Battery Park. It is long, but quite narrow, no more than two blocks wide at any point. The neighborhood is easily accessible from public transit, with multiple subway options nearby, and is located along the Westside Highway, making it a relatively quick shot down from Midtown, depending on traffic of course!
The best way to get there though is through the new World Trade Center complex. The main retail hub, the Oculus, is one of the most stunning buildings constructed in New York City in the past 25 years, and worth a walk through, with it’s incredibly modern and airy interior atrium. This building also houses the PATH trains, which connect commuters with New Jersey, and the World Trade Center stop on the E subway line. From the Oculus, you can walk underground, beneath the West Side Highway, and emerge in the lovely entrance to Brookfield Place.If it happens to be a rainy day in NYC, this might be the best place to spend an afternoon. The Oculus is also linked on the other side with Fulton Street Station, with multiple subway lines, meaning you can cross most of downtown Manhattan underground. No umbrella necessary!
Plus, if you find yourself near the Oculus, you should at least spend a few minutes at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, located adjacent to the street level entrance to the Oculus. It is a poignant display and a vital piece of NYC history, with two fountains constructed in the foundation of the two towers and a museum dedicated to the events of September 11th.
The Best Restaurants in Battery Park City
This the the heart of the Brookfield Place food complex. Think of it was a French version of Eataly. The site contains L’Appart, a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant, a slightly upscale bistro named Beaubourg with a massive outdoor patio space, and two casual bar areas, Le Bar and Bar a Vin, perfect for a quick drink and snack. And that are just the restaurant options. There is the charcuterie bar, a fishmonger, a butcher, a cheese shop and of course, a bakery packed with buttery, delicious French pastries. There is a rotisserie counter for takeaway meals and a salad/sandwich area for a quick lunch. So you can stop in for a glass of wine, have a Michelin-starred meal, dine al fresco, or simply stop in for some macarons to go, all within the same store. Lots of options to eat well.
You may remember Mighty Quinn from the last NYC guide, and here it is again. That’s because it’s awesome and is, hands down, my favorite barbecue in NYC. Their pulled pork is simply magical. The beans, the sweet potato casserole, the perfect sauce, the pickled chiles and cucumbers. Frankly, you can’t go wrong. And if you are with friends, you can order the smoked beef rib, which is massive and requires a few willing participants to finish.
Black Seed Bagels
From the guys behind Mile End, a smoked meat mecca, is this bagel concept, featuring not NYC bagels, but Montreal style bagels. The differences are minimal, but these bagels contain a little honey in the dough for added sweetness, but still have good chew. Their bagel sandwich concoctions are next level, especially the beet cured salmon. Probably the best possible way to start off your day.
Yes, Shake Shacks now dot the city (and country for that matter), but they are popular for a reason. This was our local Shake Shack when we lived in the area, so we had just a short walk between our front door and their famous concrete shakes and a burger. The fries are just okay, so save on calories there and treat yourself to a shake, preferably mixed with seasonal fruit and the brown butter crumble, a fruit crumble in milkshake form. It has fruit in it, so it’s healthy, right?
One of our favorite sandwich joints in the city. Technically, the sandwiches are Cambodian, but they are almost identical to a Vietnamese bahn mi. Perfectly crusty, yet soft baguette, pickled veg, cilantro, chili mayo and whatever filling you want. My usual is the pulled Duroc pork with spiced honey, though the peppercorn catfish should not be overlooked. They also do grilled corn on the cob as a side, slathered with chili mayo, coconut flakes and chili powder. It would be best not to eat it on a date or around people you don’t know well. It’s messy, but totally worth it.
This is one of the newer openings to Brookfield Place, from Philadelphia chef Jose Garces. It is a splashy Spanish restaurant, with a large open kitchen and an active bar and lounge area for the after work crowd. The tapas are traditional, but with a little modern spin, and features a few large format options, like whole suckling pig! The bar program is outstanding, and features an array of gin and tonics served in massive wine glasses. Quite literally, gin and tonics the size of your head! And they even offer a variety of garnishes and varieties of high quality tonic. Doesn’t get much better than that!
The Only Place to Stay
A guide to Battery Park City would not be complete if I skipped over our favorite hotel. If you want to splurge while in NYC, think about the Conrad Battery Park. It was our home for almost three weeks after Hurricane Sandy damaged our apartment building back in 2012 and for another week just before our move to London. It holds a special place in our heart.
The lobby is also stunning and the site used to be a Embassy Suites years ago, so that means that every room in the hotel is a suite, with a separate living room and bedroom. The Conrad also features the gold standard of my favorite amenity, a huge walk-in marble steam shower, complete with rain head. It is located across the street from Brookfield Place, the Shake Shack is around the corner, it has a rooftop bar with Prosecco on tap (!) and there is an eleven screen movie theater in the hotel.