Can’t agree with your date on the night’s fare? Feeling indecisive (and in need of a drink) after a day out sightseeing or excelling (or merely excel-ing) in your cube? Reach back to that middle school game, and take your GF to the food court.
Yes, you heard me. In recent years, NYC has seen the rise of the luxury food court. At places like Gotham West Market, Urbanspace, and the Plaza Food Court, good eats take center stage of the shopping experience. No longer is the food court solely synonymous with Orange Julius or Cinnabon. Instead, gourmet street eats anchor down and fine dining restaurants try trendy, converging to form a mix-and-match “fast casual” experience that cannot be missed.
To check out this new scene, set your Google Directions to the Gotham West Market on West 11th street and you won’t be short of delicious options for your GFs, your foodies, and your boozers alike. The market boasts booths of gourmet street fare, from tacos to sushi to ramen to indian (100% DF GF–stay tuned for a review) to tapas to hot dogs and jerky. They even have your “dinner accessories” taken care of with a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, and expansive wine, cocktail, and beer varieties around the large, warehouse-like room. So for all you daters who struggle to plan, put on a little Hollister cologne for nostalgia’s sake and head over to Gotham West Market for a complete, one-stop date night!
One day after work, I called upon a celiatonic date to join me to check out Uma Temakeria‘s stand in this Hell’s Kitchen “food hall”. Yearning for the buddha bellies & lava nachos of my past life (brb, Sushirrito!), I was dying to try the NYC equivalent. Although not explicitly noted on their menu, a quick note to the owner before our visit helped guide me through the menu. The safest (and most fun) bet for a gf is to assemble your own bowl or sushi burrito, which is assembled as follows:
- Pick your base. | GFs can choose either white or brown rice for the bottom of their bowl. Kale is also offered, but be sure to explicitly inquire as to whether it is undressed (no soy sauce) before ordering.
- Pick your protein. | Yellowfin Tuna, Atlantic Salmon, Blue Swimmer Crab, Marinated Tofu, and Zesty Tofu are all safe! Again, just be sure to specify your allergy as to avoid contamination with soy sauce.
- Pick your veggies. | This is where it gets fun! All veggies are gluten free, and you can pick up to 4 in your burrito or bowl. I opted for the carrots, daikon, cucumber, and green apple (which was amazing). Pickled daikon and carrots, avocado, red pepper, and seaweed salad round out the possibilities for gfs.
- Pick your sauce. | While the California in me blocked traffic for the Avocado Lime, the Creamy Miso and Tobanjan Mayo are also non-soy sauce, gf options for those less crazed avocado fans…
While the picture below shows the bowl that I ordered, the seaweed-wrapped sushirrito is a totally valid option for the handsy gf in all of us. While I do recommend making your own burrito as the easiest way to ensure a safe and delicious gf meal, the staff seemed extremely willing to tweak ready-made rolls to avoid gluten. In addition to the bowls ($12) and sushirritos ($11), smaller tasting rolls can be ordered for $6 apiece. Just for an idea, I was content with a cider and a bowl, while my studly non-gf date (you’re welcome, bæ) regretted not ordering the deal of two smaller rolls + 1 side for $13.
For our young, responsible gfs, the void of Orange Julius can be filled with ginger iced green tea, lemonade, and coconut water. Although alcoholic drinks at Uma could not be tweaked for gf happy hour (menu items included sapporo, sake cocktails, and sake), a nearby restaurant boasts an expansive case of beers and ciders, the latter of which are mainly gluten free! As a newly legal GF, I rounded out my fruity green apple bowl with a fun, ACE pineapple cider which boasted gluten-free certification right on the label. Other options included wine, Crabbie’s ginger beer (another non-malted beverage), and a whole shelf of ciders.
The Bottom Line:
Although this food court experience is devoid of the scent of an overly saturated bag of Abercrombie clothes on the plastic chair next to you, I promise that Gotham West Market will take your junior high food court date to a whole new level. The atmosphere in the Gotham West Market makes for a hip, casual date night of fancy street fare and drinks (while you secretly swivel ever so slightly for Batman sightings). While your indecisive date wanders around the food court ogling the menus, GFs should head to the Uma Temakeria for a casual alternative to typical Japanese food. Its make-your-own style allows sushi-loving GFs to control for soy sauce usually rampant in sauces, rolls, and salads, while also offering yummy choices for any date regardless of allergy.
You can make your own, you can sit for hours without feeling pressured by a waiter to give up your table, you can go back for coffee or another round (of ice cream, what were you thinking…), and it’s extremely grammable. What more could you ask for?
So pull up a chair to a corner table, crack open one of the board games waiting on the tables, and take a picture of your super cool pineapple cider while your sushi chef goes to work. You’re sure to be happy and satisfied when you leave Gotham, whether or not you confirm if it’s your date or Christian Bale who flawlessly extracts a Jenga piece while you munch on your ‘rito (and sip a little too much cider).
Pro Dating Tip: Can’t get enough of the Temakeria? Check out their stand-alone NYC location at 64 7th Ave, open 7 days a week from 11 am to 11 pm! Late nighters should stick with the Gotham West Market, open Sunday-Thursday 11 am to 11pm and 11 am to midnight on Friday and Saturday.