Second Acts

Casual dining arrives in style at the Plaza

By Nancy Mandell, guest blogger

The best things in life aren’t always free. But in New York City, they can be surprisingly moderate for the setting. Take the landmark Plaza Hotel, where the Palm Court and the Oak Room still beckon with some of their past splendor.

But a food court—or to be more precise, Food Hall—at the Plaza? Yes, Eloise, there is more to the menu than Room Service! The new action is on the concourse level, a flight down from the lobby, where an amalgam of  high-end shops has been installed. Last week, the Plaza entered the upscale fast food era when celebrity chef Todd English (of Olive’s at the “W” in Union Square among others) opened what he emphatically calls the Food Hall, designed to mimic grand European food halls like London’s Harrod’s.

Harrod’s it is not! The space is considerably smaller, and the emphasis is on food bars, not retail. But what’s being served at those counters looks amazingly good, and the prices, by neighborhood standards, are gentle. For example,  the Ocean Grill and Oyster Bar, with attention-grabbing displays of glistening seafood, offers items ranging from $1.50 per Littleneck clam to $3 per oyster or four  jumbo prawns for $20 from the raw bar  to a $21 lobster roll or small plates of grilled snapper or branzino for $12 or $14. At the Cheese and Charcouterie Bar, tastings of a variety of artisanal cheeses or cured meats are one for $6, three for $13 and five for $19. A grill area serves sandwiches like a trio of sliders for $10, a half-pound burger with lots of trimmings, $14, and a PLT (that’s pancetta where the bacon would be) for $12. There are pizzas ranging from the $10 Bronx Bomber with onions, mozzarella and pepperoni to the $12 fig and prosciutto with a rosemary crust. Except for the $6 cupcakes, the baked goods were shrink- wrapped and unimpressive. Other stations serve Asian noodles or Spanish tapas and demonstrations of culinary arts like sausage making and olive pressing are promised.

The best way to reach the Food Hall is through the 58th street entrance, where an escalator goes straight to the lower level. The Plaza Food Hall—open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday—is particularly handy for a casual bite before or after a movie across the street at the Paris.

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