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Last spring the nearly 80-year-old Essex Street Market packed up its wares and moved across Delancey Street into fancy new digs in the Essex Crossing complex. Bright and airy in places, cramped and (appropriately) chaotic in others, the new space mostly succeeded in providing an upgrade to the venerable market without feeling too mall-ish. Almost all of the old vendors joined in the Delancey crossing, and some key newcomers added to the appeal (though one of the latter, Samesa, just recently closed).

Now, the whole thing just got a lot more massive with the opening of Market Line. Located on the floor below Essex Market, the subterranean sister food hall brings some 25 new vendors and restaurants to the differently-named but contiguously-designed space. The line-up pays assiduous tribute to the culinary and cultural history of the Lower East Side, with old-schoolers such as Veselka, Nom Wah, and Schaller & Weber sitting comfortably alongside newcomers like Que Chevre, Slice Joint, and Moon Man. Last week, the development consortium responsible for the beast threw a preview party, and here are some initial impressions.

The most exciting new venture turns out to be a pizza place called Slice Joint that was only signed on less than two months ago. Owned and operated by Rachael Marie, who worked the dough for four years at Roberta’s (you may also recognize her from Morgenstern’s), Slice Joint is starting off strong with some excellent Square Pepperoni slices and classic NYC folds, available as straight-up Cheese or with a variety of toppings. Locals (and Regal Essex moviegoers) are going to get addicted to these beauties.

The family-run Schaller & Weber has a long history in NYC, but this is the first time these German butchers have ventured downtown. Their Market Line booth has a full deli of cured meats, European specialty items, and a robust sandwich menu, all of which is good news. You’ll find me loitering by the Schaller’s Stube counter, their relatively new sausage-in-a-bun concept that serves up some of the best hot dogs in town.

My love of first-rate Puerto Rican/Dominican/Cuban lunch counter cuisine runs deep, so I’m especially happy to see newcomer Que Chevre in the mix here. Owned by first-time restauranteur Michael Petrovich, with a big culinary assist from his daughter Lilian Quinones, Que Chevre brings a focused menu of Puerto Rican classics back to the Lower East Side, including Pernil, Chicharron de Pollo, Mofongo, and a fried queso blanco sandwich called El Petro.

Queens Night Market regular Moon Man, founded by cousins Nigel Sielegar and Wenny Purnomo, finally gets an everyday home for their modern interpretations of classic Indonesian desserts. I’ve always liked everything I’ve eaten at Moon Man (they seem to pop up at every festival as well), but the sticky, crisp, chewy, and delicious Coconut Pancake provides the perfect introduction to these street-food treats.

The Substance Juice Vitality Bar is not the sort of place I typically frequent, but last week I got to try three different kinds of their organic, cold-pressed juice—the Heart Beet, for energy; the Knockout, for immunity; the Fresh Cut, for digestive health—and all three tasted great and, yes, felt instantly invigorating. Also really satisfying and delicious were their Date Truffles. Will I soon be sucking down $11, 16-ounce bottles of this stuff on the regular? Anything’s possible!

If you drink beer and/or wine there are two large and attractive areas just for you: the elegant Grand Delancey, with a rotating menu of 50 beers from all over the world (their master list contains about 1,200 different brews); and the People’s Wine Shop and Bar, a cool-looking space from Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske Valtierra of Contra and Wildair. Expect an extensive by-the-glass wine menu and a few small plates available nightly.

There’s lots more to talk about, too. Ample Hills is here with a new flavor, L’chaim, featuring chai and chocolate-covered macaroons. Nom Wah is slinging dumplings and noodles. Veselka brings its famous Potato Pancakes and Pierogi. Four Sigmatic will pour you some mushroom coffee. Ends Meat will slice you some salami. Doughnut Plant is featuring new seasonal flavors, Spicy Pumpkin and Cranberry. The Pickle Guys have their barrels out, filled with vinegary delights. Ippudo’s quick-service ramen bar Kuro Obi is right next door to Pho Grand. Corona favorite Tortilla Nixtamal will be ready soon, as will the izakaya Gouie NY and an expansive, table-service seafood restaurant named Essex Pearl.

Although Market Line is most definitely a basement-level complex, the overall design by SHoP Architects is clever, and a lot of natural light gets in from the several soaring entrances. There are small seating areas set up throughout the space, and if everything’s full you can always bring your food up to the atrium at Essex Market. And this is all only the first phase of the Market Line—when Phase 2 opens in 2021, the 150,000-square foot Market Line and Essex Market will combine to be the largest food market in NYC, and one of the largest such operations in the world.

The Market Line is located at 115 Delancey Street, with additional entrances on Essex, Broome, and Norfolk Streets, and is now open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. (marketline.nyc)

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