Usually, food courts are the stuff of Subways, Johnny Rocket’s and Mrs. Fields. But this is a new era, and the city that never sleeps is nothing if not progressive.
With Food Bar as the main attraction, a vegan-friendly food court has opened on 8th Avenue in NYC. The locale features three separate businesses: Food Bar (an eatery and pantry), TBaar (a juicery) and Pip’s Place (a bakery).
Food Bar has top billing, and features a full lineup of prepared foods, made-to-order items and frozen and packaged products in its pantry.
“It actually turns out that it isn’t so hard to cut out meat and keep flavors high and calories low and be pretty, satisfying and accessible,” says Sam Firer, partner in Hall Company, the organization behind Food Bar. “Food Bar aims to encompass all health dietary needs a diner may request at a reasonable price, too.”
It’s starting with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, and soon the brand will be adding diabetic-friendly, paleo and low-sodium menu items. The name Otarian, interestingly, is a play on “zero”, as in 0: 0-tarian (zero meat, fish or animal products, zero gluten, zero sugar, etc).
Food Bar also offers the city’s first customized burger and wrap bar. Dubbed Bespoke Burgers, the create-your-own concept features innovative patty options (also available frozen, to take home) like mushroom quinoa, potato spinach and tex mex, among others. Plus, there have vegan cheeses, homemade sauces like BBQ and sriracha mayo, condiments like carrot chutney and caramelized onion, and lots of other options. It’s a burger lover’s dream come true, and there’s even a street window for summertime ordering.
“Food Bar is definitely evolutionary, at least for healthful eating,” Firer says, although he notes that there are higher-end food courts in other parts of the city.
They also have offer prepared meals like roasted vegetable lasagna, vegetable pot pie and mild green curry veggies, plus daily soups and salads. They’re currently testing a “white” concept for the summer, says Firer. “Summer white gazpacho; white summer chili (white beans, white jabaneros, white tomato, pearl onions, leeks, white garlic shoots, white pepper, white balsamic, white truffle oil, white wine, white mushrooms, white asparagus, white miso, sour cream, white cheese, white cinnamon, white mustard, white rosemary, white parsley flowers, turnips, potato, white clover and trille blanc), white wakame miso broth.”
They’ll be doing other color themes, too: green for next spring, black for Fashion Week, red for Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
In the next 30 days they’ll also be adding a noodle menu section featuring ramen, soba, spinach noodles, vermicelli, dumplings and marine noodles, says Firer, with different kinds of broths like mirin, miso, summer tomato water, cold sesame sauce, vegetable bouillons and other options.
And that’s not all. “In the next seven to ten days we’re launching our breakfast ‘Oatmeal Bar’ featuring several types of oatmeal—rolled, steel cut, multi-grain—served several ways: plain, granola, cookies, stir fried, ribbons, soccas, crepes, dollar pancakes and cheesy oatmeal,” Firer says.
There’s even an on-site market with products like cereals, chips, chocolate bars, ready to eat foods, ice creams, juices, pastas, butters, rice, and frozen produce.
Food Bar has been open for only four days, officially, with a soft opening several days before. Already they’re more than halfway to their desired daily sales numbers, Firer tells Latest Vegan News. Clearly there’s a market for healthy, delicious plant-based food in NYC.
As far as the other on-site options, Pip’s Place (vegetarian and gluten-free) has cakes, cookies, muffins and squares, including sour cream coffee cake, gingersnap cookies and lemon squares. TBaar (vegan and gluten-free) is all about the bubble tea, with flavors like taro milk tea, bubble milk black tea and coconut milk tea. They also have wheatgrass shots, smoothies and fresh fruit juices.
While not everything is vegan (Food Bar has some vegetarian items), it’s a primarily vegan-friendly food court, and that’s not something you’re likely to find elsewhere.
“It’s a whole new animal … or vegetable, I should say. And you never know what may fly until you try it,” adds Firer. “One thing is for sure: there must always be new products, services and ideas in the pipeline.”