Not so long ago, the trendiest thing worn in the meatpacking district was a blood-stained apron. Now, Gansevoort Market (as the district is officially known) is New York’s most fashionable neighborhood, chock full of hip restaurants, exclusive clubs, and paycheck-draining boutiques. Despite the haute onslaught, the neighborhood has managed to retain its blue-collar edge, thanks to the many wholesale meat companies that still operate out of the warehouses between Gansevoort and West 15th Streets. By night, however, the district is transformed, as butchers and meat cutters disappear, and magazine editors, models, and a stream of Sarah Jessica Parker look-alikes take their place.
What do you get when you mix a Top Chef, a sizzling neighborhood, and a restaurant that can seat hundreds at a time? The answer: a madhouse, or more specifically, Catch. Since it opened in 2011, the EMM Group’s globally influenced seafood emporium has been constantly packed, despite competition from nearby restaurants like Buddakan, STK, Spice Market, and Pastis. Catch’s secret (if you can call anything this popular a secret) is its 14,000-square-foot space, its large-format plates, and its ability to attract celebrities like Brad Pitt and Lindsay Lohan while leaving room for us non-VIPs as well. Reserve well in advance.
West 14th Street, the meatpacking district’s main artery, has turned into a Rodeo Drive of sorts, albeit one surrounded by animal carcasses. A stroll down West 14th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues takes one past the New York outposts of such familiar fashion labels as Alexander McQueen, Moschino, Diane Von Furstenberg, Yigal Azrouël, Matthew Williamson, Jeffrey New York, and Carlos Miele. Bring your plastic.
The Swiss furniture company Vitra treats its 12,000-square-foot showroom on Ninth Avenue like a museum, simply displaying high-concept furniture in an ultra-modern space by architect Linda Roy. Furniture-philes can easily lose hours drooling over cutting-edge pieces from the likes of legendary designers Ray and Charles Eames, Frank Gehry, Philippe Starck, and Isamu Noguchi.
Bars and Nightlife
The Studio 54 days are back in a big way at meatpacking clubs like Le Bain, PH-D, Provacateur, TenJune, and SL, where beefcake bouncers separate the partiers from the pretenders. If you can get into any of these clubs (a much easier proposition on weeknights), expect fantastic sound systems, pricey drinks, and trendsetters three-deep at the bar.
The Ground Zero Museum Workshop was created to help visitors understand what went on inside Ground Zero. The museum is interactive by nature, allowing certain artifacts like WTC window glass and steel to be picked up and handled so you have a better idea of the size and mass of the towers, as well as what took place during the recovery. The workshop also features 3-D installations that place viewers inside Ground Zero.
Originally the headquarters of the Nabisco corporation (and the birthplace of the Oreo cookie), the block-width Chelsea Market now houses the city’s biggest collection of gourmet-food retailers. An 800-foot-long concourse burrows through the heart of an old baking factory filled with fountains, sculptures, and a dizzying array of shops. If you’re looking for something sweet, try a brownie at Fat Witch Bakery or a “chocolate chubbie” (something between a cookie and a brownie) at Sarabeth’s Bakery. For more substantial meals, try Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, the Lobster Place, Amy’s Bread, Ronnybrook Dairy, the Cleaver Co., or Friedman’s Lunch.
The High Line is a one-mile-long public park built on an elevated railway that hovers over the meatpacking district. The 35-foot-high structure blends plant life with long, narrow planks, forming a smooth, linear, virtually seamless walking surface. It features viewing platforms, sundecks, restaurants, and gathering areas used for performances, art exhibitions, and educational programs.