Around late winter/ early spring of 2011, a new food court opened up in Koreatown located at 32nd street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Food Gallery 32 hosts a variety of vendors all in one place. The food that are served by these vendors are all relatively cheap for Manhattan standards. The portions are also very big considering the price you pay for them. The method installed in this food court is very similar to the food court styles inside shopping malls. There are two floors of seating for the customers. You purchase your food from the individual vendor that you choose and then you are given a beeper. The beeper will sound when your food is ready. Once you pick up your food, you have to carry it by yourself to find a table. Because all of the food vendors use actual dishes and not plastic or styrofoam, when you are finished eating, someone will come to pick up your tray and dishes.
During the course of a month, I sampled majority of the food vendors available to customers. I managed to sample 5 out of the 7 vendors:
- Boon Sik Zip: serves boon shik food which is basically Korean street food
- Pastel: serves pastas and other Korean dishes
- O-de-ppang: serves Japanese food
- Bian Dang: serves Taiwanese food, it’s the guys from the NYC Cravings truck.
- Hanok: serves more regular Korean food
At Boon Sik Zip I ordered Ddukbokki or Korean rice cakes cooked in hot pepper sauce. A lot of Korean places serve their ddukbokki without melted cheese but at Boon Sik Zip, you are given the choice between adding cheese or not. I personally like my ddukbokki with the melted cheese, so this vendor was perfect for me. My order of ddukbokki was served with a side of fishcake soup, which helped sooth the fire on my tongue from the hot pepper sauce. Even though I am not a fan of hot foods, I will always make an exception for ddukbokki. Boon Sik Zip did not disappoint me with their presentation of this popular Korean street food.
At Pastel, I sampled the Seafood Cream Pasta. The pasta was very creamy and had a significant amount of seafood – mussels, scallops, and shrimp. The mussels were my favorite part of the seafood pasta. It complemented the cream pasta very well. My order came with a side of salad, seaweed soup, and surprisingly, kimchi. My order only cost around $11 but I received a lot of food in return. Even though most of the foods offered at pastel are pasta dishes, they manage to add a bit of Korean flair by offering kimchi and seaweed soup. I appreciated having such a wide range of side dishes offered to me.
At O-de-ppang, I ordered soba noodles, or buckwheat noodles cooked and then cooled down so it can be eaten in a cold broth. My order of soba noodles did not come with any side dishes, but it was more than enough to feed me and possibly a friend. The order came with two bundles of noodles, which is more than a standard order anywhere else. As I was waiting for my order, I was able to watch the chef in the back prepare it. A lot of work is put into making soba noodles because they have to be cooked al dente and then cooled down. For the low price of $8, I really thought that this was a deal.
At Bian Dang, I had their signature meat sauce over rice paired with a chicken thigh. This order did not come with any side dishes either but once again, it was big enough to feed me and another person. I have always been a fan of Taiwanese meat sauce over rice as I have eaten it numerous times before in a chinatown restaurant that has been around since before I was born. Although I am completely loyal to the my usual chinatown restaurant, I thought that Bian Dang came pretty close in flavor. I scarfed down the rice because it was just that good. My only complaint was that typical Taiwanese meat sauce over rice has pickled cabbage all over the rice. Bian Dang did not offer as much pickled cabbage as I would like or even as much as the original dishes.
At Hanok, I ordered their barbecued pork dish. The dish came with a side of salad and kimchi along with a bowl of white rice and seaweed soup. In comparison to all the other vendors, this one offered the most side dishes in my order. The barbecued pork comes either spicy or a little spicy. I ordered the little spicy one, which was just right. There was a slight taste of spice but it was not overwhelming. If you eat a bit of meat with a bite of rice, it is enough to fill you up completely!
Last but not least, is a surprise vendor that is located on the 3rd floor of the Food Gallery – Crepe Monster. Crepe Monster offers Japanese style crepes with a variety of toppings. You can either order one of their signature crepes or make your own. I always make my own. Their Snow Beast Crepe is a make- it- yourself crepe that includes two toppings and a scoop of ice cream – provided by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (which I’ve been a fan of since I was a little kid). Pictured is a banana and nutella crepe with a scoop of green tea ice cream. The crepe is made when you order and is wrapped tightly so that it can be taken to go. Nothing ever spills when you eat crepes from this vendor.
Crepe Monster has officially pulled their lease from the Food Gallery, but have no fear! If you want to try one of their delicious crepes, follow them on Facebook to find out where their new location will be!
The Food Gallery is a definite recommendation from me because it offers so many cheap foods in one place. You have the option of eating in or taking it out. And the best part of their food court system? You don’t have to pay tip! In the midst of Manhattan, where food is always expensive, having good food at such a cheap price is always a steal.