VIDEO: DeKalb Market Hall draws foodie hoards to Downtown Brooklyn
Forty Food Vendors Fill Lower Level of City Point Development
What started as a trickle just off of Albee Square in the Fulton Street Mall quickly turned into a roar as the long-awaited opening of the DeKalb Market Hall drew foodies from all over the borough, Manhattan and even Long Island.
Doors opened to the public for the first time at 11 a.m. on June 16. Some vendors, like Taste of Katz’s and Cuzin’s Duzin, started passing out their signature products right away, while many others still scrambled to start service.
“We’re just two friends who want to sell Polish dumplings,” Pierogi Boy partner Andrew Kinczyk said as he opened boxes of napkins and condiments. Behind him, in the kitchen proper, two women cut rolled-out dough into circles before adding filling to each one. NYC Department of Health-mandated posters demonstrating the Heimlich maneuver and hand washing still lined the countertop, awaiting placement on the walls. Potential customers passed by, retrieving menus and promising to return by noon when the food would be ready.
“People don’t know what they want to eat yet,” floor manager Jauri Peterson explained, pointing to passersby who had collected more paper menus than plates of food. “We’re very happy with the turnout,” he went on to say. “People have been stopping by for weeks asking when opening day was.”
“Ten years ago our rent went from $2,500 per month to $25,000,” Steve Liebowitz of Guss’ Pickles. Guss’, one of the most venerable names in kosher-style pickles for the past century, was compelled to sell via warehouse only until reopening in the DeKalb Market Mall. Sharing a place of honor next to Taste of Katz’s, Liebowitz explained, “Jake [Katz’s owner] invited us to be neighbors here. We’re the only two Manhattan-based vendors in this part of the Hall. He thought we should be together.”
Just a few feet away, the man himself, Katz’s owner Jake Dell stood outside his restaurant’s oversize kiosk, decorated with signs, lights and photographs copied from the original. “We wanted to be certain people understood that Katz’s is on East Houston and Ludlow Streets,” Dell explained. “That’s why this is ‘Taste of Katz’s’ only. The menu here is just a few of our staples — the pastrami, of course, and corned beef — but people have to go across the river for the full Katz’s experience.”
When asked if he received any blowback from establishing Katz’s first Brooklyn outpost so close to Junior’s, the borough’s own powerhouse deli, Dell shook his head. “No, Alan [Junior’s owner Alan Rosen] was fine with it. He understands our strengths are in different areas — they have the roast beef and cheesecake. We have the pastrami and matzo ball soup.”
By noon, barely one hour after opening its doors for the very first time, aisles in the DeKalb Market Hall were mobbed. People elbowed one another aside as each twist and turn revealed a new facet of street-level culinary excellence.
Downtown Brooklyn resident Hilary Wolk retrieved a small bowl filled with dumplings and sour cream from Andrew Kinczyk, making Wolk the Pierogi Boys’ first-ever sale.
“I’ve been waiting forever for this place to open,” Wolk said before delving into the Eastern European classic. Her companions, awaiting their own pierogi orders, nodded enthusiastically.
“I think I’ve got the smallest stall here,” Steve of Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies insisted as he passed out “swingles,” small key lime pies encased in chocolate and set on a stick to be eaten like a popsicle. “This is my second location. Of course, the main one’s in Red Hook.” When reminded of his “pirate” days when aficionados awaited clues for the location of his famous van from which to buy pies off the street, Steve laughed. “Now they don’t even let me in the kitchen anymore!” he confessed.
Filling more than 60,000 square feet, DeKalb Market Hall joins other retail outlets Century 21, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Target, Macy’s and Shake Shack in DoBro’s City Point at 445 Albee Square.