Former Anthony Bourdain food hall team to open Singaporean hawker center in Midtown

November 2, 2021

Photo of a hawker center in Singapore by Aapo Haapanen on Flickr

Roughly four years since late chef and author Anthony Bourdain canceled his proposal to build a massive Singaporean-inspired food hall in New York City, the plan for the market has been revived. Urbanspace and KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra, which runs several food courts in Singapore, are teaming up to bring a food market with 18 street-food vendors to 135 West 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan. The market, described as the first authentic Singaporean hawker center in the United States, will open in early 2022.

Photo of 135 West 50th Street; Photo credit: Gensler/Robert Deitchler

Urbanspace and Seetoh originally collaborated in 2015 when working on Bourdain Market, a proposed Singaporean street hawker food hall and market at Google’s Pier 57. The $60 million food hall would have had up to 100 different stalls, similar to an Asian night market, as 6sqft previously reported. In 2017, Bourdain announced the project would not be moving forward after failing to acquire a lease.

According to Urbanspace, Seetoh and Eldon Scott, the founder of Urbanspace, kept in touch over the years and kept the plan for the market alive. “Seetoh’s knowledge of street food culture is unparalleled, globally,” Scott said. “Our market will be a truly special place for New York, and extends our mission of celebrating curation, community, and entrepreneurship.”

The market will feature 18 street-food vendors selected by Seetoh. Seetoh, who also founded the World Street Food Congress, worked to get Singapore’s street food culture recognized by the United Nations as a UNESCO World Heritage list of traditions and expressions last year.

“It’s been my life’s work to celebrate hawker food,” Seetoh said. “From my beginnings as a photojournalist and food storyteller, to hosting our Makansutra food shows on Asian Food Channel and Discovery, judging on Master Chef and Top Chef, and developing ideas for major programs, I take pride in advocating for street food culture and traditions. Showcasing it in New York is a dream come true.”

Some of the participating hawkers coming to New York include Douglas Ng of Fishball Story, which will serve traditional fishball mee pok tah noodle, Chris Hooi of Dragon Phoenix restaurant, known for its iconic version of chili crab seen at every hawker center, and Ah Tai, who will serve the Singapore national dish of Hainanese chicken rice.

The food hall will open at 135 West 50th Street, a recently renovated office building designed by Emery Roth and Sons and now owned by George Comfort & Sons. As part of the renovation completed this summer, architecture firm Gensler reimagined and brightened the lobby space, added a second-level amenity floor, and upgraded the facade to allow for more natural light.  It’s located near major tourist attractions like Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and Central Park.

“The location is also a real coup,” Scott said. “We are building an incredibly active through-block arcade that will literally ‘complete’ the missing gap in Holly Whyte’s dream for the ‘6 and ½ Avenue’ connecting 48th-50th with 51st to 57th Streets. It’s going to be a must-see place for serious street-food aficionados!”


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