Todd English's Wacky, Over-the-Top Food Hall


Evan Sung

If you see a moving truck at the Plaza Hotel, it's probably Eloise moving out. In a snit. Until now, this impish six-year-old lit wit has been the Plaza's most celebrated resident—with an Eloise flag flying outside the hotel, an over-the-top all-pink Eloise shop, an Eloise-themed suite, and an iconic Eloise portrait opposite the Palm Court. But the new star of the show and most celebrated resident is Chef Todd English, who has just opened his newest and splashiest outpost: the Plaza Food Hall.

Harrods, Peck, Fortnum & Mason, Takashimaya, and KaDeWe ("two football fields of food!") are probably what come to mind when you hear "food hall." In all candor, if these are Food Halls, this is a Food Foyer. In the basement. (Or as Bergdorf's likes to spin it, "the Lower Level.")

The branding is outta sight. It is so tourist-centric and hard-sell that it makes the American Girl Doll store look like an outpost of a Mother Teresa orphanage.

It is not huge, but it is pretty snazzy.

Someone on a food blog mentioned Dean & DeLuca, and I agree. It's spacious and gracious, clean, modern. I kept trying to figure out what the design of the place reminded me of, and I finally realized it was the kitchen in Diane Keaton's home in the film "Something's Gotta Give"—the Hamptons house we all lusted after. And the food hall is comfortable. The seating is all counter. The counters are all a cool white marble. The idea is that you sit and watch the food being cooked right in front of you. So you can give your own compliments to the chef at the Dumpling Bar, the Grill, the Ocean Grill and Oyster Bar, the Pizza Station, etc, etc.

One of the other differences between the global food halls and the Plaza is that I think Todd has out-logoed and out-branded them big time. (Sidebar: no shrinking violet, Todd. One of the first things on his website is the fact that in 2001, he was named one of People Magazine's Most Beautiful People. If you think his saffron risotto looks good, check out dreamy photos of Chef Todd on his website and don't skip the "About Todd" section. Clearly Todd and his PR people believe that Todd is a dish.)

So, no surprise that along with the "PP" logo for the Plaza Hotel (the first P is actually backwards, but I can't do that on my computer) there's a "TE" for Todd English.


Evan Sung

The branding is outta sight. It is so tourist-centric and hard-sell that it makes the American Girl Doll store look like an outpost of a Mother Teresa orphanage. Logos are on everything from a t-shirt to a tote bag to a coffee mug to a white plastic Frisbee. And then there's branded stuff that isn't for name-droppers or Irish Setters. Sweets like TE Brickle, TE Mallows, TE Key Lime Caramels. A selection of PP teas. And my personal favorite: a small bag of PP TE White Chocolate Trail Mix. Which trail would you be going on with this? The Barney's Trail? The FAO Schwartz Trail? Or maybe this pricey trail mix is for social climbers.

Presented by

Stephanie Pierson is the author of The Brisket Book: A Love Story With Recipes and the co-author of a book on contemporary behavior called What To Do When No One Has a Clue.

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