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Don't Call It a Food Court

The bankers and lawyers of Lower Manhattan used to hunt down food trucks for lunch, but now they’re lining up somewhere else. Hudson Eats, a food hall of 14 eateries, is located on the upper level of Brookfield Place—the renamed World Financial Center—with marble countertops, sleek walnut furniture, and custom light fixtures worthy of a boutique hotel. Most of the stalls are miniversions of popular Manhattan lunchtime haunts such as Black Seed Bagels and Num Pang sandwich shop, all serving $10 meals found on their regular menus. It’s good business—operating as a vendor at Hudson Eats is at least five times cheaper than opening a standalone storefront.

Similar markets have been tourist attractions in Tokyo, Paris, and San Francisco for years, but the new crop in the U.S. is geared more toward white-collar workers who want an easy, appetizing lunch without doing too much legwork. Hudson Eats vies for Manhattan diners along with a so-so version of the trend, the Plaza Food Hall, in the hotel’s Midtown basement; the grocery-driven Chelsea Market; Mario Batali’s more dinner-friendly Eataly; and Gotham West Market, where you can get rarefied ramen and buy a fancy bike. Next up in New York, Anthony Bourdain plans to open an international street-eats bazaar.

“This customer is more educated,” says Edward Hogan, national director of leasing at Brookfield Office Properties (BPY), the firm that owns Hudson Eats. “They want fast casual food, and they want to be impressed.” At Hudson Eats around 1 p.m., the lines can be daunting. For those who don’t have that time to spare—everyone?—most of the vendors offer online ordering.

Reyes is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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