I ate lunch at a food court in a New York City subway station — and it was unlike anything I have experienced

TurnStyle offers a variety of compelling shopping and dining options.

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TurnStyle offers a variety of compelling shopping and dining options.
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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

    TurnStyle, an underground market and food court, opened in the Columbus Circle subway station in 2016. It is home to over 30 vendors. I was impressed by the variety and quality of its offerings, many of which are from local businesses.

To most, the idea of eating in a subway station-or riding the subway, for that matter-is repulsive. Too much heat, too little space.

But in April 2016, TurnStyle, a food court and shopping center, opened in the Columbus Circle subway station. The premise was simple: Turn a subway station into a destination for commuters, tourists, residents, and employees of nearby office buildings.

The execution would be more difficult. Could you transform one of the most of the unpleasant environments in New York City into the kind of place one would be eager to visit?

I made my way to the underground market on a Wednesday afternoon, hoping I’d find more than oversized rats and irritated commuters.


TurnStyle is located beneath Columbus Circle, at the intersection of 8th Avenue, Broadway, Central Park South, and Central Park West.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The signs pointing you toward the market are subtle in some places…

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

…and more colorful in others.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I make my way toward the station, hoping it’s cleaner than the staircase leading into it.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

There’s decent foot traffic during the interval between lunch and dinner. Perhaps the developers’ optimism is justified.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

First up is Panda Bubble Tea, run by the same people who own the Chatime coffee shop on the Upper East Side.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Its mascot is a panda, naturally.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The peach tea samples are sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

TurnStyle also has pre-packaged options for those on the go. Nutbox offers an astounding variety of mixed nuts.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I make my next stop at Blossom du Jour, a vegan fast-casual restaurant known for its meatless burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and bowls.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Though I’ve never once considered becoming a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, I order the protein bowl, curious to see if its “lemon un-chicken” could make a persuasive case.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

It does. According to Blossom du Jour’s website, the “un-chicken” is made from a “soy based protein provider.” While that doesn’t sound terribly appetizing, I was impressed by the flavor—almost a dead ringer for lightly breaded chicken—and texture—softer than real chicken, but without the flimsy, collapsible quality of tofu.

TurnStyle offers a variety of compelling shopping and dining options.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider


There’s more than food available in TurnStyle. Lovepop makes intricate, 3-D greeting cards.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Like these elephants…

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

…or this recreation of the Beatles’ iconic ‘Abbey Road’ album cover

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Botany Bar has a colorful assortment of flowers.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

And, if you’re willing to drop $22, “Money Trees.”

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I’m impressed by some of the food vendors’ unique decor. Yong Kang Street has comic book-inspired wallpaper.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Arepa Factory decided to decorate one of its walls with positive messages from customers.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

As I pass the other food vendors, I start to given serious consideration to buying a second lunch. Bolivian Llama Party’s display is tempting…

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

…so is Champion Pizza’s…

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

…and Casa Toscana’s.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I settle for samples from the Mediterranean vendor Semsom Eatery.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

But then I turn around and find a cart full of ’90s hip-hop references. I’m hooked.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

So I decide to negate all the health benefits from my meal and pay $6 for a scoop of cookie dough. I choose the Nas-inspired “The World Is S’Mores.”

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

After that, not even mini doughnuts from Doughnuttery can tempt me.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

But I am fascinated by a couple of dog-centric businesses. Dog & Co. sells a variety of dog costumes.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

And Marc Tetro specializes in dog-themed art and accessories.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

My final stop is the Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce kiosk. I’m intrigued by a sauce with a warning label on it, which I’m told is not actually a sauce, but capsaicin concentrate, which is basically a distilled version of the thing that makes hot sauce hot.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Hell’s Kitchen also makes its own sauces, which owner and founder Ron Menin invites me to try. My tolerance for hot sauce is iffy, at best, but I accept his offer after he assures me none of his creations will ruin my day.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I try a total of seven different sauces and I’m surprised by the depth and variety of flavors Menin uses, ranging from honey and raspberry to chocolate and cinnamon. I work my way up to his hottest sauce, Cinnamon Ghost Punch.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Menin tells me it’s not unbearable, but I’m skeptical.

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Brent Stallings/Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce

He’s right…

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Brent Stallings/Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce

…for the most part.

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Brent Stallings/Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce

I head back to the office with my tongue in recovery mode, impressed by the quality of the offerings at TurnStyle. I’ll definitely be back.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider