The Olayan Group has signed up three local food and beverage brands to operate the retail kiosks within the new, half-acre public garden at 550 Madison Avenue, the landmarked office building located between East 55th and 56th streets in Midtown Manhattan.
The trio of local brands provides a variety of global food offerings in Midtown East’s first new public space in decades, which officially opened to the public in November 2022.
Eat Offbeat, a social impact food company that showcases cuisines made by refugee and immigrant chefs, will provide homestyle cooking from around the world. Customers can personalize their meal with a choice of grain topped with Senegalese Chicken Yassa, Venezuelan Carne Mechada or Sri Lankan Katarica Curry.
Local Roots NYC, which will offer farm-to-table Chinese fare and bubble tea, is an independent, minority woman-owned business that is leading a grassroots movement to build a community-driven, regenerative food system in New York City. More than 90% of menu items are sourced from local farms and are inspired by the founder’s favorite childhood dishes, such as Fan Tuan, Vegan Mapo Tofu and Vegetarian Congee.
Black Fox Coffee Co., a local New York City favorite, will offer a specialty coffee program utilizing seasonal coffee beans, which are roasted locally in Brooklyn. In addition to an assortment of espresso and coffee drinks, Black Fox Coffee Co. offers tea, matcha, hot chocolate, as well as pastries and cakes.
Designed by international landscape and architecture firm Snøhetta, the 21,300-square-foot garden is nearly twice the size of a previous public space, making it the largest public space constructed in East Midtown in decades. Ample seating and local species of plants offer a serene environment for area workers, residents and visitors to enjoy the food and beverage program.
“New York City is a global destination, home to millions of individuals from countless cultural backgrounds,” said Erik Horvat, Managing Director of Real Estate at Olayan America. “We are pleased to welcome the public to 550 Madison’s public space with local vendors who celebrate New York’s cultural makeup by providing the highest quality food and beverage offerings.”
The garden is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, year-round. A 70-foot glass canopy covers the space, capturing 93,000 gallons of rainwater annually to sustainably irrigate the entire garden.
“Local Roots NYC’s menu combines quality and authenticity by bringing New Yorkers home-grown recipes created from sustainably-sourced, local produce,” said Wen-Jay Ying, Founder and CEO of Local Roots NYC. “People gravitate toward new and exciting foods, and I am so excited to share childhood recipes at our new location.”
“Eat Offbeat comprises a skilled team of refugees and immigrants who share flavors from Senegal, Venezuela, Sri Lanka and other countries around the world,” said Manal Kahi, Founder and CEO of Eat Offbeat. “We are especially excited to call New York’s Youngest Landmark our new home.”
“Black Fox Coffee Co. prides itself on a hospitality-forward café experience,” said Daniel Murphy, Co-Founder and CEO of Black Fox Coffee Co. “Following the harvest calendar, we work with the highest-quality coffee farms from across the globe and are pleased to expand at a New York icon like 550 Madison.”
The garden is built around a tranquil water feature and five sections centered on different focal structures. Distinct, “upland,” “lowland” and “sheltered” garden sections feature tree-filled backdrops and shrub skirts, drawing inspiration from Northeastern mountain vegetation ranging from fine-textured and airy to thick luxuriant foliage. One sitting area features heated benches and a heated “hearth” for gathering in colder weather months.
Mountain Rosebay, Smooth Hydrangea and Bottlebrush Buckeye fill the garden’s shrub skirt, with a tree assortment including Yellowwood, Sweetbay Magnolia and River Birch. Planters host a diversity of regional native species, from Soloman’s Seal, Goatsbeard and Black Cohosh to Coral Bell and Sword Fern.
The 41-story, 850,000-square-foot tower at 550 Madison began as a single-tenant headquarters for AT&T when it opened in 1984. The building’s new garden is part of a six-year effort by building owner Olayan to reimagine the high-rise – New York City’s youngest historic landmark – with wellness initiatives, sustainability programs and more than 30,000 square feet of luxury amenities.