Inside the Food Court of the Most Hyped Mall in America
New Jersey's American Dream Meadowlands has been 16 years in the making...and it might open kinda soon.
The saga of New Jersey's American Dream Meadowlands mall (formerly called the Meadowlands Xanadu) is a long and emotionally taxing one. It all began back in 2002—a time just before "Hey Ya" dominated bar mitzvah dance floors and Marissa Cooper OD'd in Tijuana—when The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority called for proposals to redevelop 162 acres of The Meadowlands Sports Complex. Mills Corp. won with its $1.2 billion Xanadu mall plan (some highlights: an indoor ski resort, an indoor Formula One-style raceway, and a minor league baseball stadium), and construction began in 2005. It was expected to open in 2007. It did not.
Instead, Colony Capital took over the job when Mills Corp ran into financial trouble (this was Peak Recession, remember?). Then, in 2008, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt—right after promising Colony Capital a loan to finish the project. Still, Colony claimed that Xanadu would be completed by 2010. It was not.
In 2011, Triple Five, owners of the Mall of America, acquired Xanadu (this was around the time that Chris Christie called it "by far the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America"). They renamed it American Dream, and teamed up with DreamWorks to build an on-site amusement park. The opening day target was just before 2014's Super Bowl XLVIII. The game came and went. The mall's doors remained shut.
Money woes (and a lawsuit from the New York Giants and Jets, claiming the increasingly-sprawling project was encroaching on their stadium) stalled things again, but in 2016 the NJSEA issued $1.15 billion in bonds to help finish the American Dream. Progress! Kind of.
Construction slowed down a bit in 2017, thanks to the last-minute addition of two new roller coasters, but has been moving along pretty steadily this year (at a cost of $3 million per day). The complex (which, in its current form, includes the aforementioned indoor ski slope and theme park, plus a Nickelodeon water park, an NHL-sized hockey rink, a Sea Life aquarium, a luxury retail shopping center, and a 4-D movie theater) is slated to open in spring 2019. Its food court sounds pretty great. (Okay, maybe you didn't need the entire backstory to appreciate American Dream's proposed food offerings. But, man, what an ordeal.)
According to a press release, the mall has teamed up with Vice's Munchies on a 38,000 square foot, 18-vendor food hall. "Our restaurateur partners will be provided with attractive design and construction amenities to showcase and attract the best talent," Dimitri Lalagos, American Dream's SVP of Leasing, said in a statement. "Most importantly, you can score a great Martinez cocktail to wash down the Beef Marrow Cheeseburger and Eggplant Tempura."
While there's no word on who exactly those "restaurateur partners" are, we do know that the Munchies food hall will be an experience. It's set to include a cooking studio and two revolving kitchens "showcasing up-and-coming chefs and concepts." The dream, as Munchies co-founder and publisher John Martin told Digiday, is "to do what TRL did in Times Square."
Other dining spots in the $3 billion complex will include 20 full-service restaurants, about 50 grab-and-go options, and a six-vendor kosher food hall. You can keep an eye on American Dream's progress—and gauge whether that latest opening target is a pipe dream—by watching this live-stream of the mega-mall's construction, here.