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Going on a FIELDTRIP

By Luisa Colón Feb 3 2021
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In addition to delicious food, the best New York restaurants need to have tenacity—and a lot of heart—to have a shot at success in the city. Chef JJ Johnson’s Harlem-based restaurant FIELDTRIP meets all the criteria for a success story, as evidenced by its new openings in Long Island City’s JACX&CO in early November and in Rockefeller Center this month—both Tishman Speyer–operated properties.

“Somebody has to give hope in this industry. Somebody has to push it,” muses Johnson on moving forward with his restaurant’s expansion even during this winter, as the pandemic has made things especially hard for small businesses. But Johnson sees FIELDTRIP’s role in the industry in a larger sense. “You bring back Midtown and you bring back the rest of New York, and I want to be a part of that,” he says.

FIELDTRIP, which serves unique rice bowls with globally diverse flavors, built its foundation on two concepts. One is the importance of community, and the other is the idea of rice being the basis for dishes from many cultures. As Covid-19 began to impact the city, FIELDTRIP began a program to donate food to frontline workers, including health workers and first responders. FIELDTRIP’s efforts were so effective that they expanded their focus to providing food for local youths as well.

Now, the restaurant’s expansion continues with its new location on the Rink Level at Rockefeller Center. So what can visitors expect when they visit FIELDTRIP? The term “rice bowl” doesn’t quite cover it. Instead, picture BBQ brisket over Texas brown rice with chipotle black beans and peanut hoisin sauce. Or the gumbo, with a base of red rice topped with seafood, chicken sausage, and okra.

FIELDTRIP is the latest in a series of buzzy food shops that have expanded to new locations at Rockefeller Center, including Black Seed Bagels, Hombre Taco, Van Leeuwen, and Sweetgreen—news that may feel unexpected during times when many businesses are feeling the effects of the city’s social distancing rules. But it’s not a surprising development for New Yorkers, who already know that the city always finds a way. Johnson puts it best: “When I moved here, my Aunt Estelle said to me, New York will make you or break you,” he says. “It’s been hard, harder than it’s ever been. We had the option to close, but New York City always finds a way to prevail.”

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