11 Must-Visit Food Halls Across the U.S.

By Patty Lee  |  May 13, 2015
Credit: Rush Jagoe

The word “food court” usually brings to mind the same-old joints serving the same-old stuff: sickly sweet chicken teriyaki, leaden slices of pizza and doughy, dry cinnamon buns. Not anymore. Today’s food halls are far more ambitious, taking in some of the finest chefs, artisans and purveyors in town. Take a tour of 11 gastro-emporiums across the country that are redefining what it means to be a food court.

  • Credit: Sarah Dodge

    Krog Street Market, Atlanta

    A sprawling complex located in one of ATL’s hottest food ‘hoods, the Inman Park hub boasts a dozen eat-in restaurants and bars, along with nearly a dozen more retail shops.

    To eat there: Find Tex-Mex specialties (bean-and-cheese nachos, puffy tacos) at chef Ford Fry’s Superica; meat-centric cooking (grilled beef-cheek bread pudding, braised brisket) at The Cockentrice; and Japanese small plates and cocktails by ace bartender Arianne Fielder at Craft Izakaya.

    To take on the road: Grab a scoop from cult-favorite ice cream shop Jeni’s Splendid or chocolate from bean-to-bar cocoa maker Xocolatl.

    What’s next: Krog Street will continue to bring in new vendors, including Spice Road Chicken stall chef Asha Gomez and another full-service restaurant and bar from some of ATL’s top bartenders.

    99 Krog St.; 770-434-2400

  • Credit: Kelly Dobkin

    Gansevoort Market, New York City

    Chelsea Market has some new competition thanks to the recent opening of this industrial-chic food hall in the Meatpacking District boasting 24 vendors and a small but stunning skylit dine-in area.

    To eat there: Taking a note from Basque tavernas, Donostia doles out pintxos that feature both fresh and preserved seafood. The Express outpost of David Bouhadana’s Sushi Dojo, on the other hand, focuses on raw fish available in rolls or a chirashi bowl.

    To take on the road: A treat from Dana’s Bakery, which does French macarons in all-American flavors like s’mores, red velvet and Key lime pie.

    Read more about NYC’s thriving food hall scene here.

    52 Gansevoort St.

  • Credit: Rush Jagoe

    St. Roch Market, New Orleans

    Set in the historic home of a 19th-century market by the same name, the icon — which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina — made a big comeback this April with a new roster of 15 artisanal vendors.

    To eat there: Along with a number of seafood slingers (this is NOLA, after all) like Curious Oyster Company and Elysian Seafood, you’ll also find spots such as Koreole — serving Korean-Creole mash-ups like japchalaya — and Mayhaw, an ingredient-driven cocktail bar from drinks maven Ali Mills (Dash and Pony, Patois).

    To take on the road: Cochon Butcher alum Kristopher Doll’s first solo venture, Shank Charcuterie, is stocked with his top-notch sausages and other meats.

    2381 St. Claude Ave.; 504-609-3813

  • Credit: Virginia Miller

    The Hall, San Francisco

    The Mid-Market revitalization took a delicious turn last fall, when this upscale food hall highlighting six local vendors and a bar (open till 11 PM nightly) made its debut. There’s communal indoor seating, along with a space for outdoor dining.

    To eat there: Scott Peterson and Ted Wilson, who opened The Hall, also run Fine & Rare, which turns out inventive seafood dishes (crab Louie salad, house-smoked salmon Reuben) and pours wines from Wilson’s self-titled label. Food truck Little Green Cyclo has gone brick-and-mortar with Vietnamese dishes (beef pho, banh mi) that use sustainably sourced and organic ingredients. Click here for more recommendations.

    To take on the road: Fuel up for your trip home with coffee at Dignitá.

    1028 Market St.; 415-558-8293

  • Union Station, Denver

    After a $54 million renovation, this restored train depot re-opened last summer with a slew of new food and drink establishments, including a burger joint, throwback ice cream parlor and a hidden bar.

    To eat there: Located just north of the Great Hall, Mercantile Dining & Provision isn’t just the biggest restaurant inside Union Station, it’s also one of the hottest. Run by chef Alex Seidel (Fruition), the sprawling 5,000-sq.-ft. space houses a two-in-one concept: a restaurant with a European-inspired menu, plus a market selling artisanal goods. For details on more Union Station vendors, click here.

    To take on the road: Grab a smoothie, sandwich or salad for your ride at Fresh EXchange or a boozy milkshake at MilkBox Ice Creamery.

    1701 Wynkoop St.

  • Grand Central Market, Los Angeles

    After a century of peddling food and wares in Downtown LA, this open-air bazaar has been undergoing a major revamp over the last year. A fresh wave of food vendors have breathed new life into the spiffed-up market, making it a true rival to West Coast counterparts like the Ferry Building and Melrose Market.

    What’s new: Newcomers include two new seafood options, Mark Peel's Bombo (serving steamed mussels, fish stew, etc.) and The Oyster Gourmet, plus Madcapra, the falafel spot from NYC transplants Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (formerly of Brooklyn's Glasserie).

    To eat there: Chase down smoked meats and Southern sides with an ice-cold Shiner Bock at Horse Thief BBQ or fill up on egg-centric specialties at the single-concept Eggslut.

    To take on the road: Health-minded shoppers can pick up sips from Press Brothers Juicery — with combos like Liquid Gold (pineapple, lemon, mint) and Charge (carrot, celery, apple) — or kombucha by Better Booch. Those in need of a java fix should stop by G&B Coffee, co-owned by U.S. Barista Championship winner Charles Babinski.

    317 S. Broadway; 213-624-2378

  • Fulton Street Food Hall, Las Vegas

    Even the country’s luxe buffet capital is getting the the food-hall game. Harrah’s jumped on the trend last fall, rolling out this affordable alternative with stations for pizza, noodles and fro-yo.

    To eat there: Snack on made-to-order rolls at the sushi bar or build-your-own pies at the pizza stall.

    To take on the road: There are to-go bento boxes, Lavazza coffee and nearly 40 types of pastries, from cupcakes to pies.

    3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 800-214-9110

  • Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

    Reading Terminal started as a butcher shop and farmer's market in 1892 and grew into a buzzing culinary hub in the 1990s, when it was purchased by the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. The last major facelift took place in 2012, bringing with it vendors like The Tubby Olive and Valley Shepherd Creamery's grilled cheese shop, Meltkraft.

    What's new: George and Kim Mickel (By George & Mezze) recently launched Hunger Burger, slinging a variety of bun-and-patty combos (the Philbert with American cheese and applewood-smoked bacon or the Fun Guy with cheddar, grilled mushrooms and onions) and Bassetts Ice Cream milkshakes.

    To eat there: Lines always run deep at the market’s two famed sandwich spots. At DiNic’s, you’ll find Philly-style roast pork; at Hershel’s East Side Deli, it’s all about the hand-carved pastrami and corned beef. Click here for more must-try sandwiches available at the market.

    To take on the road: For a sweet snack, head to Flying Monkey Bakery for whoopie pies or a slice of its cake-pie hybrid, the Pumpple; for a savory one, try a soft, salt-flecked pretzel from Miller’s Twist.

    51 N. 12th St.; 215-922-2317

  • Credit: Graham Baba Architects

    Melrose Market, Seattle

    While tourists pack the floor of Seattle’s fish-throwing Pike Place Market, locals head to this hipper, less-crowded alternative located in Capitol Hill. Opened in 2010, the beautifully restored space — once home to an auto repair shop — features a mix of indie food purveyors, retail stores and sit-down restaurants and bars.

    To eat there: Chef Matt Dillon relocated his Sitka & Spruce to an airy, homey space inside Melrose Market, where he whips up ingredient-driven plates such as Pacific halibut with stinging nettles and steamed asparagus with hen-of-wood mushrooms. Swing around to Still Liquor for boozy concoctions like the Madison Manhattan (bourbon, Lillet Rose, grapefruit bitters) and Ginger’s Holiday (pear vodka, ginger liqueur, Prosecco).

    To take on the road: Run by expert Sheri LaVigne, Calf & the Kid carries hard-to-find cheeses from Washington state producers like Yarmuth Farms and Glendale Shepherd.

    1501-1535 Melrose Ave.

  • Union Market, Washington, DC

    Once the vibrant commercial center of Washington, DC, Union Market started to draw crowds again after its 2012 reopening. The rejuvenated complex hosts more than 40 local artisans year-round as well as one-time pop-ups and weekly Sunday suppers.

    To eat there: Union Market got its first full-service restaurant last January when chef John Mooney launched Bidwell. His Southern-leaning fare — some incorporate vegetables and fruits grown on the rooftop garden — includes gin and tonic salmon with caramelized cauliflower and fried oysters topped with green chile buttermilk dressing. Two popular food trucks have parked inside permanently: TaKorean settled into its first fixed location, slinging bulgogi-and-kimchi tacos, and so did DC Empanadas, which fries up pockets filled with Philly cheesesteak and pulled pork.

    To take on the road: Boutique chocolatier Co. Co. Sala rolled out a second shop selling chocolate-covered bacon and hot cocoa pops.

    1309 Fifth St. NE; 301-652-7400

  • Chicago French Market, Chicago

    Inspired by the open-air marchés of his native Paris, Sebastien Bensidoun — whose family runs nearly 100 in Europe and the U.S. — decided to take the concept across the Atlantic, rolling out an indoor market in the heart of Chi-town at the end of 2009. Inside, you’ll find prepared foods, fresh meats and produce just steps away from the Metro.

    To eat there: Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine offers cut-to-order fromages (both domestic and international varieties), plus accompaniments like house-baked bread, small production vinos and craft beers. BBQ joint Lillie Q’s serves its signature saucy staples, including pulled pork and babyback ribs.

    To take on the road: Go for the sweets. Pick up Polish paczki at Delightful Pastries and artisan scoops in creative flavors (goat cheese cashew caramel, cherry root beer sorbet) at Black Dog Gelato.

    131 N. Clinton St.; 312-575-0306

  • On the Horizon:

    There are still more food halls set to pop up across the country. In Atlanta, Ponce City Market is set to make its debut in fall 2015 with concepts from some of the South’s biggest names, including Husk’s Sean Brock and Star Provisions’ Anne Quatrano.

    New York City is still waiting for Anthony Bourdain’s highly anticipated hawker-style food court. The “Parts Unknown” host has been tight-lipped about the location (it’s rumored for 3 World Trade Center), but he has revealed a few details on what to expect in terms of design (Blade Runner meets Tokyo’s back alleys) and vendors (there’ll be a farmer's market, oyster bar and Asian-inspired beer garden).

    In Chicago, Richard Sandoval is creating Latinicity inside the Block 37 building. Opening this fall, the Eataly-style hub will host 11 kiosks serving Latin-accented dishes from around the world, as well as a full-service restaurant and specialty food shop.

    Over on the West Coast, the Liberty Public Market is scheduled to open this summer in San Diego and Portland’s James Beard Public Market also has a date: spring 2018.