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

By Patty Lee
May 27, 2014
By Patty Lee  |  May 27, 2014

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 that are redefining what it means to be a food court.

  • Photo by: Clay Williams

    Hudson Eats, New York City

    The long-awaited food court at Brookfield Place is set to swing its doors open on June 3rd, bringing a slew of gourmet eats to Battery Park City. Designed by AvroKO, the 35,000-sq.-ft. space will house 14 vendors, including mini-chains Dos Toros and Num Pang.

    To eat there: Even a brick-and-mortar in the East Village hasn’t stopped the lines from growing at Mighty Quinn’s Smorgasburg stand, and this brand-new kiosk will serve all of their fan favorites, such as fatty, melt-in-your-mouth brisket and massive Brontosaurus beef rib. Umami Burger also continues its East Coast takeover with a second location here.

    To take on the road: Black Seed - the Montreal-meets-Gotham bagel shop from Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff and the Smile’s Matt Kliegman - is quickly expanding with an outpost at Brookfield. Don’t leave without a bag of their wood-fired rounds and creative homemade spreads.

    What’s next: In addition to Le District, a high-end French market, six freestanding eateries will roll out by spring 2015, including an outpost of Parm and Iron Chef Jose Garces’ first New York City project.

    200 Vesey St.

  • 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: Girl & the Goat’s Stephanie Izard makes her mark in the French Market with a branch of Little Goat Bread, doling out next-level sandwiches like the shrimp with avocado and pickled peppers wedged in a potato bun. BBQ joint Lillie Q’s serves its signature saucy staples, including pulled pork and babyback ribs.

    To take on the road: Go for the donuts. Pick up Polish paczki at Delightful Pastries and mini, fried-to-order rounds loaded with customizable toppings (marshmallow sauce, cinnamon sugar) at Beavers Coffee + Donuts.

    What’s next: The market will expand its footprint to eight kiosks on the concourse floor with new vendors joining its ranks this July and throughout the fall.

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

  • Gotham West Market, New York City

    This sprawling 10,000-sq.-ft. food court has put the far west side on the map. Since it debuted last fall, food-loving New Yorkers have trekked to 11th Avenue for bites from bold-faced names like Seamus Mullen and Ivan Orkin. Along with counter seating at each restaurant, there are communal tables staggered throughout the sleek, industrial space, along with an outpost of the Brooklyn Kitchen.

    To eat there: Orkin’s Slurp Shop may have drawn the most early buzz - it is, after all, the noodle guru’s first stateside location - but Mullen’s Spanish outfit El Colmado is also turning out dishes worthy of a journey out west, like juicy lamb meatballs dressed in mojo picon and garlic-studded gambas al ajillo. On the drinks side, Gramercy beer bar The Cannibal stocks its selection of carefully curated craft brews.

    To take on the road: Pick up a sweet something from Blue Bottle Coffee, such as pastry chef Caitlin Freeman’s addictive saffron snickerdoodle cookie.

    What’s next: Former La Cenita chef Akhtar Nawab will open Choza in June, slinging tacos, tortas and other Mexican fare.

    600 11th Ave.; 212-582-7940

  • Photo by: 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.

  • 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: Longtime mainstay Pearl’s Oyster Bar has plans to remodel its stand and owner David Braunstein recently installed a new chef - Jason Ledee of Green Eggs Cafe - and menus, including one for a fish-focused brunch. Blue Mountain Winery and Salumeria have also joined forces to offer vino-and-cheese pairings by the plate.

    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.

    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

  • The Source, Denver

    Set in Denver’s artsy River North district, the Source became the city’s first one-stop food hall when it made its debut last year. Fifteen local brewers, specialty grocers and florists occupy the soaring, brick-walled building, which was originally a 19th-century steel foundry.

    To eat there: The Comida food truck went full service with a cantina inside the Source, boasting a line-up of Mexican street food like spicy shrimp tacos, roasted poblano tostadas and mushroom quesadillas. If you’re not feeling like a margarita, belly up at the Crooked Stave taproom for one-of-a-kind sour beers.

    To take on the road: Snag Boxcar Coffee Roasters’ new cold-brew coffee, Bottlerocket, when it launches at the end of May.

    3350 Brighton Blvd.; 720-443-1135

  • Central Table Food Hall, St. Louis

    This charming St. Louis spot is overseen by chef Cary Neff, author of best-selling cookbook “Conscious Cuisine.” In Eataly-esque fashion, there are individual stations designated by cuisine and style of cooking - sushi, grill, hearth, etc. - and items are available for takeout as well as eating in.

    What’s new: A few changes have already taken place since Central Table opened in 2013, including the installation of a new executive chef. Menus have also undergone updates, with the addition of Sunday brunch (plus a soon-to-open waffle station) and healthier items like a turkey club and butternut squash ravioli.

    To eat there: An unlikely mix of sushi and pizza make up the bulk of the expansive, globe-trotting menu. On the Japanese end, you’ll find basic nigiri and sashimi, along with specialty rolls like the Kamikaze (spicy tuna, avocado, kaiware sprouts) and the Clover (yellowtail, avocado, jalapeño). On the Italian side, there are wood-fired Neapolitan pies in combos like a classic margherita and carne, which comes topped with prosciutto, sopressata and roasted sweet peppers.

    23 S. Euclud Ave.; 314-932-5595

  • Photo by: Stu Spivack

    West Side Market, Cleveland

    The storied Cleveland institution celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012, but still feels new thanks to a massive overhaul in 2004 and ongoing renovations. More than 100 vendors pack the historic, vaulted-ceiling space, displaying an eclectic mix of goods that range from Nutella crêpes to pierogi.

    To eat there: The market is teeming with cheap eats. Kim SE Cambodian Cuisine focuses on Southeast Asian specialties such as lemongrass-stuffed chicken wings and sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, while Frank’s Bratwurst dishes up German-style sausages topped with sauerkraut and mustard.

    To take on the road: In addition to all cuts of hormone-free hog, the Pork Chop Shop has started selling housemade sausages - in flavors like jalapeño-cheddar and spinach-feta - along with bacon jam.

    1979 W. 25th St.; 216-664-3387

  • 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.

    What’s new: Union Market got its first full-service restaurant in January when chef John Mooney launched Bidwell. His Southern-leaning fare - some incorporate vegetables and fruits grown on the rooftop garden - include gin and tonic salmon with caramelized cauliflower and fried oysters topped with green chile buttermilk dressing.

    To eat there: 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

  • Photo by: Paul Dyer Photography

    Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco

    Formerly a commuter hub for ferry riders, the waterfront building was renovated in 2003 and transformed into the food destination it is today. Over the years, the impressive roster of shops has continued to grow, with additions like inventive ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe, artisanal cheesemonger Cowgirl Creamery and a farmer's market out front.

    What’s new: Hog Island Oyster Company - one of the original tenants - recently reopened after a three-month renovation. Anchored by a U-shaped oyster bar, the larger space boasts sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and new dishes like an oyster po’ boy and a Caesar salad topped with white anchovy “croutons.” There’s also a new cocktail program and - of course - plenty of their signature bivalves.

    To eat there: Snag a reservation at the Slanted Door to sample chef Charles Phan’s lauded Vietnamese cooking. The James Beard Award winner’s contemporary spin on street-food classics includes cellophane noodles with dungeness crab and shrimp-and-pork spring rolls.

    To take on the road: Grab a scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s best-selling Secret Breakfast - bourbon ice cream studded with cornflake cookies - or a crusty, olive-studded loaf at Acme Bread Co

    1 Ferry Building; 415-983-8030

  • 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 spiffied-up market, making it a true rival to West Coast counterparts like the Ferry Building and Melrose Market.

    What’s new: Newcomers include Wexler’s Deli, where chef Micah Wexler plies Jewish classics like house-cured lox, pastrami on rye and chocolate babka. The single-concept Eggslut also moved in last fall with an expanded menu of 14 egg-centric specialties.

    To eat there: The just-launched wine and beer bar at Horse Thief BBQ is filling the once-alcohol-free void at Grand Central Market. Now, you can chase down smoked meats and Southern sides with an ice cold Shiner Bock. Olio Pizzeria - home to chef Bradford Kent’s stellar creative pies and foccacia salads - is set to start pouring booze soon too.

    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.

    317 S. Broadway; 213-624-2378

  • On the Horizon:

    There are still more food halls set to pop up across the country. Atlanta’s Krog Street Market will launch around July, boasting a burger counter from the General Muir team and a new outpost of the Anthony Bourdain-approved bakery, Little Tart Bake Shop.

    Speaking of Bourdain, the “Parts Unknown” host is working on a spot himself. Rumored for 3 World Trade Center, his forthcoming food court - inspired by Singapore’s hawker centers - will feature up to 50 stalls that specialize in one dish, such as pho, brisket or laksa.

    In Chicago, Richard Sandoval is creating the Eataly of Latin American cuisine, with plans open in late November. Located inside the Block 37 building, the hub will host 11 kiosks serving Latin-accented dishes from around the world, as well as a full-service restaurant and specialty food shop.

    On the West Coast, a food hall in San Francisco's Castro district was approved in April, and Portland's James Beard Public Market is set to break ground in 2016.


Places Mentioned

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