Food halls are the promised land for intrepid as well as indecisive diners. Slurp up soup dumplings here; grab a bánh mì sandwich there; munch on a fish taco elsewhere. Finish up with a mango mochidoki — and return the next day for an entirely different menu.
For the business traveler, food hall dining is a boon. Meals are typically affordable so it’s a perfect way to stretch your per diem allowance. And the spaces offer an antidote to on-the-road loneliness: You never know who you’ll connect with at a communal table — and there are no reservations required.
Food halls are also a great way to get a taste of a new city when you don’t have much time to explore. You’ll typically find them in aging and underutilized urban spaces, active transportation hubs and outdated factories. Prime locations offer a “balance between a place with foot traffic and a destination,” says Peter DiPrinzio, director of operations at R. House, a food hall in Baltimore.
The food options can be as elevated as an expense-account restaurant.
“Having multiple chefs under the same roof allows us to bounce creative ideas off each other and elevate our craft,” says Lindsey Blankenhorn of Carroll’s Kitchen, a non-profit stall in Raleigh’s Morgan Street Food Hall dedicated to ending homelessness for women by providing hands-on training. Carroll’s Kitchen’s best seller is kolache, a filled sweet roll that originated in Central Europe.
While most food halls present a wide variety of cuisines, a few focus on food from one region. Eataly, for one, now has 40 worldwide outposts of its Italian-themed hall. Honolulu’s Shirokiya Japan Village Walk evokes Old Kyoto and offers a panoply of Japanese favorites, from sushi and ramen to tonkatsu and wagyu steak.
Mercado Little Spain, a collaboration between José Andrés and brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià, will offer traditional and creative tastes of Spain when it opens next year in New York’s Hudson Yards.
Food halls frequently evolve, so you may find new selections if you return on your next trip. In Denver’s Zeppelin Station, the No Vacancy stall features a series of chefs to keep patrons from getting bored. One stall at Birmingham’s Pizitz Food Hall operates like a pop-up, changing quarterly so there’s always something different to try.
Traveling to a location beyond the city center? Food halls are migrating to the suburbs and spreading inland.
And soon you may enjoy fare from a food hall from the comfort of your hotel room, since more and more are offering delivery service. Just keep your pajama leg out of that Instagram shot.
2019 may be the year that food halls reach critical mass. Scheduled openings include:
• Boston: Time Out Market
• Brooklyn: Time Out Market
• Chicago: Time Out Market
• East Rutherford, NJ: Munchies
• Fort Lauderdale: Sistrunk Market & Brewery
• Houston: Bravery Chef Hall, Finn Hall, Lyric Market, and Understory
• Kansas City: Mission Gateway
• Las Vegas: Eataly
• Lexington, KY: The Barn
• Los Angeles: Santee Passage
• Miami: Time Out Market
• Minneapolis: The Dayton’s Project and Malcolm Yards Market
• New York: Hudson Yards
• Orange County, CA: Mess Hall Market
• Sacramento: The Bank
• San Diego: Windmill Food Hall and Pan y Sal Food Hall
• Tulsa, OK: Mother Road Market
• Wilmington, DE: DE.CO
• London: Victoria and West End
• Montreal: Time Out Market
• Paris: Food Society
• Toronto: Eataly