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Dining Reinvented: 4 Southern Food Halls Worth the Drive

 

Go Magazine Online Exclusive

The growing national interest in food halls has hit the South in a big way. With several notable food halls and markets open in Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee, the Carolinas are set to join the party with the imminent opening of food halls in Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., (and more slated to open in other Carolinas cities). With pre-opening buzz building, we want to give you a guide to a few of the best food halls in the Southeast. 

Food halls, if you’re not familiar with them, are easy to get your head around. Think mall food court but chain restaurant free and with a much hipper — some say European — vibe. Food halls offer large communal seating areas and a variety of restaurants, price points and cuisines all in one place. Contemporary food halls often include spaces for vendors of packaged food (think artisanal chocolate, salts and spices) and some place to grab an adult beverage. In the largest food halls, there’s room for larger retail offerings, office spaces and even rooftop entertainment complexes (like at Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, but more on that later). 

The Carolinas

Raleigh, N.C., will see its first food hall open July 23, 2018, when Hibernian Hospitality Group welcomes hungry, thirsty and curious customers to Morgan Street Food Hall, located downtown. This 22,000-square-foot warehouse-cum-dining-destination will feature two-dozen vendors and food stalls, communal seating, and at least two spots where you can grab a drink. Niall Hanley, principle at Hibernian Hospitality Group, says food halls “reflect how we actually eat. We very seldom have these three-hour-long, multi-course dinners, but we do come together with friends around a common table to eat, drink and enjoy one another’s company.” He sees Morgan Street Food Hall as the place for that to happen. 

And with those two-dozen vendors, diners will have plenty of options at Morgan Street Food Hall. Among those on the opening roster are Cousins Maine Lobster, a food truck opening its first brick and mortar location in the Carolinas; Oak City Fish & Chips; Vietnamese eatery MKG Kitchen; new locations for Raleigh Raw and Carroll’s Kitchen; along with tacos, pizza, a butcher shop, ice cream, pies and an indoor/outdoor beer garden reminiscent of a smaller version of Hanley’s Raleigh Beer Garden. 

“We have national brands — like Cousins [Maine Lobster] — but most of our vendors are local, making this more than a “food court,” it’s a way to experience the food culture and the food scene of Raleigh under one roof,” says Hanley. 

In addition to diving into a plate of delicious food, Hanley sees food halls as a sort of incubator space for young businesses. “These are the perfect places for established restaurants to test a concept or for someone new to the industry to open a business for a much smaller investment than a food truck or traditional restaurant,” he says. 

In Charleston, S.C., Workshop is just that: an exploratory food court. Driven by the food hall spirit, Workshop has six rotating kitchens where they encourage Charleston-area chefs to come and play with their food, experimenting with new concepts and serving up diners a here-for-a-minute treat at the same time. Visit their website and you’ll find the six restaurants open there and as time is running out on one concept, you’ll see a sticker that reads “1 week left” and an announcement of the next kitchen coming in. 

Currently, Workshop features Juan Luis, a Tex-Mex restaurant from renowned Pitmaster John Lewis, allowing him to serve dishes he grew up with in El Paso and giving him the chance to stretch culinary muscles barbecue doesn’t always use. Other restaurants include Sushi Wa Izakaya, Verde and Spanglish Cuban Kitchen. 

Late 2018 will see Tompkins Hall opening in Charlotte, N.C. This ambitious project is the conversion of the 1920s Atlanta Stove Works into 135,000 square feet of retail, office and food hall space. Some 20,000 square feet will be devoted to the food hall side of the project. Thanks to 7th Street Public Market, Charlotte’s familiar with the concept, but Tompkins Hall will be a food hall on an untold scale. Anchoring the food offerings at Tompkins are Aix Rotisserie, an offshoot of French favorite Aix en Provence; Undercurrent Coffee; and Fonta Flora Brewery, who will open a new tasting room location just 90 minutes down the road from their home in Morganton, N.C. 

Georgia & Tennessee

One of the developers on Tompkins Hall was involved with Atlanta’s Krog Street Market. Sited in the Inman Park neighborhood just steps off the BeltLine, Krog Street Market’s 14 restaurants are complemented by 8 retailers and is one of the hot food halls in Atlanta. Chef Ford Fry’s Tex-Mex favorite Superica; the rice bowl and sushi roll spot Makimono; contemporary Middle Eastern at Yalla; and the Spanish-inspired tapas spot Bar Mercado; along with a barbecue joint, dumpling restaurant and bakery serve hordes of hungry visitors. Thirsty? Stop in at Hop City for some wine or beer. Need something for your dog or your house? Krog Street has it. 

Only a couple of miles away via the BeltLine is Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. A massive project that saw the renovation of a former Sears, Roebuck & Co. shipping and office facility into a mixed use facility that includes apartments, retail shopping, offices, a rooftop fair and the Central Food Hall, Ponce City Market astounds. With 30 food purveyors — including James Beard Award-winning chefs like Sean Brock, Linton Hopkins and Anne Quatrano — serving everything from burgers and Indian street food to fried chicken and cold pressed juice, hungry visitors can easily spend an afternoon here dining, shopping, snacking, shopping some more, grabbing dinner and then heading to the roof for drinks and games. 

That’s because on the roof, 9 Mile Station, serves up food, beer and cocktails that are fun but upscale. Also, steps away there’s Skyline Park, a rooftop midway complete with games, rides and mini golf. Oh, and at both you have spectacular views of Atlanta’s skyline. 

A few hours north and west of Ponce City Market you’ll find yourself in Nashville; here the Market House restaurant and shops round out the offerings of the city’s farmers’ market. At the Market House you can get barbecue, gourmet pizzas, Korean dishes like bibimbap, gyros, a tasty bite of New Orleans, a craft beer bar and some noteworthy pies. And that’s all at the farmers’ market. 

Virginia

Roanoke, Va., has an answer to that in their City Market Building, a longtime hub of food commerce in the Star City. The building dates back to 1886 and retains that architectural charm, but offers up a range of cuisines from 10 restaurants. Across the street, a farmers’ market runs just about year round, so after you grab a bite from Fork in the Market or something to go from Der Frankfurter Bistro, you can stroll and do some produce shopping for the week. 

In Falls Church, Va., near Washington D.C., Eden Center takes the food hall concept and gives it a focal point: Vietnamese culture and cuisine. The sprawling Eden Center features 60 plus shops and restaurants, most of which hold Vietnam near and dear. Food-wise, it’s a great way to explore a new-to-you cuisine as everything from the bánh mi and the pho to the caramelized prawns and a sweet treat will satisfy. 

(Photos: Workshop, Ponce City Market, Krog Street Market, Morgan Street Food Hall)

(Go Magazine July/August 2018)

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