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Say hello to food halls, the food court’s trendy, eclectic cousin. A food hall is defined as “a commercial space with communal seating populated by a variety of curated, high-quality local food purveyors.” Run by entrepreneurs, celebrity chefs, and creative next-generation cooks, these food bazaars are immensely growing in popularity. In 2010, there were just 25 American food halls, but by 2020, it’s estimated that 300 will call the United States home. Before we explore eight of the coolest food halls in America, let’s quickly review some food hall features:
- They’re Everywhere – and for Everyone: Realty-wise, food halls are popular among mall operators and real estate developers who see them as part of an experiential retail strategy. While some food halls are owned by the city and some are privately owned, they’re becoming a key feature in commercial, residential, and mixed-use buildings. On the consumer side of things, those who enjoy dining out – and eating authentic, delicious dishes – are an ideal food hall customer (in other words, almost everyone!).
- They’re Cost-Efficient and Successful: Startup costs for restaurants are huge and a hard pill for many to swallow (it takes an average of $250,000 to open one). For many entrepreneurs, food halls are a far less risky, month-to-month rental option. Although the cost per square foot may be higher in a food hall than a standalone location, entrepreneurs get the added benefit of more foot traffic, a shared economy with other restaurants, and an aggregated social media following from the food hall – all which boils down to a better chance at succeeding. And the success of food halls certainly shows in the numbers: out of over 100 halls that have opened in America, only three have failed.
- They’re Playing a Part in Urban Renewal: Food halls aren’t just good for restaurateurs – they’re great for their respective communities, too. In fact, they’re becoming a key element in revitalizing inner-city areas. One prime example of this is the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, which accepts more food stamps than any other place in the city. Food halls are also being planned for smaller urban areas like Plano, Texas, Greenville, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
- They’re Experiential: From incubation kitchens and event spaces to live music and art installations, food halls are the definition of experiential. When it comes to theme, some food halls share one theme (for example, one entire hall is French -themed). On the other hand, some contain a large, diverse variety of food and beverages to choose from. There’s a food hall for everyone!
Now on to the fun stuff – let’s take a look at eight of the coolest food halls in the U.S. (in no particular order).
1. Midtown Global Market – Minneapolis, Minnesota
“An Internationally-Themed Public Market with Great Food, Cultural Experiences and Unique Gifts”
- Opened in 2006 with the backing of four non-profits
- 50+ shops, stalls and purveyors of international cuisines
- Interesting Features: Indian burritos, camel burgers, cooking classes, live music, indoor farmers market
2. Eden Center – Falls Church, Virginia
“Washington DC’s Premier Destination for Vietnamese Cuisine and Specialties”
- Houses the highest concentration of Vietnamese-owned businesses in America
- 100+ shops
- Interesting Features: authentic pho, fried tofu bites, caramelized freshwater prawns, various cultural events
3. Ponce City Market – Atlanta, Georgia
“A Vibrant Community Hub Housing the Central Food Hall, Various Shops, Flats and Offices, All While Pointing Back to the Roots of its Inception”
- Located in the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building
- Interesting Features: Crispy fish sandwich (with a different fish each day), edible cookie dough shop, old-fashioned candy store, carnival amusements and refreshments
4. East End Market – Orlando, Florida
“Central Florida’s Food and Culture Hub”
- Showcases Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists and chefs
- Home to 12 merchants, an event space, a demonstration kitchen, an incubator kitchen, offices, retail shops, a caterer, and a full-service restaurant
- Interesting Features: food business startup classes, customizable cooking classes, in-house meal delivery service
5. St. Roch Market – New Orleans, Louisiana
“A Destination for the Culinarily Curious”
- Located in an 1800s farmers market
- Home to 11 dining options, centered around an award-winning craft cocktail bar
- Interesting Features: Haitian street food, Vietnamese street food, after-dark game nights
6. 1-800-LUCKY – Miami, Florida
“A 10,000-Square-Foot Food Hall in the Style of a Hip, Asian Market with Indoor and Outdoor Seating and a Booming Soundtrack of Hip Hop”
- Industrial setting
- Home to seven restaurants, two bars, a karaoke room, and a convenience store/record shop
- Interesting Features: Chinese BBQ, poke bowls, taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), dim sum, cultural parties
7. Shirokiya Japan Village Walk – Honolulu, Hawaii
“A ‘Theme Park Village’ in the Image of Monzen-Machi, a Town Built Adjacent to Shrines and Temples with the Guardian Spirits Sanctuary at its Core”
- Sprawling food hall with an array of Japanese dishes, a French restaurant, and an indoor beer garden
- Interesting Features: a soft service ice cream shop from Harajuku, a café specialized in siphon coffee, a spirit sanctuary, a radio studio
8. The Barn – Lexington, Kentucky
“Kentucky’s First and Finest Artisan Food Hall—Bringing the Best of Lexington’s Culinary Scene to the Heart of The Summit at Fritz Farm”
- All local, all independent lineup of restauranteurs
- Interesting Features: craft ice cream, a superhero-themed ramen shop, whiskey bar
Whether or not your restaurant is located in a food hall, the Star Micronics mCollection can modernize your space – learn more now.
Heidi Orpilla is the Digital Content Specialist at Star Micronics where she creates and manages content for Star’s blog, social media, website, products, and more. Heidi has a passion for writing and has worked in the B2B marketing space for over five years. Prior to working at Star, Heidi worked at a large reseller for six years.