Food halls have been in existence in one form or another for hundreds of years. One of the oldest food halls in existence in Borough Market in London, England is over 250 years old. The modern food hall as we now it began with Eataly; founded in an old vermouth factory in Italy in early 2007. It started as a mash-up of a megastore and European open market.
“Malls and airports started noticing a huge downtrend in traffic within their food courts. No longer do customers want the same chain fast food options. Thus, the food hall revolution is born,” according to Seth Makowsky of MRG Makowsky Restaurant Group. “Food courts are being reinvented into more welcoming multi-faceted indoor food halls filled with local vendors, artisanal and specialty foods. Warmer lighting and atmosphere, unique seating, and background music at a more palatable decibel are some of the more welcoming upgrades. These changes are creating an exciting ecosystem, which is attracting the foodies attention and attendance.”
The structure of a food hall plays into exactly what vendors are looking for: low upfront costs and high foot traffic by not using traditional costly brick and mortar buildings. Vendors are choosing to open up shop stalls. Even, many local to market food trucks are ditching their wheels for a stationary space. Thus, more vendors mean more variety for the ever-expanding American palate.
There are positive and negative sides to Food Halls. One of the positives is the stall fee. It is a great deal lower than creating your own standalone structure. Another is the initial investment, which can be made back within the first week of opening. When one vendor begins to become successful, the other vendors nearby also profit. With some of the local area farmers supplying their produce to the vendors, the food is very fresh. Unfortunately, there are downsides. It can be difficult to anticipate the demands of the consumer, which can result in not having the correct amount of supplies available. Plus, the vendors have to compete for space in the hall, there is not always enough room for growth.
Seth Makowsky recently the most exciting food halls both inside NYC and out. These food halls are fueling the latest culinary trend.
See what Seth Makowsky discovered!
1. Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place
Estimated to host roughly 25,000 people a day serves fast-casual dining from New York favorites and other cult brands. Vendors are of above average food quality and the cuisines are incredibly diverse, which should be able to please the palate of anyone in your food party. The space itself is the biggest draw. The hall (designed by AvroKO, BCV, and Spector Group) presents an elevated environment filled with flush finishes like marble tables, leather chairs and unobstructed views of the Hudson River and nearby marina. Seating for 600 is open but broken into sections for a more intimate feel. Some of the vendors are struggling to find helpful, courteous staff and there’s a longer than usual wait time during lunch hours. Prices are a bit steep be prepared to spend anywhere from $9-$13 on the average meal. brookfieldplaceny.com
2. Le District
Le District is often been described as the French Eataly, and in some ways it is. The food hall is divided up into 4 districts: market (specialty stations for both retail and dining), garden (easy shopping for French produce), café (café patisserie for classic pastries and coffee), and restaurant (Le Bar, Beaubourg, Boulangerie, Le Comptoir, Rotisserie). There are ever several seating areas serving food from the market district, two full-service restaurants, and an amazing brunch service. The space’s design is industrial and modern and defined by cement floors and low ceilings all resulting in a fun ambiance. On the flip side, the concept is still maturing and the staff is still learning the systems resulting in subpar service and food preparation. ledistrict.com
3. Gansevoort Market
The Gansevoort Market in the Meatpacking District opened this fall and has tables for eating under a skylight in the refurbished 8,000-square-foot space. It has a designated seating area, which makes it more comfortable to dine; tables nestled together amongst brick walls, decorative vines, and natural light pouring in through the glass ceiling. gansmarket.com
4. City Kitchen
City Kitchen has nine permanent food vendors plus some seasonal pop-ups operating stands in a 4,000-square-foot space that brings New York’s most desired and hyped food concepts to Times Square. They left no neighborhood unturned, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side. The result: off-the-grid restaurateurs bringing their most crave-worthy creations. Many have to take food to go. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings are the current operational plan, with delivery to hotel guests and parts of Times Square. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is clean, bright, and airy. However, it is hard to find seating due to poor layout. City Kitchen
5. Gotham West
Gotham West Market brings some needed action to the Midtown West food desert. The polished 15,000-square-foot hall is home to eight artisan food purveyors and restaurants offering hip, casual eats. Plans are in motion for residents of the luxury apartments in the 32-story building above the market to receive room-service-style delivery from any of the market’s purveyors. Otherwise, visitors can carry out or pick a seat anywhere in the industrial-chic room—choice spots include the counter at Slurp Shop or tables near the garage windows that open onto the street in warm weather. gothamwestmarket.com
6. Essex Street Market
Essex Street Market is a 15,000-square-foot market in which you feel like you’re in a foreign country. It offers richly diverse European foods, cultures, and characters. Not just food vendors, there’s also an art gallery and spice shops. The shop layout tends to be a bit confusing as to which shop owns which part of the market. Each business has its own counter and you can’t check out everything at once. It’s been announced that in 2018 Essex Street Market will move to doubling their space off of Delancey Street.7. essexstreetmarket.com
If you are in NYC you must visit Eataly. It first opened in 2010 and is an Italian inspired food hall offering 7 sit down restaurants, bakery, produce store, butcher, cooking school, restaurant on the rooftop, Italian coffee bar and full/wine spirits bar. Eataly runs all the eateries as opposed to other small food businesses operating within the confines of Eataly. Seating is limited and you must sit in the area in which you are ordering food. Also, it can get pretty pricey; i.e. chocolate for $35 a pound, cheese for $28 a pound, lamb for $40 a pound, etc. eataly.com
Berg’n opened in Crown Heights last year to fanfare as there was nothing remotely like it in the neighborhood. “The former garage space, designed by Selldorf Architects, has a clean industrial vibe with polished concrete floors, a long bar, and large garage style glass doors that roll up into the ceiling. Seating options range from the rows of massive modern picnic tables to an outdoor patio.” Berg’n is a Brooklyn beer hall from the founders of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg. Featuring food from Asia Dog, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Samesa and Ramen Burger. www.bergn.com
9. The Plaza Food Hall
Located in the basement of the Plaza Hotel and founded by chef and entrepreneur Todd English The Plaza Food Hall is modeled after European food halls and is a massive 30,000-square-foot space. It offers a mix of local favorites and national brands, including Lady M, Billy’s Bakery, Luke’s Lobster andTartinery, most of which offer a signature Plaza treat. The Plaza Food Hall offers counter-style dining, seat-yourself options, and artisanal shopping experiences. theplazany.com.10. Grand Central Market Downtown LA Plaza Food Hall
10. Grand Central Market Downtown LA
Since 1917, the historic Grand Central Market has been a reflection of the population and city around it. Today, the tradition lives on with an influx of new and exciting vendors that best reflect what is happening in the culinary landscape of LA. With premium ingredients, local entrepreneurs, LA based chefs, friendly staff and affordable prices; this trend will soon lead to a revolutionary and unexpected elevation for the food hall. grandcentralmarket.com