In major cities across the United States, the food hall is getting a better reputation among visitors and vendors. Thanks to investments from entrepreneurs and culinary influencers like Anthony Bourdain, food halls are ushering in locally owned eateries that offer innovative and locally inspired dishes that appeal to just about any appetite.
Here are five cities with a plate full of food halls that worth exploring.
New York City is thriving in its selection of food halls, with two in Brooklyn – Berg’n and Industry City – and a massive Asian food mall court in Flushing, Queens. The majority of them though are found throughout Manhattan. In Midtown, The Plaza Food Hall, on the lower level of The Plaza, features selections that are rich in taste but kind to your wallet. Find decadent cakes and pastries, extra thin-crust pizza with a twist, a gourmet sandwich shop, and an Italian bistro.
Near Grand Central Terminal, Urban Vanderbilt rotates its tenants, but currently contains vendors dishing out pizza, tacos, lobster, and Southern-style chicken. Located in an old NABISCO cookie factory, the Chelsea Market is now is a cornucopia of grocery stores, eateries, fish markets, wine shops, and bakeries. On the Lower East Side, Essex Street Market has been around since 1940 and has evolved as much as its neighborhood over the years with various ethnic food finds from Scandinavia, Greece, Mexico, and Italy.
In the nation’s capital, Union Market has been a local favorite with a legacy dating back to 1871 when it was founded as an outdoor farmers’ market named Centre Market. The first market building was on the spot where the National Archives now stands today before moving to its current location near Gallaudet University. Presently, Union Market holds about 40 occupants featuring vendors specializing in spices, cheese, meats, seafood, produces, and breads. Additionally, there are pop-up food shops; grocery stores; eateries selling dosas, Korean tacos, empanadas and restaurants with focuses on Mediterranean and Southern comfort food.
Then, head to Capitol Hill for a visit to Eastern Market, another longstanding D.C. market which features more than food. It’s divided up into different indoor and outdoor sections. For example, the South Market has merchants inside touting everything from produce to poultry, while the North Hall Event acts as a community arts center. On Saturdays and Sundays, local artists, crafters, and farmers sell their wares outside.
LA has its share of food halls too. In business for about a century, the Grand Central Market has changed as much as its downtown location with offerings that reflect different tastes. Its 30,000-square-foot space combines retail shops and the marketplace houses take-away and sit-down places such as a freshly-made pasta bar, a Latin grocery store, a butchery, and an eatery that’s all about Berlin’s currywurst.
In LA’s historical South Central neighborhood, near USC, Mercado La Paloma has a mix of Mexican, Thai, and other meal options. In Fairfax, The Original Farmers Market is like a little village unto itself with American to Spanish restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream shops, bakeries, high-end groceries, and various retail stores.
True, Seattle may be first thought of for its Pike Place Market, and with good reason. In business since 1907, the touristy spot is a mix of winding alleyways that lead to upper and lower levels containing produce stalls, eateries, and crafts areas, plus quirky attractions like a large, bronze piggy bank.
Capitol Hill-based Melrose Market Studios is an urban space of restored storefront that has more of an artisanal base. Current occupants include a sandwich shop, a full-service butchery, cheese shop, various home goods stores, and a bar/wine shop. In downtown Seattle, The Market Hall is a bit more of a restaurant setup with like lunch-counter meals, plus weekend brunch, dinner and happy hour offerings.
Denver has its own unique mix of market choices. In its River North District, The Source is more like a traditional market with 15 merchant tenants inside this former iron factory building. They include a modern taqueria, a French bakery, a specialty wine, craft beer, and spirits shop, a coffee roaster, and a full-service bar. Non-edible finds include a community bank, gallery space, and a floral shop.
Opened in 2015, the LoHi Avanti Food & Beverage holds seven different restaurant concepts that are housed in modified shipping containers plus dining areas and a rooftop lounge. These concepts are up to chef’s interpretations and include favorites specializing in European dishes with a Mexican flair and Levant-inspired flatbread sandwiches. Even the restored Union Station has some good eats, particularly with the Mercantile Dining & Provisions, a European-style market setup.
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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