The 17 Best Food Halls in America
The promise of the modern American food hall should be a wildly intriguing offer for anyone who loves good food and general convenience. Basically: a ton of great stuff to eat, all in one place. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, there are so many food halls popping up around the States, it can be hard to determine which ones are worth your time, and which halls are basically a more expensive version of the Costco Food Court, with craft beer and reclaimed wood communal seating. And that just plain sucks.
So, to help you sift through the tourist traps, the garbage, and the overly commercial phonies -- we compiled a list of the 17 best food hall experiences in our great nation. There are some ambitious new additions that have managed to nail the concept, along iconic stalwarts that have been in existence long before food halls were cool… or even a thing, really. These 17 entries vary in style, essence, and overall execution -- but they all have one key component in common: they are all places you will certainly want to visit.
Falls Church, Virginia
Like a few other food halls mentioned throughout the course of this piece, Eden Center is exclusively focused on Asian fare -- mainly Vietnamese cuisine. What sets the iconic Eden Center apart -- aside from a not-so-urban location a few stops into suburban Virginia via the DC Metro system -- is its longstanding tradition for quality eats and the sheer volume of options. The building itself statistically houses the highest concentration of Vietnamese-owned businesses in the nation, as the sprawling strip mall has over 100 shops under its considerable roof. There is so much to see, do, and eat that a trip to the center can be more overwhelming than a jaunt to IKEA with your fiance. So if you visit, stick to the basics: try the pork loaf-laden cơm tấm at Thanh Truc. Dig into the pho at Pho Xe Lua. Or snack on fried tofu bites at Thanh Son Tofu. Realistically, you can slide down any of the narrow alleyways inside Eden Center and find something delicious. You'll be able to smell roasting pork and spices the second you pull into the parking lot. So if you happen to get lost, just follow your nose.
If you can only get one thing: If you want a real taste of Vietnam via Virginia, hit up veteran Eden Center stalwart Huong Viet and order the massive, caramelized freshwater prawns, topped with a mound of warm rice.
For those seeking the most "authentic" dose of Cuban food outside of the Island, this outpost of the regional mini-chain of Cuban-centric food halls delivers, and then some. While the name's translation may position the venue as a palace of juice, what you'll find in this open air-market, food court, and overall epicenter of Cuban culture is a varied mosaic of meats, produce, Cuban goods... and of course, freshly squeezed juices. El Palacio (founded in Miami in 1977, but now with nine locations across southern Florida) was basically a food hall before food halls were a bankable concept. And all this inherent originality shines through the moment you walk in -- the atmosphere isn't rustic, or dive-y by design. It's just functional. This is a legit, old-school destination for Cuban-Americans to get a taste of home, focused on food first. Among the stereotypical archetypes of old Cuban dudes playing dominoes (which yes, you'll probably see there), you'll find roast pork with congri (rice and beans), stewed ropa vieja, and freshly grilled fish. And yes, there is basically juice of every variety -- including straight out of the sliced coconut. Even Bobby Flay can't resist the pull of El Palacio. And neither should you.
If you can only get one thing: Leaving El Palacio without guzzling down a fresh papaya juice should be a crime punishable by catapult and catapult alone.
Queens, New York
You know a city is inundated with quality food halls when you feel obligated to take time explaining why you didn't choose a smattering of other options (apologies to the Plaza Food Hall, DeKalb Market, and the Bowery Market) before explaining the merits of your actual choice. Golden Shopping Mall is zero frills, and 100% focused on the food. Housed in an extremely hard to find basement in Flushing, Queens (you know, that other Chinatown) the winding corridors and brightly lit nooks of the Golden Mall house both the venerable (and now legendary) Xian's Famous Foods and Tianjin Dumplings. But you don't visit Golden to eat at places that have subsequently blown up. You go to try what you don't know. To experience what you haven't experienced before. There are dozens of joints (all with names I could never understand, let alone pronounce) serving up piping hot bowls of noodles, baskets of dumplings, and other street food that will leave you feeling like you've escaped the confines of New York -- and America itself -- and landed straight into a late-night Chinese market. This is the feeling you want to get from a food hall. And the Golden Shopping Mall always delivers. Once you find the entrance, of course.
If you can only get one thing: It's extremely hard to go wrong here, but newbies might want to start at Tianjin Dumpling House (try the pork), and then migrate to other, more adventurous offerings.
Los Angeles, California
LA is dotted with unexpected food halls (look for the Filipino market and food court hiding in a mall between the Target and Macy’s in Eagle Rock), but sometimes the obvious choice is the right one. At 101 years old, Grand Central has become the LA food scene in distillate form, a sprawling collection of mom-and-pop shops and hip upstarts that’s as much a cultivator for future brick-and-mortars as it is a destination for some of the best old-school flavors in LA. This is the place where Eggslut cut its teeth on the simple concept of really good egg sandwiches, and where PBJ.LA hopes to do the same with artisan, crustless sandwiches. It’s a virtual UN of LA’s sprawling global community, where you can get a heaping bento box at Bento Ya, a gut-busting plate of pasta and meatballs at Knead & Co., some of the city’s most formidable tacos at Tumbras, and everything in between: coffee roasters, burger flippers, cheesemongers, oyster shuckers, pupuserias, delis, juicers, pizzerias: if you can eat it, it’s at Grand Central. This is a place that’s seen downtown LA go from heaven to hell and back again. And through it all, it’s served as a gigantic gathering room for anybody and everybody.
If you can only get one thing: Chef Margarita Manzke recently brought her James Beard-nominated takes on Filipino comfort to the Sari Sari stall. Her simple, impossibly layered adobo fried rice is not to be missed.
The Nashville Farmers Market looks a lot like your standard urban farmers market… which it is, of course. But nestled among the fresh produce, locally sourced milk, and white couples in their mid-30s arguing over a stroller is a low-frills food court that happens to be one of the best, centralized hubs for food in the Music City. And it's hard to find this level of consolidated variety anywhere in the country. With approximately 25 vendors running on a year-round schedule, the Market House features outposts as varied as gourmet pizza from Bella Nashville to comfort food via the Caribbean from Jamaicaway (a Market House mainstay) -- and of course you have Tennessee barbecue, courtesy of B&C Market BBQ. Almost all of the food options feature ingredients sourced from the market itself, meaning if you want fresher ingredients, you might have to actually pull something out of the ground and cook it yourself. We recommend just trusting the pros here.
If you can only get one thing: Get a (frankly, legendary) sweet potato pie from Geraldine’s Famous Chess Pies. Worry about your diet later.
Look, we’re not saying you shouldn’t go to Pike Place; it’s an essential experience to get some chowder, watch dudes throw fish, and risk being blinded by the wandering selfie sticks of thousands of haphazardly walking tourists. But when you’re done, go chill out at Melrose Market. Yes, it’s still going to be busy, but it’s markedly hipper, so your eyes should be cool. It’s also home to one of the best concentrations of things to eat in Emerald City, all housed, as these things tend to be, in a set of historic buildings from the automotive era, Melrose isn’t as big as some of the older icons on this list, but the eight-year-old market brings impossibly big flavor. As this is Seattle, you’re well advised to start with coffee and oysters, here respectively represented by Honor Society and Taylor Shellfish. Peruse the take-home wares of Butter Home and Rain Shadow Meats -- a butchery that also does naughty things with roast beef sandwiches -- then face a hard choice for bigger meals: This place is home to a trio of legends. Luckily there are no wrong choices between the inventive farm-to-table fare of breakfast kings Homegrown; charcuterie, seafood, and inventive foraged fare at Sitka & Spruce; and the irresistible pull of the rooftop garden of Terra Plata. Naturally, there’s a bar, and a great one, at Still Liquor. Finish there. Or start there. Nobody's judging.
If you can only get one thing: About that rooftop garden at Terra Plata... when the sun doth rear its head in Seattle, there's perhaps no greater joy than a bit of roast pig and a churro with a view.
Opening in South Minny in 2006 with the backing of four non-profits, Midtown Global Market's original mission was showcasing and serving internationally themed cuisine in a centrally located, accessible arena. Over the past decade, Midtown Global has accomplished that, and much more; it's become one of the premier destinations for sampling diverse and hard-to-find dishes in the entire country, now containing more than 50 shops, stalls, and purveyors of international foods. Eclectic highlights include the Indurrito (Indian burrito) from Hot Indian, camel burgers from Safari Express, and new takes on traditional Korean street food from the Rabbit Hole. Top it all off with a cream-filled brioche from the Salty Tart -- one of America's best bakeries, period -- and you'll have a full day of international-eating excess. As the Market's core belief centers around fully supporting and propelling international entrepreneurs and immigrants, you can also feel like you are supporting the global community while stuffing your face. There is quite literally no better feeling.
If you can only get one thing: Opt for the aforementioned Indurrito. It's the best atmosphere to enjoy the Indian take on the Tex-Mex delicacy this side of Target Field.
San Antonio, Texas
Just as legendary San Antonio Spurs maestro Gregg Popovich is so much more than a coach, San Antonio's premier food hall is so much more than a mere food hall. The Pearl is a project featuring bougie residencies, shopping outlets, and community centers that spans more than a dozen blocks in the Alamo City. We could wax poetic for several paragraphs about the overall revitalization of the area, part of the River North Project, but we are here to focus on food. And the Bottling Department -- the Pearl's sprawling food hall -- has plenty of it (obviously, or it wouldn't be on this list). There's Peruvian-Asian fusion from Botika, heaps of cured meats from chef Steve McHugh's aptly named Cured, and for fine(ish) dining you've got Il Sogno Osteria, a five-star, urban-inspired Italian cafe from iconic chef Andrew Weissman. Don't fret, friends: you can burn off all these calories hitting up San Antonio's famed River Walk. Although you might want to turn it into a "River Jog."
If you can only get one thing: Feast your eyes (and mouth) on mole sopes with hot and spicy chocolate sauce from La Gloria, an outpost that specializes in bringing hard-to-find Mexican street food to San Antonio. Mission accomplished.
When Portland’s first marquee food hall opened two years ago, it looked like the city’s culinary version of the Justice League. But, you know, not shitty. With one of the founders of world-class food fest Feast helping coordinate, the hall brought in a murderer’s row of chefs, among them pizza pioneer Ken Forkish, who ditched Neapolitan for the slice shop Checkerboard; Tasty & Sons’ and Toro Bravo’s John Gorham, who opened the Pollo Bravo rotisserie/tapas joing and a Carolina-style burger stand; the Korean/Texas fusion BBQ of Kim Jong Smokehouse, lorded over by a food cart legend and a Top Chef standout; hot dogs by charcuterie masters Olympia Provisions; and the soft serve offshoot of Salt & Straw, Wiz Bang, which has worked, well, magic with magic shells (check out this video for proof). The place has understandable been packed ever since, largely because its model works great for dining with eaters with massively disparate tastes: Grab the food of your choice, be it a cheese slice or a plate of Serrano ham croquettes; snag a beer; sit at a communal table and wait for your food; chase it with a delicious cereal milk ice cream cone with a berry shell. Repeat. Daily.
If you can only get one thing: In about a year, Bless Your Heart has become one of the best burgers in Portland, and in the country, thanks to its no-fuss smash, its oozing American cheese, and an impossibly bouncy bun.
Situated in the gutted, renovated, and altogether historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building in Eastside Atlanta, Ponce City Market has become the warm, delicious center of Atlanta's food scene, despite not featuring a single Chick-fil-A or a Waffle House. Instead, you'll be enticed by deep-fried excellence in the form of Hop’s Chicken and their transcendent chicken biscuits. And if your sweet tooth is humming, Honeysuckle Gelato's bona fide, Southern-style pecan praline should sate you till you get your hands on an ice-cold Coca-Cola. And if you never want to leave this wonderful land of long wooden tables and high, gleaming white ceilings, you can just buy a luxury apartment above the food hall and plant your roots for good. You might gain 200 pounds, but hey, at least you'll be happy.
If you can only get one thing: Snag the crispy fish sandwich at W.H. Stiles Fish Camp. They use a different fresh fish every day, so you'll also get a little surprise, too.
Reading Terminal Market is a food hall so established, so well-known, it almost feels like cheating to include it on this list. It's certainly no deep cut. But, it would seem a little disingenuous to exclude it because of is popularity. Continuously operating since 1983, this vibrant, bustling food market (which is now a National Historic Landmark) has long been one of Philly's premier dining destination. DiNic's roast pork sandwich can hold its own against any variation within city limits. The scrapple at Down Home Diner is the ideal way to experience the controversial Eastern PA. delicacy outside of an Amish grandmother's kitchen. And for a regional classic that won't turn your stomach, the Whoopie Pies at Flying Monkey might just be the best dessert in Philly. For a longer, more filling session, order the roast duck and roasted pork noodle platter at Sang Kee. For a quick snack that won't debilitate you for the remainder of the week, snag a fresh, Philadelphia-style pretzel at Miller's Twist. With so much going right for the city of late (the Eagles just won the Super Bowl, Sunny still isn't cancelled, etc.), it's easy to overlook Reading Terminal. But don't. That would be a classic, non-Jawnie mistake to make.
If you can only get one thing: If you are into copious amounts of meat, just get the roast pork at DiNic's and thank us later.
When Revival opened in 2016 it instantly injected some much-needed life into a Loop lunch scene that always felt a bit short on fantastic non-chain options, much to the delight of office workers who now have 24,000 square feet of standout local flavor at their disposal. Sometimes that local flavor tastes quite a bit like other places -- there's Nashville hot chicken from The Budlong, poke bowls from Aloha, and excellent ramen from Furious Spoon -- but it's been a boon to have the depth and breadth of Chicago's culinary scene better reflected in the heart of the city. Definitely don't skip dessert, because you'd be missing out on the pastry wizardry of Mindy Segal's HotChocolate, and Black Dog Gelato will make you wonder how you made it this far into your life without goat cheese cashew caramel gelato being a part of it.
If you can only get one thing: The St. Louis spare ribs from Smoque BBQ are some of the finest you'll find anywhere, full stop.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Following in the proverbial footsteps of several entries on this list, St. Roch Market's bones consist of a renovated 19th-century building, this time in New Orleans' increasingly modern Bywater district. The newly gutted building now features sterling white pillars and deep onyx accents that house a considerable array of Southern food, among them fresh takes on classic dishes and a smattering of traditional fare. The Gulf-sourced oysters from Elysian Oyster Co. are the only New Orleans appetizer you ever need to sample. The Haitian smothered greens from Fritai are the perfect medley of Southern tradition and Caribbean influence. And The Bird Man pulled BBQ chicken sandwich from Good Bird might just make you swear off pulled pork for the rest of your life. Simply put: If we had a handful of beads, we'd readily toss them at St. Roch's general direction. No strings attached.
If you can only get one thing: The fresh seafood -- particularly the oysters from Elysium -- should be the go-to here. And if you are really hungry, just get a lot of them.
Nestled in Denver's River North District, a 'hood so hip it has its own broker-friendly abbreviation (RiNo), The Source is the Mile High City's central, um, source….for a consolidated dose of artisanal craft food and drink. The space is carved out of a 19th-century iron foundry, and the hip-as-heck architects behind The Source kept some of the industrial, graffitied charm and added exposed piping and basic, streamlined furniture to fully dig into the bohemian eatery theme. The market has coffee shops, a florist, and even an art gallery, but you aren't here to gaze around and look cool and stroke your obligatory handlebar mustache, you are here to eat. Along with full-blown restaurants like Comida (Mexican street food), and Acorn (American-ish bar and grill), The Source has food stands like Babette’s Artisan Bread, where the croissants are rolled freshly every day, and Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, where they butcher their locally sourced meats on site every day. As far as golden liquid persuasion goes, they have about as many bar options as you would expect a hipsterific food hall in Denver to have, with the Proper Pour and Crooked Stave being the standouts. So basically, this is exactly where you want to be after you visit the dispensary.
If you can only get one thing: Either the homemade cookies or the ice cream at Comida are the perfect post-taco dessert. Just get both.
Our Capitol's most beloved and largest food hall/market posits itself as the "culinary center" of the city, and though it features 40 permanent food stalls and restaurants, one of the greatest appeals of Union is its focus on giving small and/or burgeoning food entrepreneurs pop-up slots among its hallowed walls. Think of this as Shark Tank: Food Hall Editon. This spring, expect to see Hawaiian-style malasada donuts from B Doughnuts, and the delightfully named Prescription Chicken, a new, health-centric soup concept out of Baltimore. Alongside these temporary newcomers are Union stalwarts like DC Empanadas, Sloppy Mama's BBQ, Takorean Korean tacos, and Rappahannock Oyster Co. While DC in general might be a divisive mess (and no, we aren't talking about the Nationals), Union manages to be a delicious respite from the all the madness. And for that, we are eternally grateful.
If you can only get one thing: Get a smoked salmon BLT from Neopol Savory Smokery. Which would technically be a BLSST.
Like the GOAT LeBron James, the Westside Market is a Cleveland institution that has gained a worldwide reputation for excellence. Unlike LeBron James, the Westside Market has never relocated to Miami -- it's been a Forest City staple since 1912, making it one of the oldest food halls in the entire country. Aesthetically, you'll find a constant swath of crowds huddling among the narrow aisles underneath the vaulted, Guastavino-tiled ceiling. Gastronomically, you'll find hearty Midwest staples like thick cuts of meat from Fernengels, the legendary family-owned butcher shop, and links on links of liverwurst from Old Country Sausage. But, you'll also get a dose of international diversity from stands like the Cheese Shop (providing exotic cheeses from all over the world), the pan-European market Mediterranean Imported Foods, and Kim Se Cambodian Cuisine -- where you'll need to get the soba noodle salad, portability be damned! It's everything you love about Cleveland food, alongside a slice of international flavor. Let's hope their talents remain in the Land forever.
If you can only get one thing: Try the spicy beef jerky from Czuchraj Meats. It's supple. It's meaty. It's the perfect snack to grab while still leaving room in your stomach... which you will certainly need.
Charleston, South Carolina
In a town flush with foodie-pleasing options, Workshop boldly claims to be the city's premier "exploratory food court." And there is certainly a sense of uncharted waters here, as the site houses six rotating kitchens per season, exhibiting the area's most adventurous food concepts. So, there's a real sense of urgency here, too -- if you don't make it to one of the outposts during its run, it will disappear from the Workshop forever. Right now (April 2018), the venue features standout stands like Slice and Co., a New York-style pizza joint; Pink Bellies, a mini-branch of Charleston's beloved, family-owned Vietnamese restaurant Tai Phi; and Juan Luis, an El Paso-inspired Tex-Mex joint from pitmaster John Lewis. All of this will be gone soon, of course. But hey: now you have a perfectly reasonable excuse to book a flight to Charleston.
If you can only get one thing: Try the Maharaja thali from modern Indian street food concept Sambar. It's the quintessential Sambar experience in one curry-rich dish.
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