When you first touch down in a new city, you might scoff if someone suggests you “hit up so-and-so food hall.” You’d be forgiven. The very words “food hall” conjure images of charmless college dorm cafeterias where you once shoveled cold chicken tenders into your mouth on a prepaid meal plan.
But the next time you’re in Charleston -- or Austin, Dallas, Denver, Baltimore, Atlanta, DC, Birmingham, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, or Miami -- there’s a decent chance you’ll be pointed in the direction of a new food hall. Close to a dozen cities across the country have or will open their own versions by the end of this year.
The new brand of food hall is neither a dorm cafeteria nor the mall food court of your youth. “If you’re visiting from out of town, and you want to get a flavor of a city, there’s absolutely nowhere better than a food hall,” Niall Hanley told me. Hanley is responsible for the Morgan Street Food Hall & Market, launching near Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina later this year. When doors open, visitors can sample local sushi, Asian fusion, and raw food restaurants in a single 22,000 square foot space. Also present will be Oak City Fish and Chips, a much-loved food truck known for its addictive seasoning on the fried seafood.
If you’re prone to quick weekend trips, or a fan of eating really, really good food for not that much money, your ears should be perking up right now. Tuning into a city’s food scene usually involves an Uber, a 45+-minute wait, laying down a Benjamin, and repeating x3 until you go home. The whole idea of the food hall is to offer innovative concepts from aspiring chefs and big-name restaurateurs alike in an attractive, actually-well-lit space -- so you can dig into the local cuisine in less time, for less money.