Food Halls in America: 8 Cool Concepts

Like most imported trends, food halls found success in America’s largest cities before evolving into the must-have dining trend, thanks to the hospitality groups and real estate developers building them and the local chefs filling them with one-of-a-kind variety and authenticity that sets food halls apart from the food courts of decades past.

Dozens of food halls, designed to give diners the opportunity to enjoy multiple culinary concepts in a single building, are now open or under construction in the majority of states – even Alaska is prepping for one. To get a better look at how the trend has been executed in different cities, we compiled a virtual tour of some of our favorite food halls.

Pizitz Food Hall (Birmingham, Ala.)

Alabama’s most populous city has been earning nods for its growing food scene for the past couple of years, so it isn’t too surprising that Pizitz Food Hall opened in early 2017. Named after the now-defunct department store chain once housed there, the repurposed building also offers apartments with amenities like a rooftop pool, an outdoor patio, and a co-working space. In addition to a bar and a food stall that showcases a different chef each quarter, the food hall’s vendors offer biscuits, tea, waffles, and cheese, as well as Ethiopian, Indian, Israeli, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine.

Grand Central Market (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Located in Los Angeles, Grand Central Market has actually been in operation since it was established in 1917. Like most historic buildings-turned-modern attractions, the space has been reinvented and renovated over the years (though makeovers and vendor changes in recent years led to concerns about gentrification). Today, the food hall is lit up by dozens of bright neon signs and bustles with visitors who can browse nearly 40 food vendors selling everything from cheese and wine to falafels and ramen.

Ponce City Market (Atlanta, Ga.)

Ponce City Market – named after Ponce De Leon Avenue, where it’s located in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood – is a mixed-used space developed in a former Sears, Roebuck, and Co. building that clocks in at more than 2 million square feet. With that much space, it was easy to fit over 30 food vendors in the Central Food Hall alongside retail shops, office space, a preparatory school, short-term rental and leased apartment units, and a rooftop area featuring two restaurants, private event space, and an entertainment park with mini golf and carnival games. Ponce City Market isn’t the first food hall concept executed by real estate company Jamestown: The group was also responsible for bringing Chelsea Market to New York City, a successful project purchased by Google in early 2018.

White Star Market (Baton Rouge, La.)

Baton Rouge’s first food hall opened in the Mid City neighborhood on Government Street, an area the city has been actively redeveloping. Located on the bottom floor of a mixed-used building that also includes office space and apartments, White Star Market‘s vendors offer baked goods, cold-pressed juice, vegetarian dishes, tacos, sushi, pizza, and other bites. However, food hall’s biggest draw may be the health-driven emphasis it places on the nearby community, as it encourages visitors to bike, run, and walk the neighborhood rather than drive and advertises free outdoor yoga on “Wine Down Wednesdays” and on the weekend.

Detroit Shipping Co. (Detroit, Mich.)

The Detroit Shipping Company sets itself apart from other food halls because it’s made from repurposed shipping containers, giving the space a modern, industrial vibe. The “restaurant collective and beer garden” features a handful of fast-casual concepts – including tacos and tapas, Thai street food, Caribbean fusion, burgers, and nitrogen ice cream – as well as two bars, a podcasting studio, a print shop, and rotating art supplied by a different local artist each month. Live music and private events held in the food hall’s indoor and outdoor spaces round out the experience for Detroit locals and visitors.

The Bourse (Philadelphia, Penn.)

Located in Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, an area nicknamed “America’s Most Historic Square Mile,” the renovated Bourse building pairs the food hall concept with office space. Designed to appeal to locals and tourists alike, it currently advertises a couple dozen vendors offering everything from Egyptian and Mexican cuisine to gourmet cheese and coffee and tea. The former food court had its official grand opening (complete with a mayoral ribbon cutting and giveaways) on November 15, but select vendors have been serving the public since the venue began its soft opening on September 12. The Bourse may be the city’s most historic food hall, even if it isn’t the city’s first food hall: Reading Terminal Market has been around since 1893, Chinatown Square opened in March 2017, and Franklin’s Table brought the concept to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus earlier this year.

Workshop (Charleston, S.C.)

Located in a mixed-use space on Charleston’s 300-year-old King Street, Workshop describes itself as an “exploratory food court” rather than a food hall. This take on the trend includes six “rotating kitchens,” where featured concepts may stay for a few weeks or a few months before a new one takes over. True to its name, Workshop promotes itself as a place for food trucks trying out a brick-and-mortar location and local chefs testing new items or concepts, as well as a way for culinary newcomers to ease into the restaurant industry without committing to a permanent space. The space also hosts private events and community events like a weekend farmers’ market.

Milwaukee Public Market (Milwaukee, Wis.)

Milwaukee Public Market doesn’t call itself a food hall, but offers artisanal goods and products alongside freshly made meals – including desserts, pizza, salads, sandwiches, and sushi – from more than a dozen vendors, which can be taken to go or enjoyed in the market’s dining area. The building’s second floor is used to host weekly cooking classes and demos in Madame Kuony’s Kitchen and can be rented out for weddings and other private events.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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