These new foodie meccas popped up across the country in 2021, with globally-inspired flavors and irresistibly unique eats.
Eating at just one restaurant: So 2020. The future of food is a whole lifestyle experience–lots of culinary choices in one place, a focus on local, independently-owned and artisanal, with entertainment and late hours (sometimes until 1 a.m.). It may seem ironic that so many food halls opened in the past year, from the west and east coasts to the heartland, with over 190 are still in development, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a global real estate firm. But they’re a welcome relief to the recent demand to eat among (gasp) fellow humans. Here are the nation’s top ten new food halls.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Miami, Florida
This outdoor food hall in the artsy Wynwood district, which opened in June, is shipping container central. Six eateries are housed in shipping containers with fun colors like lavender, yellow, and sea-foam, while its Tower Bar consists of 16 shipping containers stacked 75 feet high, painted with a mural of a pink flamingo, tropical foliage, and vivid primary colors. Palm trees and cacti landscape the 35,000 square-foot courtyard. Feast on Cubanos and Italian cheesesteaks from Alidoro, or softshell crab Chinese bao and duck Rangoon Japanese gyoza from Buya Dumplings. There are kebabs or lavash wraps from Mr. Mandolin and pies from New York-born Prince Street Pizza. An elegant indoor-outdoor bar, Huacachina, features soothing pale-pink seating or tropical flower-splashed armchairs. Open until midnight, The Oasis offers live entertainment weekly (featuring, fittingly, The Midnight, a synthwave band).
Assembly Food Hall
WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee
Assembly is one of the nation’s biggest food halls, offering over 20 eateries, ten bars, and Nashville’s largest rooftop for live entertainment daily. Three-quarters of its eateries are locally-based, like Prince’s Hot Chicken, the beloved originator of Nashville Hot Chicken, a fried chicken style so spicy, if you order extra-hot, you may need to lie down afterward to recover. Food vendors also include another local favorite, Pharmacy Burger (whose BBQ burger features Coca-Cola BBQ sauce and bacon), tacos in global flavors, Chinese bao and noodles, Indian street food, French crepes, Italian desserts, and Thai food. A wine bar, tequila bar, Tennessee whiskey bar, and Sixty Vines, a 16,000 square-foot restaurant serving 60 wines, ensure no one goes thirsty here. Open until 1 a.m., Assembly features live music from country, pop, rock to local songwriters, plus Sunday drag show brunches. In addition, the National Museum of African American Music, which tells the story of over 50 music genres from blues, jazz, R&B to hip hop, is located in the same building, Fifth + Broadway.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
WHERE: San Francisco, California
The first food hall for women-led businesses in the U.S. features food from Senegal, El Salvador, Algeria, Mexico, Nepal, and Louisiana, starting at just $5. From Senegalese peanut vegetarian stew, muhammara, and Dakar muffuletta sandwiches to yogurt-marinated chicken, couscous, and chickpeas. La Cocina Marketplace is the latest venture from a local food incubator that helps women of color grow food businesses by offering a communal kitchen and technical help. It’s spawned over 30 brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Bay Area, from Reem’s (Middle Eastern) in San Francisco and Oakland, Nyum Bai (Cambodian) in Oakland–both James Beard nominees–to Mahila and Azalina (Malaysian, both now closed). Since its debut in late March in the Tenderloin district, the food hall is open weekdays 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. but plans to close at 8 p.m. (and add Saturdays) by September. The ever-active La Cocina also sells food boxes with snacks or meals prepared by its members, authored a cookbook, and runs a free food storytelling series.
Delray Beach Market
WHERE: Delray Beach, Florida
Florida’s biggest food hall, the flashy, neon-signed Delray Beach Market features 27 rotating vendors and opened in this small beach city just south of Palm Beach in April. The kickoff event for Miami’s 2021 South Beach Food & Wine Festival even took place inside the massive four-story, 150,000 square-foot food hall, designed in “tropical modern” style with splashes of pink and turquoise. TikTok and YouTube star Nick DiGiovanni (the youngest-ever Master Chef finalist) whipped up Buffalo chicken wings and hummus for the famous Food Network shindig. You’ll find fast-casual Indian food, Asian and Hawaiian specialties from poke to Taiwanese ribbon ice, a New York-style deli serving H&H bagels, and more. The hall was conceptualized by Menin and is operated by Clique Hospitality, a group active in Las Vegas hotels like MGM Resorts and the Cosmopolitan for decades. A free shuttle even takes satisfied market-goers straight from Delray to the beach. Open till 11 p.m. daily, the market often features live music and DJs.
WHERE: San Diego, California
Inspired by Barcelona’s stylish El Nacional, Sky Deck boasts more high-end restaurants (nine) than its Spanish counterpart (four), closes earlier (9:30 p.m. weekdays and 10:30 p.m. on weekends, vs. 1 a.m. daily for those nocturnal Spaniards), but also occupies a strikingly-designed space with high ceilings. From the large central bar, admire the quirky “maritime industrial” décor (think real boats suspended from the ceiling, driftwood sculptures of tuna, and an ocean-inspired mural). Opened in June inside the Del Mar Highland Town Center Mall, the food hall–er, “restaurant collective”–offers Thai food from an acclaimed local restaurateur, central Mexican cuisine from a Golden Foodie Award winner, a branch of Marufuku Ramen, the world’s only Michelin-star ramen eatery, Milanese-style pizza from Ambrogio 15 (voted as San Diego’s best pizza), and Greek food from the owners of Beeside Balcony in Del Mar. The outdoor deck, just up the spiral staircase, has tasting rooms from three local craft breweries (Rough Draft, Northern Pine, and Boochcraft for organic hard Kombucha) and lovely Carmel Valley views.
Salt City Market
WHERE: Syracuse, New York
Ten vendors serve everything from Burmese to Jamaican to Vietnamese to Middle Eastern in this 80,000-square-foot steel-and-glass food hall that opened in January. Cooking classes, demos, and a food-history series in its Teaching Kitchen take students around the globe to with Ghanaian plant-based meals and how to forage for spices. Salt City, created with the help of the Allyn Family Foundation, fulfills the decade-long dream of Adam Sudmann, its market manager. Inspired by Asian hawker stalls, San Francisco’s La Cocina, and Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market, Sudmann formerly ran a popular local dinner pop-up series held in galleries and parks, named My Lucky Tummy, plus a local restaurant/food incubator, With Love, that featured a different national cuisine every six months. The ex-New York City events producer noticed many talented foreign-born home cooks in his adopted city (he married an upstater) since almost 10,000 refugees have settled in Syracuse in the past decade. Other events include Wellness Wednesdays for yoga and meditation, and Shop Small Sunday, a monthly event where over 40 antique dealers and craftspeople crowd its parking lot. Curious about that name? It comes from Syracuse’s nickname, an ode to its history of salt quarries.
The AMP @ 16 Tech
WHERE: Indianapolis, Indiana
Opened in June, 14 shipping containers painted pink, orange, blue, cream, and black house eight food stalls plus retail vendors inside 16 Tech, a live/work innovation community on Indy’s west side. Familiar local staples include Frankie’s Pizza (from Turchetti’s on Indy’s Fountain Square), Hiatus (an open-air bar from owners of Hi-Fi), Circle City Sweets, and Tinker Coffee. Make-your-own PB&J sandwiches, decadent treats like glitter-bedecked strawberries, Venezuelan arepas, and BBQ fusion are also here. Two-thirds of vendors are owned or led by women or minorities, and there’s also even an incubator for Black chefs, Melon Kitchen. The AMP is planning a full-service restaurant and brewery taproom as well.
Budd Dairy Hall
WHERE: Columbus, Ohio
At Central Ohio’s first food hall, which opened in April, 10 food vendors offer flavors like Ube Waffle Sticks, Hawaiian poke (from Ohio’s first poke restaurant), Southern gumbo, and fried chicken from a winner of the Food Network’s Food Court Wars and a “Braised and Confused” sandwich of beef, caramelized onions, cheddar, and jicama slaw. Three bars include the buzzy Community Hall with its nine-panel TVs to watch the game, an upscale bar featuring leather banquettes and chairs, and a lounge with exposed-brick walls and leather sofas. Located in the Italian Village neighborhood inside a brick building unoccupied since the 1960s (where Budd Dairy Company opened in 1916), Budd Dairy Food Hall was opened by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. The group’s 39 restaurants include Ocean Prime, located in 12 states across the U.S.
WHERE: Asheville, North Carolina
Opened in June, the first food hall in this arty city near the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway is located in an Art Deco-style 1929 building, once home to the Charlotte-based S&W cafeteria chain. Five food vendors and two bars feature some of Asheville’s best flavors, like Highland Brewing Co., the city’s original craft brewery, whose two-story bar occupies the first floor and mezzanine. Check out Thai street food and tea rum slushy cocktails from Bun Intended, a popular food truck, Farm Dogs (hot dogs and sausages from grass-fed, locally-raised meats by the owners of Farm Burgers), Buxton Chicken Palace, and dairy and vegan ice creams from Hop Ice Cream, a local favorite for 40+ years. Five-time James Beard nominee Meherwan Irani, who has restaurants in Charlotte and Atlanta, and is a partner in BH, partnered with a real estate firm to launch S&W Market.
WHERE: Indianapolis, Indiana
From arepas to Asian-Mexican fusion, to Brazilian steak sandwiches, to ice cream in unexpected flavors like Gorgonzola candied pecan, 16 vendors represent the best of Indy’s indie food and drink purveyors at The Garage. Not to mention Hard Truth Distillery, whose artisanal spirits like Toasted Coconut Rum and Cinnamon Vodka hail from Indiana’s Brown County. Opened in January, The Garage is part of the $300 million Bottleworks project. After your feast, sleep it off across the street at the Bottleworks Hotel from the same developer, a boutique hotel converted from the world’s biggest Coca-Cola bottling plant, located in a white Art Deco-style low-rise 1930s building. And throw in a haircut or see a movie while you’re there: A hair salon and theatre also occupy The Garage. Events include music from DJs twice a week, weekly trivia nights, and monthly Disco brunches (dressing the part is encouraged).