Your college dining hall is a place where you and your friends gather to sit down together and socialize over a much-needed meal after a long day of classes. But usually, dining hall food tends to be an uber disappointment. It’s cold and gross, and sometimes there’s nothing offered that fits into your diet.
It’s time to ditch the dining hall for food halls. These food halls around the U.S. are redefining a typical food gathering place by featuring local restaurants, fresh farmers markets, and artisan food shops. Read on to see what your dining hall is missing.
1. The Source – Denver, Colorado
The Source is an artisan food market in Denver’s River North district that offers everything from freshly baked bread, to craft cocktails, and flower arrangements. Fifteen merchants occupy this former 1880’s brick foundry building, and its open floor plan provides a community-oriented space for visitors, perfect for making friends with fellow food lovers. Among the list of Denver’s must-try vendors setting up in The Source are Acorn, Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Comida, Western Daughters, and Mondo Market.
Boxcar Coffee Roasters is redefining the way you brew coffee in higher elevation areas, by immersing the grounds in boiling water before roasting in small batches to preserve flavor. Western Daughters is a butcher shop that sells local meat sourced within a 150-mile radius and butchered on site and are also free of antibiotics and hormones and are all non-GMO. So feel free to enjoy a meaty sandwich completely guilt-free.
2. Reading Terminal Market – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Reading Terminal Market is an extremely popular food court in Philadelphia’s historic district, that’s serving up foods “fresh and local everyday”. It offers the widest variety of restaurants under one roof you will probably ever find, 75 merchants serving exotic produce, baked goods, table linens, skin-care products, and a whole lot more. They specialize in their selection of Pennsylvania Dutch fare, at places like The Riehl Deli and Cheese Shop, Beiler’s Donuts and Salads, and Miller’s Twist, where they serve fresh, hand-rolled Amish-style hot butter pretzels.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the Reading Terminal Market is its variety of ethnic foods that you usually wouldn’t be able to find in your typical grocery store, or see on a menu in a chain restaurant. At Hershel’s East Side Deli they’re selling authentic homemade Jewish specialties and hand-carved pastrami, corned beef, and turkey sandwiches. Salumeria is an Italian grocery that offers 250 different cheeses imported from around the world. It’s like being a kid in a candy store.
Speaking of candy, don’t leave without heading to Mueller Chocolate Co., one of Philly’s oldest original family-owned and operated chocolatiers. They’re best known for their anatomically correct chocolate body parts and the chocolate covered onion. Whether you’re brave enough to try the chocolate covered onion or opt for traditional turtles or chocolate covered pretzels, Muller’s is sure not to disappoint.
3. St. Roch Market – New Orleans, Louisiana
This southern food hall is located in an extremely classy building that was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Luckily for us, it survived and is now booming with thirteen vendors serving dishes ranging from fresh, local seafood, cold-pressed juices, crepes, pastries, and more. Keeping up with the upscale nature of the St. Roch Market, all food is served on ceramic dishes and real silverware, rather than the disposable kind.
Here at St. Roch, every place you go to is going to be good, but there are a few shops that are more noteworthy because of their unique twists on classic dishes. At Good Bird, the menu revolves around free-range vegetarian fed rotisserie chicken that is transformed into artisan sandwiches, salads, and Mediterranean inspired sides. Or, you can just grab a whole bird right off the skewer to enjoy between friends. Fritai is bringing authentic Haitian food into the Caribbean influenced New Orleans market, something you would probably never see in your local mall’s food court.
For some good ole’ Louisiana fare stop by Fete au Fete, which serves up classic Creole dishes, a blend of African, French, Italian, Native American, Spanish, and Portuguese flavors. Everything they serve is made from scratch from fresh, local ingredients. Expand your palette with their crawfish poutine, pulled smoked duck, or duck leg grillades, or go for the Southern classic of warm, cheesy grits.
4. Krog Street Market – Atlanta, Georgia
Krog Street Market houses tons of sweet and savory Southern food vendors, as well as non-Southern food favorites and retail stands. The market is located in the heart of Inman Park, and stands as a gathering place for many locals grabbing a bite to eat, shop, or pick up ingredients to craft a unique meal of their own. The building was previously occupied by Tyler Perry Studios, where he made 16 movies, 14 stage plays, and 5 television programs. Krog Street Market finally opened in November 2014, and was named one of the 10 best food halls in the U.S. by Fodor’s Travel that same year.
As far as food goes, frequent visitors of Krog Street Market can’t get enough of the classic Southern restaurants serving up favorites like fried chicken at Richards’ and barbecue at Grand Champion BBQ. Grand Champion focuses on using local ingredients to craft their award-winning sandwiches, brisket, ribs, and drool-worthy macaroni and cheese. It’s sure to make any Southerner cry tears of joy.
If you’re not a fan of Southern fare, no worries, there are plenty of other vendors to tickle your fancy. There’s Craft Izakaya, a favorite place for sushi and Japanese fusion foods, as well as hand-crafted cocktails and Saki. The Little Tart Bakeshop offers fresh-baked pastries handmade with local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. They also have a coffee bar featuring Octane beans in their drinks ranging from drip to espressos to lattes. Around the market you can also find dumplings, meats and breads, hot dogs, and chocolate. You might get lost, but at least you’ll be lost in a land of food heaven.
5. Grand Central Market – Los Angeles, California
The Grand Central Market is just that, a grand food market in downtown L.A., bringing together California’s best chefs, ingredients, and entrepreneurs. Their mission is to establish a community around a shared table, honoring the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles while preserving the legacy of a historic landmark. The market is housed in a 30,000 square foot space that has been open since 1917 and now contains over 38 food and non-food vendors. Therefore, you know they’re doing something right with this operation.
L.A. is known for its unexpected and sometimes outrageous twists on classic foods and drinks, and at the Grand Central Market that trend continues. There’s G&B Coffee that’s serving up iced almond-macadamia milk lattes, putting any Starbucks drink to shame. Madcapra is taking falafel to a whole new level, by incorporating it into a variety of veggie-filled sandwiches and salads. You also definitely don’t want to miss McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, a foodie favorite at the market. They make their ice cream with grass-grazed milk and cream and local, sustainable, organic, and raw ingredients. It’s everything you could ever want your ice cream to be.
They also feature some quirky names, such as Ramen Hood, a vegan ramen and pho shop, Sticky Rice, a “Thai Comfort Food” restaurant, and Eggslut. Eggslut specializes in their over-the-top egg sandwich creations that take eggs from solely a breakfast food to something that can be enjoyed any time of day. After biting into one of these sandwiches, you’re never going to want your eggs just scrambled again.
6. Urbanspace Vanderbilt – New York City, New York
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, and across the street from Grand Central Terminal, Urbanspace Vanderbilt attracts tons of hungry people from all over the world desperate to try the 20 artisanal food vendors that occupy this food hall. The vendors rotate every few months, so there’s always something new and exciting to try.
New York’s best of the best eateries can be seen at Urbanspace, including Hard Times Sundaes, NYC’s #1 burger truck and home of the bacon-wrapped, deep-fried hot dog. There’s also Bar Suzette’s creperie, La Sonrisa Empanadas, Roberta’s pizza, and Dough doughnuts.
Before leaving the market you must try Sigmund’s Pretzels that are beloved by all walks of New Yorkers. They cover their pretzels with cheeses, spices, local prosciutto, salami, ham, and other charcuterie, or you can order them plain or salted and dip them in Sigmund’s specialty dips.
7. Union Market – Washington, D.C.
Located in our nation’s capital, Union Market has created a melting pot of different foods from a variety of cultures that bring people together in a one-of-a-kind food community. It began as Centre Market 200 years ago, and through the years of wear and tear it finally go to where it is today, a favorite spot for tourists, locals, and foodies alike.
Vendors feature eats from around the world, such as DC Mediterranean Corner, a grocery selling ingredients imported from the Mediterranean, DC Empanadas, whose owner brings a Guatemalan twist on the traditional empanada, and TaKorean, a fusion of Korean BBQ and Mexican fare. TaKorean is best known for their tacos that deliver Korean style Bulgogi beef, tangy chicken, or caramelized tofu, topped with always fresh ingredients on warm corn tortillas.
One of the most popular spots in the market is the Rappahannock Oyster Company. The owners of this spot go beyond sustainability to ensure their oysters are grown in such a way that’s actually restorative to the environment. Their world class oysters come out of the Chesapeake Bay and have earned them a spot at some of the best restaurants in the world. At the Union Market, you’ll see people slurping on these oysters like it’s nobody’s business.
8. Chophouse Row – Seattle, Washington
This market is probably the smallest out of all the ones featured in this list. There are only 7 shops that line a pedestrian alley, making it a secluded spot, however, one that is extremely popular to most Seattleite foodies. The Chophouse building also features a doggie daycare, indoor bike parking, showers, and exercise facilities, just in case you need to get rid of your food baby after a day spent eating at the marketplace.
Though this food hall is tiny, the vendors are serving up some mighty dishes. Upper Bar Ferdinand is a restaurant featuring wines sourced from all over the world, as well as local seafood that is smoked in their passive heat masonry smoker. Amandine Bakeshop attracts customers with their Parisian-style macaroons, cookies, cakes, breakfast breads, and tarts, made with their own handcrafted doughs. They also serve Empire Espresso, which offers French press, AeroPress, and lattes made with housemade cashew milk, just for all dairy-free folks.
9. Ferry Building Marketplace – San Francisco, California
This marketplace is home to the city’s greatest restaurants and farmers markets all gathered into one of San Fran’s most striking landmarks, the Ferry Building. It contains 49 vendors, ranging from restaurants, seafood shops, cafes, produce stands, specialty groceries and much more. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market also makes an appearance 3 days a week, so make sure you plan to be there to get your hands on fresh farm products and artisan prepared foods.
Some of the favorites here are the salumi cone at Boccalone, a salumeria featuring more than 20 varieties of Boccalone’s handmade cured meats. Is it just me or does everything taste better when it’s portable? Another portable hot spot is Humphry Slocombe, an ice cream shop serving up “ice cream with attitude”. They combine unconventional flavors with ridiculous toppings, such as Secret Breakfast, a mix of Bourbon and cornflakes. It’s ice cream like you’ve never known before.
Fresh is best in San Francisco, and the produce vendors at the Ferry Building Marketplace are very familiar with that. These vendors include beekind honey shop, Alfieri Fruits & Nuts, and Far West Fungi. At Far West Fungi they specialize in cultivated and wild mushrooms, fresh seasonal truffles and unusual mushroom products. They also sell mini-farms so you can grow your own mushrooms at home. Because yeah, you can definitely keep a plant alive.
10. Mount Vernon Marketplace – Baltimore, Maryland
The Mount Vernon Marketplace is Baltimore’s newest food attraction, featuring local experts that celebrate their culinary areas of expertise. These local artisans are bringing some serious eats to historic Mount Vernon that you don’t want to miss out on.
Of course being in Baltimore, the seafood is where it’s really at. Head to The Local Oyster for a shucking good time with oysters on the half shell or freshly shucked clams. They also offer a $45 seafood feast, which provides oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and potatoes with butter, cocktail sauce, and lemon. Sharing is recommended.
Aside from seafood, the Mount Vernon Marketplace offers Ethiopian fare at Fresh Monday’s Inc., breakfast favorites all day at Eat Taste Love, handmade Chinese dumplings at pinch., and cold sorbet at Micha’s. At the end of the day #treatyoself to delicious cupcakes and cookies at Edible Flavors, or throw back a drink at Taps Fill Station. After a day spent walk around eating you deserve it right?