Endless arrays: Food halls are spreading across Florida
Food halls, the hottest trend in Florida this year, may be the perfect option for diners looking for plenty of choices, offering an arena of choices —from craft beer, nitro-foamed coffee, artisan empanadas, oddball burgers and duck tacos to green, black and kombucha tea, ramen, barbecue, mixand-match mac ‘n’ cheese and poke bowls. Load any and all on paper plates and grab a Euro metal seat at a communal table of friends and strangers. Is it lunch, dinner, breakfast or happy any-hour munch meeting? No one cares.
The modern American food hall started when Eataly was imported to New York City in 2010. The concept of one space with many vendors attracted a bevy of independent foodies who found forgotten funky spaces in Orlando’s Audubon Park and Miami’s Wynwood — places where food trucks could kick off their tires and sit a spell, even plant some herbs.
Food halls have become a hot development tool to revive old neighborhoods and vintage brick buildings and to add sex appeal to sleek new projects, even invading the hospital zone. They are a cross between a permanent street food festival and a food court without the shopping mall.
With more than a dozen halls of all flags and price levels, Florida leads this front in the food revolution.
Miami has the most — and the most innovative — food halls, ranging from funky Wynwood to posh Aventura Mall.
The liveliest may be Wynwood’s new all-Asian 1-800-Lucky, started in true Miami fusion by the crew from cool blue Coyo Taco (octopus, duck, corn mushrooms). At Lucky, the tiki-hip crowd flits between vendors of ramen, banh mi and Asian ice creams. Drinks, music and, if you must, karaoke.
If you want Italian, the elegant Casa Tua’s restaurant and hotel in South Beach has spawned an all-Italian smorgasbord in Saks at Brickell City Centre. You can choose between chefs at stations for grilling, pasta, pizza and, of course, gelato and tiramisu.
St. Roch Market, a food hall from New Orleans, has created a Miami version in the Palm Court plaza in the Design District, with a dozen chefs and vendors from Milan, Israel, Peru, Japan, Vietnam. It features Southern cooking and contemporary cocktails.
Della Heiman, the health-conscious kickstarter behind Della’s Test Kitchen bowls, began with Wynwood Yard, an outdoor space with unlimited creativity in food, drink, gardens and art. Now she’s gone indoors in the medical district with Jackson Hall around Jackson Memorial Hospital with “eating elevated” bowls, poke, charcoal rotisserie, kebabs with za’atar, reubens and, and yes, alcohol.
Aventura Mall revved up its old food court to a 2018 vibe with Treats, a parade of celebrity brands and modern munchables like Todd English’s Figs & Mozzarella, Shake Shack and Michael Schwartz’s Genuine.
In the heart of a new Warehouse District in West Palm is Grandview Public Market, with bowls of ramen, poke and organic breakfast, pizza squares (a la Detroit) and the latest Asian dessert, rolled ice cream from Thailand.
More food halls are in the works for Lincoln Road, Little River, Delray Beach, Miami City Centre and beyond.
Dueling food halls buzz just north of Tampa’s downtown. The first is the Hall on Franklin, a 1930s commercial building now lined with fish-camp seafood, banh mi sandwiches and bao buns, gooey melts, waffles and flatbreads. Ser- vice is a refined format: Scout the vendors, order, find a table and servers bring food, drinks and bill.
Three blocks away is the old Armature Works factory on the river, now a vast mall of old brick, exposed steel, high ceilings, blazing graphics tables (and sofas) for a thousand eager diners. The menu includes wine and coffee bars and small dishes of all stripes.
More inventive dining is coming with a beer garden and chefrun pop-ups in shipping containers in Tampa’s Channelside. There’s also a new communal spot from the Oxford Exchange folks at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s complex in St. Pete.
Pioneering East End Market in Audubon Park remains endlessly eclectic, with stunning desserts and baked goods, juices, roasted coffees plus fashions and catering. A new Market on Magnolia downtown has poke, Neapolitan pizza, subs, hummus and a bar with 26 TVs and even more whiskeys.
The region’s biggest is in little Winter Garden at the Plant Street Market set up by Crooked Can Brewery. Vendors are as home grown and imaginative as CC’s brews (McStagger Imperial IPA to Mr. Tractor kolsch). Add fresh doughnuts, sushi, mac ‘n’ cheese, artisan chocolate, vegan sandwiches, a butcher shop, European breads, craft popsicles and Florida honey for a heady brew and a lively crowd that packs the old red brick building inside and out.
The menus at the old Armature Works factory include sushi, barbecue, updated Cuban, ramen and ice cream
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