Food halls are becoming the darlings of the dining scenes in cities around the U.S., and Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio are no exceptions.
“The entire Dallas-Fort Worth region has seen an influx of food halls similar to the national trend,” says Zane Harrington, communications specialist at Visit Dallas. “It began with the Shed at the Dallas Farmers Market in 2012, but we’ve seen a big influx within the past two years.”
With multiple restaurant and bar concepts operating under one roof, food halls provide a diverse array of elevated, fast-casual options. Many food halls offer new concepts from local chefs who can experiment with menus on a smaller scale before expanding them elsewhere, Harrington says.
The added options make food halls a great place to host an event, as well, Harrington says.
“Food halls are great for groups because they offer a variety of cuisines, so everyone can eat and/or drink something they enjoy and are in the mood for, regardless of dietary restrictions,” Zane says.
At least five food halls opened in DallasFort Worth in 2018, including The Commons at Cedar Springs in Dallas, LC Kitchen in Plano, Urban 8 at The Colony, Crockett Row in Fort Worth and Texas Live in Arlington.
Houston and San Antonio will be adding more food halls to their inventory, as well. Houston’s first food hall, The Conservatory, opened in 2016, while its second, Finn Hall, opened in late 2018. At least three more food halls are set to open in the next year, including Bravery Chef Hall, offering five restaurants and three bars across from Market Square Park; Lyric Market, a 31,000-square-foot space designed to emulate Harrods’ food hall in London; and Understory, a 35,000-square-foot project connected to Houston’s underground tunnel system.
Bottling Department—located at the 22-acre retail, dining and entertainment hub Pearl—opened as San Antonio’s first food hall in July 2017. Bottling Department is currently the only food hall in San Antonio, though that will soon change. Construction of a second food hall to be located in downtown San Antonio began last fall.
Read on to learn more about some of the newly opened food halls in our state.
San Antonio’s Pearl, a mixed-use retail, dining and entertainment space north of downtown, is a community hub. Its food hall offers five restaurant concepts to complement other standalone dining options in the development. Guests can enjoy ramen at Tenko, seasonal greens at The Good Kind, Cajun-style chicken at Bud’s, artisan doughnuts at Maybelle’s and hand-spun milkshakes at Fletcher’s. Restaurant vendors also routinely update their menus and are open to customizing items for groups. Along with the food options, Bottling Department offers curated beer and wine offerings at the bar.
Bottling Department emphasizes food and community and hosts private groups during public operating hours. Groups can reserve space and have the option to bring in outside entertainment. Planners work with Bottling Department to provide guests meal vouchers so they can sample the hall’s vendors.
With plenty of programming at Pearl happening year-round, guests at Bottling Department can enjoy community events and entertainment like a farmer’s market and concert series just steps from the restaurant vendors.
Crockett Row at West Seventh in Fort Worth offers five walkable blocks of dining, shopping, entertainment and a food hall in Fort Worth’s cultural district. Crockett Row’s food hall opened in December 2018, filling a need for fast-casual dining in the neighborhood, says Adrian Verdin, senior vice president for Hospitality Alliance, which manages the food hall at Crockett Row.
The food hall features a dozen different restaurant concepts from a mix of nationally recognized and up-and-coming chefs, Verdin says. This includes Bryan and Caleb Lewis, the operators of Press Waffle Co., who pitched their restaurant chain on the television show “Shark Tank” this spring. Guests can enjoy Press Waffle Co.’s sweet and savory waffles along with cheesecake, shawarma, lobster rolls, cupcakes, Mexican street food and more.
Groups can buy out the food hall, which can accommodate up to 300 guests. For smaller groups of 25-50, planners can reserve a portion of the food hall. The venue can provide gift cards or tickets for guests to use at the vendors.
Since opening in December 2018, Finn Hall has hosted groups of seven to 1,000 guests. Many of these events have been cocktail-style receptions featuring a variety of food from all 10 of its food operators. True to Houston’s diversity, Finn Hall offers Vietnamese and Korean dishes alongside falafel, tacos, pizza, burgers, and a fresh seafood and raw bar concept, among other options. There are also two full bars in the space.
Finn’s mezzanine-level bar, Swallow’s Nest, celebrates the building’s art deco history and architecture. The food hall itself is named for Alfred C. Finn, one of the leaders of art deco architecture in Texas and the architect of Houston’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. building, where the food hall is located. Swallow’s Nest offers craft cocktails, beer, wine and a secluded spot for groups. True to its name, it also provides a bird’s-eye view of Finn Hall. Swallow’s Nest can seat up to 80 and can host 100 for a cocktail reception.