Food And Drinks

Detroit’s food halls bring street smarts and fine dining | Flavor | Detroit

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  • Courtesy Detroit Shipping Co.

  • Detroit Shipping Co.

Tired of going to the typical candlelit restaurant for a date? The next evolution of food is very different: the noisy, active and boisterous dining room.

The concept is so simple that once explained it could easily be mistaken for the “food court”, but the only way the food hall resembles its mall counterpart is its design – that is, a series of booths from different restaurant concepts be rented that stand next to one another. The difference is that instead of a Chick-Fil-A bumping into a generic Mediterranean fast-casual joint, the dining room is filled with booths that house cook-driven concepts that work more cohesively as a unit. In terms of design, some dining rooms are neon-filled labyrinthine walkways with flanked vendors, while others go for high ceilings, minimalist aesthetics, and spacious floor plans.

The Food Hall is at the intersection of a number of movements that are transforming many American cities: common spaces, higher density city centers, more culinary variety and experimentation, and contact with local boutique brands. In essence, they could be viewed as technology incubators with fewer computers and more hamburgers.

Chances are you’ve already visited a food hall in another city or country without realizing it. Quincy Market in Boston, Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, and Pike Place in Seattle were at the forefront of this trend. Although many of these establishments have become institutions in their own right, the food hall trend is widely viewed as a phenomenon that has become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of food halls in the US is expected to increase to 200 spaces by next year.

And this trend, much like the recent electric scooter trend, has taken root in Detroit. The roller coaster ride of the 21st century gastronomic revolutions that changed the way Americans approach food has only improved things, if not simply created new typologies of the dining area. Think of the Food Hall trend as just another course in a very appetizing meal.

Here’s a look at how the trend caught on in Detroit:

474 Peterboro St., Detroit; 313-462-4973; detroitshippingcompany.com

The Detroit Shipping Co. grocery store, opened in July 2018, is housed in a two-story stack of solid black shipping containers in Midtown’s Cass Corridor. You enter a large courtyard with food stalls around the perimeter, seating in the center, and a well-stocked bar on the right. There is a balcony above the stands that doubles as an art gallery with works by local artists. It’s loud in the way many new restaurants are loud, with a DJ taking care of the music and the occasional live performance.

Detroit Shipping Co. has come out of the gate with three restaurants and a coffee shop, with plans for more vendors to join them. Coop, a concept led by Chef Maxcel Hardy, offers a range of Caribbean fusion dishes. Bangkok 96 Street Food from Chef Genevieve Vang of Dearborn’s venerable Bangkok 96 Restaurant has brought her approachable Southeast Asian cuisine to the table. Brujo Tacos & Tapas from Chef Petro Drakopoulos serves halal tacos and small plates as well as seafood. The current roster is rounded off by -320º, the café and the nitrogen ice cream parlor by Nisharth Pital, which are located on the second floor.

Further providers will be added this year. Retailers Armadillo Printwear and Podcast Detroit, a local podcast studio, complete the space.

Dining options: Coop, Bangkok 96 Street Food, Brujo Tacos & Tapas, -320º

Monroe market.  - COURTESY MONROE MARKET

  • Courtesy Monroe Market

  • Monroe Market.

555 E. Lafayette St., Detroit; 313-223-2999; greektowncasino.com

Tucked away in the Greektown Casino-Hotel is a sprawling, 11,000-square-foot dining room that opened in April 2018 and first became known as the home of Noodle Art, one of the city’s first ramen bars. Foodies navigating the casino to find this gem will be rewarded with myriad options (seven in total), from grill to ramen to Neapolitan pizza. The 280 square meter wall unit that encloses a video screen will not let you forget that you are in a casino but will not let you be distracted by the incredible price.

The interior of Monroe Market is a sight to behold. Although Noodle Art is enclosed in its own glass flap, many of the concepts have their own flair that visually separates them. For example, Pit Boss is in a retro Airstream trailer and Tia Loca shows some Día de Los Muertos-inspired graphics, but the white tiles in between pull the hall together.

The Monroe Market differs significantly from the others in the fact that it is not immediately accessible from the street, which can be off-putting for people hopping around Greektown, but it has already proven to be more popular than the food court, that he replaced.

Dining: American Burger Bar Basil Josephine Bakery Noodle Art Pit Boss Southern Fry Tia Loca

Fort Street galley.  - KATIE LASKOWSKA

  • Katie Laskowska

  • Fort Street galley.

160 W. Fort St., Detroit; 313-230-0855; fortstreetgalley.org

In the financial district, the residents of the city center now have their own food hall. Opened in December 2018, Fort Street Galley has four different restaurants and a bar on the ground floor of the sunlit Federal Reserve Building.

The offerings of this new dining room include the Allenby sandwich shop (from former Selden Standard chefs Michael Goldberg and Katie Nelson), Lucky’s Noble BBQ (from Detroit’s renowned restaurateur Jimmy Schmidt), the Filipino concept Isla (managed by the married duo JP Garcia and Jacqueline Diño). and the Pursue sushi fusion concept (by Chef Mike Han), which combines 100 percent sustainable seafood with Detroit-grown produce. The bar component is curated by Marlowe Johnson, who is moving from the candy bar to FSG.

The project is the work of the Galley Group, which already has two food halls in Pittsburgh (the company’s home base) and one in Cleveland. As a self-proclaimed “restaurant accelerator”, this hotel group’s approach to the dining room is communal. A model that sends 30 percent of every restaurant’s revenue back to the Galley Group. The next location is to be opened in Chicago in spring.

With such a strong cast to the ensemble, this new restaurant is a lunchtime favorite this year.

Dining options: Allenby, Isla, Lucky’s Noble BBQ, Pursue

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Dusty Kennedy