Variety is the spice of any good friend group — until it comes time to plan a birthday dinner with a vegan and that guy who eats only fried chicken. Enter the food hall, a new breed of dining environment where crowds with diverse tastes can order from stations specializing in one of a dozen different cuisines, then feast together at a big communal table — no reservation required. If it sounds like a food court, well, yes — except that there’s a bar, possibly even a DJ, and your dinner options aren’t the watered-down offerings of some sad restaurant chain.
At Assembly Chef’s Hall in Toronto, for instance, that stall in the corner isn’t just cooking Thai food — it’s cooking the best-case scenario version of pad gra prao pork, courtesy of chef Chantana “Top” Srisomphan from Khao San Road. And the sweet-and-sour pork hock? That would be the work of Nick Liu, the talented visionary behind new-Asian resto DaiLo in the city’s west end. In other words, the food hall is history’s most ambitious crossover event since Avengers: Infinity War. “We’re one restaurant, but we’re also 18 restaurants,” says Andreas Antoniou, Assembly’s founder. With so much to choose from, the culinary scene is your oyster. And also your ramen, your curry, and your omakase.
HALLS OF FAME
Six other food halls we’re ordering from around the globe
This historic Amsterdam West complex was once used to service the city’s trams. Bingo games, jazz performances, and pub quizzes keep the energy alive after dark.
What to order: Hands down, the award for the best resto name in the building goes to Baowowow Yippie Yo Yippie Yay. When it’s time for dessert, head to Yoghurt Barn to gain a better understanding of why the Dutch have such a strong affinity for dairy.
St. Roch Market, New Orleans
This Greek Revival building, complete with 30-foot columns, was restored to its 1930s glory after Hurricane Katrina. A sister location recently opened in Miami.
What to order: Haitian street-food specialists Fritai serve pork shoulder between two fried plantains, while the Louisiana crab cakes at Elysian Seafood — complete with creole potato hash — are best washed down with one of the many strong rum-based cocktails from the Mayhaw.
Credit this Hell’s Kitchen destination for devising the formula for a modern food hall all the way back in 2013. Five years later, it remains one of the world’s best.
What to order: The Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop stall here gives NYC visitors a chance to enjoy chef Ivan Orkin’s famous rye noodles without having to endure the long lineup that’s a trademark of his bustling Clinton Street restaurant.
Grand Central Market, Los Angeles
Today’s buzzy food halls have more than a little in common with the central civic markets of yore. Thanks to the recent resurgence of downtown L.A., this 100-year-old hall remains as hip as ever.
What to order: Eggslut, specializing in McMuffin-style sandwiches, will get the day off to the right start. Given that this is L.A., you can substitute their brioche buns for pieces of lettuce. But since the bread is baked fresh, you really shouldn’t do that.
Ponce City Market, Atlanta
Anchoring a redevelopment of three historic buildings into a retail, office, and condo complex, this food hall boasts a rooftop beer garden with one of the best views of Atlanta’s skyline.
What to order: W.H. Stiles Fish Camp lets you take your pick of 20+ different varieties of oysters. Meanwhile, the fried chicken sandwich at Hop’s is the result of 10 months of recipe development by James Beard Award-winning chef Linton Hopkins.
Tivoli Food Hall, Copenhagen
Located next to the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park, this just-opened marketplace of fast-gourmet fare is probably best to visit after you’ve gone for a roller coaster ride.
What to order: Smørrebrød shop Hallernes — famous in Copenhagen for its open-faced sandwiches — has an outpost here, as does the team behind Michelin-starred restaurant Kadeau, who, at Bobbabella, serve up elevated takes on their favourite ’80s takeout food.