Variety, affordability, immediacy, informality and community are just a few of the reasons that diners flock to food halls these days.
Food halls are the 21st century iteration of past years’ bustling markets, cafeterias and mall food courts with the ubiquitous Sbarro and Panda Express counters. The halls capitalize on the fast-casual dining trend of higher quality food, combined with quick service, by assembling an array of eateries under one roof. Featuring a wide variety of offerings, food halls are lively, come-one, come-all gathering places.
Although Atlanta’s Municipal Market, also known as Sweet Auburn Curb Market, has played a sort of food hall role downtown for more than a century, the 2014 opening of Krog Street Market marked the arrival of the modern food hall in the city.
Just eight years later, the metro area is home to 11 food halls, ranging from behemoth Ponce City Market, which has more than three dozen food and beverage vendors in 300,000 square feet of space, to micro food hall Qommunity in East Atlanta Village. A whopping eight more food halls are in various stages of planning and development.
Real estate developers have hopped on the food hall bandwagon, because these dining spaces draw crowds at a time when shopping habits have shifted online, affecting brick-and-mortar retail sales.
There are pluses for stall vendors, too. Startup costs for stalls are much less than for opening a restaurant, and there’s built-in foot traffic, making food halls a place where budding entrepreneurs can gain a foothold in the market and test menu ideas.
In our Fall Dining Guide, we take a dive into the metro Atlanta food hall scene, which includes about 150 vendors. We take you on a tour of every food hall, explaining what is unique about each destination and pointing out some favorite bites and sips.
In addition, we trace the evolution of Atlanta’s beloved Sweet Auburn Curb Market, and what has given it staying power. And, we go behind the scenes with food hall developers and stall vendors, to learn what it takes for a food hall to be successful. Finally, we’ve got a handy list of the food halls headed our way. Chances are, there’s one opening in your neck of the woods.