The food hall concept is coming to life before our eyes in the Queen City. Friday’s tenant announcement, a 560-square-foot Asian-inspired food stall called Bao + Broth, is just the latest for massive food hall, brewery and office project Tompkins Hall.
Owners Bruce Moffett and Larry Schreiber are part of the Moffett Restaurant Group, known for Barrington’s, Stagioni and Good Food on Montford, where Schreiber is the executive chef. Bao + Broth’s menu will feature quick and affordable items, including steam buns and ramen bowls.
“When I first started out as a chef I watched ‘Tampopo’, a 1985 movie that details the widow of a noodle shop owner on her quest for the perfect recipe,” Schreiber said in a statement. “Since then, I’ve always gravitated toward Asian cuisine, and this will be a fun opportunity to focus on it with the ‘perfect recipe’ being the driving force behind every Bao + Broth menu item.”
The 146,000-square-foot development project is under construction in a 125-year-old former mill building that once housed Highland Park Manufacturing Co., located a block away from the Parkwood Station of the LYNX Light Rail. The project is a joint venture of Atlanta-based Paces Properties and Charlotte-based White Point Partners.
So what exactly is a food hall and why is it so cool?
One thing a food hall is not: a food court. “We all mentally go back to the mall,” Paces Properties Principal Merritt Lancaster said. “There’s the Gyro Wrap, Sbarro, Freshens, Chick-fil-A, the Orange Julius. There’s a formula for that. They were in every mall in the country. It was what it was; it wasn’t exactly a culinary experience.”
A food hall, Lancaster said, is more than just a collection of restaurants. “It’s a very thoughtfully curated assembly of what we hope are the best food options in a number of categories.”
The developers toured other food halls for inspiration, including Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California and Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Lancaster spent time in France touring the marchés there.
“We didn’t invent the wheel here, it’s been around forever,” he said. “As we collectively move to a more casual dining environment, it doesn’t mean anybody wants to sacrifice food quality. You don’t have to go sit down for an hour and a half and spend $250 to have some of the best food in the city. You can go and order it and have it for lunch.”
Lancaster said, “Historically, it’s been if it’s fast, it’s not good, right? If it’s quick, it’s McDonald’s. That doesn’t have to be the case. Go to the market and it’s the best food you had — ever.”
Tompkins Hall tenants will also include Fonta Flora Brewery, Aix Rotisserie and Undercurrent Coffee.
“Adding Moffett and Schreiber to the growing lineup further solidifies Tompkins Hall as the preeminent food hall and culinary destination in Charlotte,” Lancaster said. “With an unrivaled concentration of food and beverage concepts, the project will be a community gathering spot and destination for not just for the residents of the Optimist Park neighborhood, but all of Charlotte.”
Duke Energy will be leasing the office space. With more tenant announcements expected in the next few weeks, Tompkins Hall is slated to have rolling openings beginning in late 2018.
Renderings courtesy of Tompkins Hall