There’s one now, four more on the way, and they’re all downtown

Mala, Finn Hall
Credit: Shawn Chippendale

At the prominent corner of Main and Rusk Streets, in the heart of Houston’s rather vast downtown, there is a rather striking piece of architecture—initially christened the Gulf Building, the 37-story tower has now stood for nearly a century, giving it plenty of time to watch the country's fourth-largest city spring to life, one bland skyscraper after another, nearly erasing the Art Deco triumph from a skyline it once dominated.

For the longest time, if you were the sort of person given to the appreciation of man-made wonders, and you happened to find yourself at this particular end of Houston’s seeming never-endingness, you would have been wise to come pay tribute to this tower, which shares its block of Main Street with the 1908 Jones Building, which used to be home to the oil company that eventually became Texaco. (Today, it is home to a ten-story co-working space, because that is just the way things are now.)

Next week, plenty of new people will be casually introduced to this highly attractive block—at the very foot of the Gulf Building, the doors will open on Finn Hall, not the first food hall (of five, that we know of) to land in Downtown Houston, but certainly one that's been widely anticipated. In the attractive, 20,000 square-foot venue, opening directly to the street, ten very Houston vendors will take their places, along with two bars, and—developers hope—lots of very hungry (and thirsty) people.

If you’re local, you’ll recognize some of the names, or at least some of the people behind some of the names—Heng Chen and Cori Xiong’s popular Mala Sichuan Bistro will open a scaled-back spot for tea-smoked duck and short ribs in spicy garlic sauce, Daniel Ajtai will cook modern Korean food inspired by his mother’s recipes at Yong. There will be Vietnamese street foot at Sit Lo, tacos at Goode Co. Taqueria, and cortados at Amaya, from Max Gonzalez, who inspired many a Houstonian to ask for more from their morning coffee at Catalina, back in the mid-aughts.

Finn Hall joins the pioneering Conservatory, just two blocks away, which opened back in 2016, and today serves up everything from very good pho at The Pho Spot, to very good tres leches cakes at Treacherous Leches. (There are also dozens of beers on tap, at the hall’s popular bar.)

Both halls will be competing even harder for foot traffic, soon enough—coming shortly will be the 9,000 square-foot Bravery Chef Hall, an upmarket spot featuring six separate restaurants and three bars, one in a greenhouse/conservatory-type setting; Christine Ha of MasterChef-winning fame will open The Blind Goat, local meat celebrity Felix Florez will helm Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Kitchen, while well-known chef Richard Knight will tackle the upscale diner concept.

And there’s more—in the theater district, show-goers will soon have a new clubhouse of sorts in the ambitious, 31,000 square-foot Lyric Market, envisioned by its developer as a future major tourist attraction within the city, akin to the likes of (their words) Harrods’ food hall in London. Details are scarce on what you will be eating and drinking inside, but the structure itself is already making waves—the hall will be located at the foot of a parking garage clad in LED-panels, the canvas for an impressive light show. Also next year, look for Understory, an even larger complex hidden within downtown Houston’s network of underground passageways—you’ll be below street level this time, but there will still be plenty of natural light, within the 35,000 square-foot space, centered around an impressive atrium.