Philadelphia's Suddenly Crazy About Food Halls
Home to two of the best classic markets in America, Philly's finally ready for the new wave.
Food halls, those new-style public squares, with their artisanal charcuterie, liquid nitrogen ice cream, bao mashups and chef-driven hamburgers might be all the rage across North America, but an always-hungry Philadelphia has mostly been content to stick to the locally-beloved classics, leading off with the nationally-celebrated Reading Terminal Market (established 1893), and, in a very important supporting role, the also-very-old Italian Market, which isn't really a market, but rather an entire neighborhood—one of the last and greatest of its kind in the United States. Whether Philadelphia needed to do so or not is debatable, but after years of holding out, the city is adding a handful of new food halls. One's already open, another is coming soon and still one more has just been announced. Here's a quick rundown of the projects.
Chinatown Square Around the corner from Reading Terminal in the heart of—you guessed it—Chinatown, this recent arrival was the first hall to open in the city. To its credit, Chinatown Square doesn't feel like more of the same, not in the slightest. It may not be open 24 hours a day as had been initially planned, but they’re definitely open late—for food, you have everything from Philly's first Halal Guys location to a place that does thai rolled ice cream, and a place upstairs for karaoke.
Penn Food Hall A dated food court (under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania) will revamp and relaunch in early 2018 as a proper market, with a well-curated selection of local names. Outposts of Goldie, the vegan falafel spot from James Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov (Zahav) and Kensington Quarters, a popular, meat-centric restaurant in Fishtown, will be stars of the operation.
The Bourse America's first commodities exchange—dating all the way back to the Victorian Era—is an architectural marvel, long ago converted to mixed-use; in recent years, it had become known primarily for an uninspired food court, along with an unglamorous collection of shops; the whole mess ended up catering primarily to unsuspecting tourists. (The Liberty Bell is all but out the front door, so that makes sense.) Next year, the ground floor gets a glorious refit, bringing in a sizeable number of carefully curated vendors, selling everything from olive oil to chocolate to dumplings to craft cocktails. Look for a Summer 2018 debut.