Chicago's Best Food Halls: Local, Authentic Bevy of Options



The shopping mall food courts of old that housed the same old national fast food chains ("hey, let's grab a gray pad of meat on a bun followed by corporate cookie") begat a blitz of lively, delightful and convenient food destinations called food halls.

In typical Chicago fashion, we improved the concept by riffing on America’s great market halls (Boston’s 1742 Faneuil Hall and the century-old Grand Central Market in LA, for example), added just a smidge of mall food court – for convenience and speed – and filled the spaces with the inimitable eats of both established, emerging and one-off Chicago eateries.

Chicagoans and visitors now find themselves saying, "Hey let's grab labneh on local bread with a side of greens" or "I must have some Southern fried catfish and collard greens." Wander Forum 55, Revival Food Hall, Wells Street Market, Chicago French Market or Foodlife in Water Tower Place. 

Some of the eating atriums don’t necessarily house offspring of Chicago restaurants (see the ethnically specific Eataly, Mitsuwa  or Seafood City for Filipino food lovers) but they are just as fun, even more surprising and serve as a mini-international travel jaunt. The trend hasn't peaked, either, with largest food hall opening in 2019 in the Fulton Market district. 



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Located on the first floor of the 40-story Marriott Marquis Chicago, Showroom Food Hall is inspired by the golden era of automobiles. Five eateries steered by Furious Spoon alumnus, Chef James Kerwin, offer handcrafted, American comfort food. Revolution Coffee Counter features a variety of specialty drinks made with illy coffee as well as house-made baked goods from pop tarts to fresh pies. Argosy Soup & Sandwich is an airstream trailer/ food truck serving soups and sandwiches such as pho spiced pork belly, country pate and pickled carrots on French bread and turducken pastrami, kennel kraut and gruyere cheese on seeded rye bread. Hot Licks, an interesting choice, specializes in potato dishes and Winged Warrior lists wings, wood-fired pizzas, salads and charcuterie and cheese on its menu. Sip draft beer, wine and draft cocktails at Nomad. A mobile ice cream cart trucks throughout the space with grab-and-go ice cream treats, too.


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Albany Park


 

It's the food found everywhere in the Philippines, such as Jollibee, the Filipino McDonald's - plus two bakeries (Red Ribbon and Valerio's Bakery); Grill City serving chicken and pork skewers, grilled fish, classic dishes like Silog (garlic rice, fried egg and meat) and interesting vegetables like bitter melon and taro. Try Lechon Kawali (deep fried pork); lumpia (egg rolls); crispy bagnet (pork belly) or chicharon calamari at Crispy Town; Noodle City's noodle dishes, especially sweet Filipino spaghetti; fried rice; and soups like a beef wonton noodle. Finish with ube ice cream. It is a supermarket, too, so after eating wander the enormous fresh seafood area and Asian produce sections, browse packaged noodles and imported snacks; and pickup canned spicy sardines, longanisa pork sausage or Filipino vinegar for your next go at making adobo.


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Arlington Heights


 

It's fun to get lost in the large, popular Japanese superstore gazing at burdock root, daikon, other-worldy looking mushrooms, sukiyaki or shabu-shabu meats plus Japanese comic books, kitchen utensils and cosmetics. But it won't be long until you're inching toward the food hall for steamy bowls of ramen and udon noodles; tempura; Korean bibimbop and bulgogi; sushi and bento boxes; crepes and boba. Stop in Pastry House Hippo for cakes, buns and breads and browse the cooler for maki to go. The matcha soft serve at reLeaf Cafe is dreamy but do try the black sesame ice cream for something a little different.


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What Mitsuwa is to Japanese goods and food, Eataly is to Italian products and cuisine, only three times larger. The marketplace and food emporium offers four sit-down restaurants (Osteria di EATALY Chicago, Bierria, Baita, La Pizza & La Pasta) and eight quick service counters. You can get panini and salads fast at Pronto; made-to-order plates of fresh pasta at Ravioli & Co.; Cannoli & Rosé All Day; healthy Italian pastries and chocolate; antipasti and wine at the wine bar; gelato bar; and a focaccia counter with a wide selection of Italian flatbread. Baita is the winter concept (open through spring 2019) with a gnoccheria serving pillowy gnocchi, melted raclette, grilled cheese and spuntini snacks (Alpine-style finger food). The stock of Italian grocery is staggering so get ready to get lost in olives, biscotti, coffee, wine, pasta and rice, sweets and condiments. Eataly Chicago also holds cooking classes.


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The Loop


 

Open weekdays for morning, lunch and midday meals and snacks, Forum 55 is a food hall in the heart of the Loop offering convenient order and pay counter-service. Restaurants include Broken English for tacos, burritos and quesadillas; Flame (Mediterranean grilled salmon sandwich, vegan Beyond Burger; ,and Food Network star (and Elmwood Park native) Jeff Mauro's Pork & Mindy's. Grab sushi and poke bowls at Friends or order a cold or hot carved stack at Sandwich Shop. There's a grab and go marketplace and two incubator programs, Apron Exchange and FOODWORKS, offering food startups and neighborhood restaurants space on a rotating basis to introduce their menus. Veg heads will go for one of the city's largest salad bars featuring produce from nearby farmers.


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The Loop


 

A tasty trip to Latin America, Latinicity Food Hall and Lounge, located inside of the Block 37 building, has a roster of eight creative kitchens, a coffee café, full bar and lounge and a sit-down eatery, Pueblo featuring Mexican home cooking. Try a Peruvian-style stir fry melange of rice, noodles, steak, shrimp and adobo vegetables; build your own salad; burgers, hotdogs and fries with a Latin kick; Brazilian steaks and roasted chicken; fresh seafood prepared with with Latin ingredients and cooking methods; tacos, burritos and bowls; artisanal Latin sandwiches; or hit up the sushi, poké and ceviche bar. Every Sunday, brunch brings bottomless food, Mimosas, Bloody Mary's and house sangria (two hour limit). Sit by a window for lovely State St., theater and downtown views.


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Gold Coast


 

Located inside Water Tower Place, Foodlife was the original Chicago food hall opening nearly 20 years ago. With 14 distinct kitchens, you can start your day at Sacred Grounds Bakery & Café and Intelligentsia and La Colombe coffees with fresh-baked pastries. Lunch and dinner present quite a dilemma deciding upon tacos, crepes, pizza, sushi or barbecue. You can create your own pasta dish, fill up on big salads, get down with fried chicken, peruse the taqueria menu, have an M Burger or grab chopsticks for Chinese at Big Bowl. Tourists might get their local fix at Chicago Grill serving Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef and Maxwell St. Polish. Fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, shakes and a wine bar provide liquid nourishment.


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Wells St. Market, a food hall and market, is just across the street from the Riverwalk and Merchandise Mart. The diverse offerings work at any time of day, from a quick lunch to cocktails after work or before a show. There are nine fast-casual restaurants, a full bar with counter service and a floral shop, so pick up some flowers to brighten the rest of the day. Grab donuts and coffee at Firecakes; hearty pierogi at The Chow Brothers; sandwiches at Pork & Mindy's or Tempesta Market; plus sushi, ramen, salads, Mexican food, gyros, and delicious healthy snacks, toasts, build-your-own-bowls and more at FARE. Grand Central Bar is a full-service bar with sophisticated bar food.


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Chicago's first food hall dedicated to International cuisine will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019. Chicago French Market is a European-style indoor marketplace with than 30 vendors offering freshly made international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus daily Happy Hour specials, grab-and-go items, light snacks and even picnics. No matter what kind of cuisine speaks to you - Hawaiian, Polish, Italian, Vietnamese, Cajun, French, Latin American, Indian, New England, southern, vegetarian or even raw - there's plenty for you here. Aloha Poké seems to be continuously busy as it rides the poké wave and the banh mi sandwiches at Saigon Sisters are always a hearty sure thing. Open Monday thru Saturday, the French Market is managed by The Bensidoun family, the largest market operator in and around Paris since 1953.


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Revival Food Hall is what others aspire to with food by acclaimed local eateries al under one roof. The 24,000 square foot venue, in e heart of the Loop on the ground floor of The National, an historic 1907 Daniel Burnham-designed building. Fifteen fast-casual stalls are helmed by some of Chicago's favorite neighborhood restaurants as well as quick-serve options from several Chicago chefs. There's Aloha Poke, Black Dog Gelato, Duck Inn Dogs, Smoque BBQ, Farmer's Fridge and Union Squared among the lot. Don't pass her by: James Beard award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal operates a multi-roaster coffee shop, full bar and bakery. If you have time to spare, duck into the record store and reading corner to browse books and records by independent record labels and publishers from Chicago and the greater Midwest.


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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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