This August the much-anticipated Morgan Street Food Hall & Market opens its doors, featuring a market-style atmosphere of food purveyors and a unique blend of locally made crafts and items. “Food halls have become a great destination to try different flavors from a particular region,” says Niall Hanley, owner of the venue.
The concept isn’t new. Anyone who has visited Atlanta’s Ponce City Market or LA’s Grand Central Market understands the exciting energy a food hall can create for a city. It can become a destination, a beacon for food lovers, and a celebration of local cuisines and cultures. The key, however, is in the dynamic chemistry of local, artisanal ingredients, up-and-coming chefs and creative entrepreneurs that come together under one roof.
Niall says the food hall is well on its way to achieving these goals: “Good selection of local talent; a good variety of local food offerings; fun upbeat environment with great options; and a central location to a great population of neighborhoods, offices, locals and tourists alike,” he says.
The beauty of a food hall is in the opportunity it gives startups, those who have a passion for what they do but with limited funds. For those yet to be established, both chefs and entrepreneurs, they are able to open up business without the enormous costs that might be associated with a brick-and-mortar enterprise. The food hall serves almost as an incubator, taking in raw talent and giving them an opportunity to build a reputation on a smaller scale. For the public, this can be an exciting and addictive adventure, being one of the first to discover a potential-celebrity chef or grazing on a diverse menu of innovative and fresh dishes with something to please everyone.
The long-term goal is for Morgan Street to sign up more than 60 vendors. So far it’s announced 12 retailers (including Yo Momma’s Style and Mike D’s BBQ) and eight dining tenants (City Sushi, Cousins Maine Lobster and Oak City Fish & Chips, to name a few). For now, most of the vendors and chefs are mostly established entities with room to grow; however, management is currently working with six new startups yet to be revealed. In order to succeed and entice the public and tourists to the Food Hall, Morgan Street must continue to lure Raleigh’s dynamic new talent to debut there.
Similarly to successful markets across the U.S., Morgan Street has a hefty footprint to fill, about 22,000 square feet, which offers both possibility and challenges. Finding enough fresh talent and high-quality purveyors to fill the space might take some time to establish, and ensuring that the Food Hall continues to showcase the best and brightest of up-and-coming local cuisine will certainly take consistent effort. However, the payoff is well worth the exertion and wait. If Morgan Street can achieve the vibrant balance of food and culture displayed at Ponce or Grand Central, Raleigh will certainly cement its status as the next culinary star in the south.