If you’re of a certain age, you may remember when American mall food courts were the place to see and be seen. The concept was logical—place centrally located seating in the middle of an eating area and then allow diners to pick what they want to eat from a variety of typically budget-friendly options located around the perimeter.
Fast forward several decades and replace the chain restaurants with local, gourmand-level street food stalls, add in a bar or two mixing up craft cocktails, high-end wines and local beers and move the location to a vacant warehouse or redeveloped locale and you’ve got the modern-day, on-trend street food market or food hall.
Thriving in some of the world’s more decadent culinary cities—from Sydney to Copenhagen and New York to Ghent, food halls and street food markets bring the best of international cuisine and pop-up dinners together in one hip and happening scene that everyone can enjoy.
The Bridge Street Kitchen in Copenhagen is located across from the iconic Nyhavn and accessed by crossing The Inner Harbor Bridge. This outdoor venue featuring large umbrellas and communal tables where visitors can enjoy outposts of some of the city’s most popular high-end restaurants and fast food concepts serving up outstanding street food—like the roast beef on rye open-faced sandwich with fried onions and pickled veggies from Palaegade.
Across from the UNESCO world-heritage Kronberg Castle in Helsinor, Denmark (yes, that’s Hamlet’s castle), tourists will find Elsinore Street Food–a welcome stop to refuel. Located in a former shipyard, the food hall ceiling is lined with old boats and fishing paraphernalia while communal tables fill the central area. Grab a Danish beer at the bar and decide between fish and chips, Syrian tapas, Japanese ramen or traditional Danish fare to name a few.
There’s more than surfing along Australia’s Gold Coast. You’ll also find Miami Marketta Street Food with 25 vendors serving up international cuisine—from Vietnamese bao buns loaded with soft shell crab or wagyu beef to simmering Spanish seafood moqueca. With seating for 650 people, a gin parlor and live music every evening, a visit to Miami Marketta is a night to remember.
In Sydney, the best place to sample the local seafood is right at the fish market where prepared foods are served alongside fresh-caught offerings from the largest working fish market in the southern hemisphere. Flame-grilled aubri seafood, fresh shucked oysters you pick yourself and baby octopus on a stick are just a few of the hundreds of offerings on display deli-style. A bakery and bottle shop round out the choices at this fish-focused stop where diners sit alongside the fishing boats.
Ghent’s Holy Food Market takes residence in a 16th century Baudelo chapel with a central bar for liquid sacraments and 16 food stalls for nourishment. From a vegan outpost to fresh oysters and a smattering of Russian, Malaysian, Italian and Flemish cuisine in between, it’s possible to sample the world without leaving the masterfully renovated church.
New York City
Back in the states, world-famous chef Jose Andres looks to bring the mercados of Spain to Manhattan’s Hudson Yards with his new food hall offering—Little Spain. Here you’ll find three restaurants, three bars and 13 kiosks specializing in Spanish tapas like jamon, patatas bravas, paella and cocas (savory flatbreads).
Salt Lake City
Here in Salt Lake, the forthcoming Food Alley by the Sapa Restaurant Group hopes to bring the concept of a street food market to life for Utah residents and visitors in the spring of 2020.
The one-acre property off of State Street and 800 South will be filled with locally owned businesses including seven large anchor restaurants, 10 smaller restaurants housed in shipping containers as well as a year-round farmers market and 21 artist lofts. The design is inspired by the streets of Japan and Sapa Investments hopes to bring together a community that can celebrate the world with international foods and cultures meeting in one intimate environment.
Hoang Nguyen, managing partner of Sapa Investments, explains that the smaller startup restaurants will feature patio seating for 35 to 50 guests each lined with Japanese maple trees. Restaurants will include international representation from Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, India and Russia.
Among the remodeled brick and steel buildings and re-purposed shipping containers of Food Alley, it’s envisioned that live music will entertain guests during the warmer months and weekends will host late-night food truck gatherings to draw more patrons.
With a focus on supporting local small businesses and up-and-coming entrepreneurs from many cultures, Food Alley and its predecessors around the world can deliver a taste of a country’s cuisine right to your plate.