Food Hall Mania

Everyone Wants to Visit Houston Because of... Food Halls?

New York is really excited about our impending food courts.

By Gwendolyn Knapp January 10, 2019

2019ing so hard, yo.

Well, Look At That. The New York Times has just named Houston a coveted No. 46 spot on its list of 52 Places to Go in 2019.

Sorry, No. 47, Columbus, Ohio, but your "riverfront green space" is no match for our expansion of the MFAH, the new Holocaust Museum, or...wait for it... uhhh... food halls? Food halls!? Really?

Yes, fine, we do love that the NYT thinks our ballin' art scene, museums, forthcoming Apollo Mission Center at Johnson Space Center—and, heck, even the Rolls Royce and basketball-wife depot known as the Post Oak, are all major reasons to visit Houston this year—we think they are, too. But the food halls thing is kind of confusing. Are we really to believe the main reason to visit Houston in 2019 is because we're reaching peak fancy food court saturation? The majority of these food halls aren't even in operation yet.

Now don't get us wrong, we love our chefs and culinary scene. Underground food hall Conservatory is already a downtown staple, especially for late night bowls at the Pho Spot, and it's great to see Finn Hall up and running, serving all those downtown office workers Mala Sichuan and Goode Co. tacos— but seriously, the photo that accompanies the New York Times article is just that, a bunch of office people waiting around to buy lunch, not a bunch of hipster-touristy types waiting for Egg Slut at LA's Grand Central Market or pouring in from their selfie-time on the High Line for a coffee break inside Chelsea Market. 

Will any of our impending food halls become next-level tourist hubs? Who knows, but according to Forbes, food halls are supposedly the new food trucks, allowing chefs to open eateries on the cheap, while also allowing diners to "find independent places that might be miles from their hotels or their homes." And though it all seems rather 2012ish, food halls are still blowing up across the country, from Denver to Phoenix.

Just last week, Bloomberg also listed Houston among its favorite travel destinations of the year in Where to Go in 2019 and—you guessed it—cited food courts as a main reason to visit: "The city is welcoming not one, not two, but four jumbo food courts, including the 9,000-square-foot Bravery Chef Hall. Culinary talent here will focus on piloting new concepts, including a wood-oven steakhouse from famed cattle rancher Felix Florez and a pasta joint from Ben McPherson."

While we're looking forward to even more great eats, we're not completely buying that food halls are any more of a draw than our already astonishing (and often overlooked) dining options, from Asiatown to Little India to Montrose to EaDo.

It will be interesting, however, to watch what happens with all these big names on board. Since we reported on the impending food hall boom in our June 2018 issue, only Finn Hall has opened. Bravery Chef Hall, Lyric Market and Understory, the food hall at Capitol Tower, are still on the way Downtown, and now there are plans for Railway Heights and a new Rice Village food hall from Nola-based St. Roch Market operators as well. This doesn't even count the city's already booming food courts that serve locals on the reg, including Super H-Mart and Greenway Plaza.

So, until all this competition gets underway, perhaps you'll just find us staked out at the 99 Ranch food court. It is almost crawfish season, after all.  

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