I had one big question when I sat down to talk to Michael Kornick and David Morton about their new venture, Hayden Hall, which opened this month: Does Chicago really need another food hall?
The restaurateurs, whose other projects include DMK Burger Bar and County BBQ, obviously think so, since they’ve spent more than $15 million dollars on a beautiful Studio K–designed, World’s Fair–themed dining space. After visiting and talking with them, I’m sold.
First, the basics: Named after Sophia Hayden, the young architect of the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Hayden Hall is located at 333 South Wabash Avenue, in a corner of the Loop that Kornick and Morton think is somewhat underserved by great eating options. The lineup includes 10 smaller vendors, like Brown Bag Seafood Co. and Mana Food Bar. There’s also a wine bar, Sophia’s, and a second full-service location of Ada Street. The interior boasts further historical Easter eggs, with murals depicting structures and figures from the World’s Fair.
Even with all those enticing details, Hayden Hall seems to be catching the tail end of a trend. Chicago has a ton of food halls, and some have even closed already. So why do it?
One reason, Morton says, was the location on Wabash.
“It’s a rare part of Chicago where you actually can add supply where there is an abundance of demand,” Morton explains. “We were given several opportunities in the Fulton Market area, and that felt like just adding additional marginal supply.”
Put colloquially? “Our strategy is like fishing where there aren’t a lot of boats.”
This hall also has some features that set it apart. First, owing to its partnership with Grubhub, you’re able to order in advance and see exactly how much time it would take to get served at the various food stalls, offering some structure to an otherwise-hectic lunch hour. The full-service wine bar and Ada Street location allow for more formal dining. And there are offerings you won’t find elsewhere downtown, like sausage and meat by Great Lake Meat Co., Korean-style chicken from 10Q Chicken, and tacos from Taqueria DeColores.
Morton and Kornick also point out that they are one of the only halls run by a chef rather than a realtor or investor. Everything from the kitchens to the waste disposal was designed by experts with experience. In the end, that could mean better service and better food instead of a confusing space with long lines, no seating, and vendors who are trying to compete with each other for your dollar.
Hayden Hall has also bet heavily on corporate business, offering up a ton of space for office parties. “You can call us and ask to set up a party, and we can accommodate a table for 20 at the last minute,” Morton says.
Hayden Hall is open into the evening Monday to Friday and Saturday until 2.