Food halls, it seems, are a dime a dozen these days, having replaced “food courts” in our collective vocabulary. That’s why I often don't pay attention to them anymore, except when I’m using Google Maps to figure out where to get an emergency lunch. But when a hall like the soon-to-open Wells St. Market (205 W. Wacker Dr., The Loop) brings together some of Chicago’s best chefs along with some exciting new concepts, it’s worth taking a look.
“Everything in here was hand-selected,” says Michael Marsal of Alvarez & Marsal Property Investments, which owns the building. It shows: nothing about Wells St. Market is generic, and many of the vendors are unique to this location. Take Piggie Smalls, the first new spot from Jimmy Bannos Jr. since the Purple Pig, which will feature Greek dishes including gyros and salads. Then there's Tabo Sushi from chef Takashi Yagihashi (Slurping Turtle), which offers made-to-order rolls. The hall will also shelter FARE, a health-focused spot with build-your-own grain bowls and bone broth, and The Chow Brothers, serving a new take on Polish treats.
Other vendors include Firecakes Donuts, Dos Toros, Furious Spoon, and Pork & Mindys. A particularly exciting addition will be an outpost of Tempesta Market, featuring the deli's award-winning charcuterie and sandwiches.
Several years in the making, Wells St. Market came about because Marsal's firm had vacant space in the building it couldn’t quite figure out what to do with. He and his partner began exploring food options, realizing that there was demand for more exciting lunch and dinner options on the northern end of the Loop. "I was somewhat familiar with the food hall concept—I live across the street from Chelsea Market," Marsal said. "We didn't quite want to do what, but we called an architect and took pen to paper and divided the space up." And thus the idea for Wells St. Market was born.
The food hall, though, isn’t just about food. There’s a full cocktail bar, Grand Central Bar, with the acclaimed Dustin Drankiewicz (Moneygun, The Pink Squirrel) behind the stick (it will also offer oysters and bar bites daily). There’s even a flower vendor, local favorite Flowers for Dreams. “I fell in love with the guys when I met them," Marsal says. "They’re socially responsible and have passion for their art. Grab some flowers; make someone’s day."
The hall's open hours extend into evening so after-work crowds can grab cocktails, snacks, or even a full meal before heading home. “You’ll have all this action on Wacker [beyond] these giant bay windows," Marsal says. "You'll feel like you’re staring at the Merch Mart and interacting with the outside."
Wells St. Market opens on June 20. Food geeks, get excited.