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Best food halls in Tampa Bay

The food hall trend has taken off in the Tampa Bay area.
Published Jan. 31, 2019

Heights Public Market at Armature Works

Armature Works is a fully restored mixed-use building that breathes new life into the historic Tampa Heights neighborhood. With its unobstructed view of the Hillsborough River, the historic structure has been reinvented as a premier community destination with innovative eateries, Heights Public Market, reimagined event spaces and an exclusive coworking space.
Armature Works is a fully restored mixed-use building that breathes new life into the historic Tampa Heights neighborhood. With its unobstructed view of the Hillsborough River, the historic structure has been reinvented as a premier community destination with innovative eateries, Heights Public Market, reimagined event spaces and an exclusive coworking space.

Around the country, food halls are the hottest trend of the past couple of years. They work if the vendor mix is synergistic and not duplicative, if the prices are in keeping with nearby restaurants, if they can draw crowds at shoulder times in addition to traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner, if they can gloriously reimagine a historic old eyesore, if they can accommodate families and hipsters, carnivores and vegans alike. Developers Chas Bruck and Adam Harden have knocked it out of the park with the 22,000-square-foot Heights Public Market and the larger Armature Works project, set in the old Tampa Electric streetcar depot. (Next up is a rooftop bar, an outdoor pavilion bar, a six-floor office building, boutique hotel and huge old salvaged water tower.)

The Godzilla burrito and Tuna Poke, center, from Zukku, with an assortment of other dishes at Armature Works. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
The Godzilla burrito and Tuna Poke, center, from Zukku, with an assortment of other dishes at Armature Works. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]

There is enormous private function space and a more intimate demonstration kitchen that have already been put to use for loads of community events, and the market has become a regular hangout for Tampa Bay families and visitors. Steelbach is the excellent sit-down anchor at one end of the market, Anne Kearney’s Oak & Ola will be the second one later this year. In between are 14 individual vendors, a few of which have rotated since the market’s opening. The whole place is photogenic, with antique foot-treadle hand-washing sinks and atmospheric old machine parts and chimneys. Cru Cellars, rumor says, is killing it way beyond what its South Tampa outpost does; Union by Commune is a coffee house as busy as I’ve seen in Tampa. Ichicoro Imoto traverses the challenges of quick-serve ramen effectively (don’t wander off; you need to eat ramen pronto); Hemingway’s does a nice job with Cuban classics. The list goes on. My wish for 2019 is a solution to all the disposable food containers. armatureworks.com

Address: 1910 N Ola Ave., Tampa

Phone: (813) 250-3725

Price: $-$$

Sparkman Wharf

A line leads to the Flock and Stock at Sparkman Wharf on December 5, 2018 in Tampa. [TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times]
A line leads to the Flock and Stock at Sparkman Wharf on December 5, 2018 in Tampa. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]

The name concerned me. Sparkman, Sparkman - everyone seemed to have a hard time remembering it. And then shipping containers. Orange County, Calif., was doing it, Detroit was doing it, but was Tampa enough of a pedestrian-friendly, take-it-outside audience for what amounted to an outdoor food hall made of linked metal containers? The original Channelside was what aliens would have constructed after seeing a single postcard of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor: hard to use, claustrophobic, terrible use of its waterside location. Opened at the end of November, this food court that anchors the new $3 billion Water Street development from Strategic Property Partners (Jeff Vinik’s multi-use project on the waterfront) has been nothing short of a smash.

A sample platter from Flock and Stock at Sparkman Wharf. [TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times]
A sample platter from Flock and Stock at Sparkman Wharf. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]

It’s attractive, urban and hip, with an outdoor space that invites lingering. But the real genius is the drawing together of some of Tampa Bay’s most notable restaurateurs: Gallito Taqueria (folks from Rooster & the Till), BT in a Box (BT Nguyen), Edison’s Swigamajig (Jeannie Pierola), Corners Pizza (the Ichicoro peeps), Montados (Mise en Place), Flock and Stock (Dave Burton), Boat Run Oyster Company (Ryan Conigliaro and Scott Roberts), Whatever Pops, Foundation Coffee and Fermented Reality Biergarten (Joel Bigham). Plus it’s dog-friendly and there’s pay-parking nearby. When the University of South Florida’s medical school and nearby apartment high-rises open, Sparkman is going to ignite. sparkmanwharf.com

Address: 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa

Phone: (813) 345-5881

Price: $-$$

Hall on Franklin

The Hall on Franklin is a restaurant collective that opened last month, with some of the biggest names in the city's food scene. The eight thousand square foot space features seven food vendors. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
The Hall on Franklin is a restaurant collective that opened last month, with some of the biggest names in the city's food scene. The eight thousand square foot space features seven food vendors. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]

Tampa Heights hit the jackpot. Jamal Wilson sold his mortgage and real estate company to a local credit union and then looked around for what was next. From Source in Denver, Revival Food Hall in Chicago, Grand Central Market in Los Angeles and Gotham West Market in New York City, the answer was obvious: Food halls were next. As we saw when Richard Gonzmart and crew developed Ulele, Tampa Heights has gorgeous old buildings that have lingered listlessly until a visionary swooped in. Wilson followed suit, scooping up a lovely 8,000-square-foot space that was once an auto shop and later a dance hall. His vision was a bit different than some of the food halls around the country: He wanted full sit-down service, so you could dine anywhere, order off a multivendor menu and have the food find you. You pay once, you don’t go the hunter-gatherer route with someone in your party staking out your seating.

A variety of the dishes available from vendors at the Hall on Franklin, in Tampa, Fla. on September 28, 2017. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
A variety of the dishes available from vendors at the Hall on Franklin, in Tampa, Fla. on September 28, 2017. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]

The lineup of vendors has been refined since the Hall debuted in 2017. It’s got Jason Cline’s Poke Rose, Kevin and Xuan Hurt’s North Star Eatery, Ty Beddingfield’s Kofe, Ro Patel’s the Collection cocktail bar, Mark Traugutt’s new Fork & Hen, Dan Bavaro’s Sorellina pizza, Julie Curry’s Bake’n Babes and Xilo Street Mexican. thehallonfranklin.com

Address: 1701 N Franklin St., Tampa

Phone: (813) 405-4008

Price: $-$$


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