Heights Public Market at Armature Works
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.)
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
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.
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
Hall on Franklin
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.
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