Food Halls vs. Food Courts, Is There a Difference?

Accidental Locavore Soft OpeningRemind me and keep reminding me that the only difference between food halls and food courts are the slightly better-looking kiosks, tables and chairs, and the significantly higher prices. The Accidental Locavore was eagerly anticipating the opening of Vanderbilt Market at the north end of Grand Central for the chance to up my take-on-the-train lunches and/or have a place to meet people that was a little nicer than the basement of GC.

Sadly, this does not seem to be it. I cruised by on the “soft” opening day. Apparently my idea of a soft opening (limited menu, trying to get the kinks out) and theirs (unlock the doors) were miles apart as none of the 20+ vendors were actually selling food. Disappointed, my friend Laura and I went to our favorite Szechuan place and sweated through a great meal.

Accidental Locavore Soft OpeningToday, having time before my train, I went back. All the stalls were open and, for some of them, surprisingly busy at 11:30 in the morning.

If you had ANY doubts about rice bowls being the trendy food of the moment, a walk through Vanderbilt Market certainly won’t dispell that notion! Regardless of the cuisine in question, almost every stand had a rice bowl selection. From predetermined combinations to the infinite possibilities of choosing it yourself, there were offerings for vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, omnivores, pescavores — you get the idea.

I ordered mine (when in Rome…) from Mimi’s Hummus. It was chicken shawarma, with cucumbers, red onions, cooked yellow onions, parsley, mint and a curry yogurt sauce but surprisingly, no hummus. That was $9 on top of the $14 price tag for the rice bowl.

Accidental Locavore Rice BowlOther food options included Red Hook Lobster, for your choice of lobster rolls with different pedigrees, local coffee roasters who believe that “each coffee can tell a story, and we strive to share that in every cup,” a variety of Asian stalls ranging from Bangkok to Hong Kong with stops for Asian hot dogs and Japanese tacos. Spicy tuna nachos anyone?

While I’d probably rather eat pizza from Roberta’s than Roman Delight at the mall, the look of all these places — halls or courts — is the same and sadly none of the food I’ve had is outstanding. And while it seems like I’m picking on Vanderbilt Market, it’s the same for Gotham West, Brookside Place and even Eataly. So, please remind me the next time!





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