Industry watchers need not consult their crystal balls to get a handle on the concepts that will be shaking up the restaurant world in coming years. Thanks to food halls, pop-ups and food trucks, there are plenty of venues in which potential fast casuals can incubate and test their acceptance before moving to the next step of a standalone brick-and-mortar site.
Here’s a look at several food hall fast casuals that might have the mojo to break out on their own.
1. Japanese rice crepe wrappers
Eight Turn Crepe at the new DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, N.Y., highlights the versatile rice crepe. The strong yet pliable pancakes can be filled with virtually anything, from truffled egg white omelets for breakfast to shrimp-avocado salad for lunch to New York blueberry cheesecake for dessert. The crepes are wheat-free, and are also available via third-party delivery.
2. Pork-centric concept
Pig Pen Delicacy’s delicacy is fairly straightforward: pork, in all its various permutations. There’s the Candied Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich, a burger smothered in bacon jam, pork belly sliders and pulled pork nachos. Considering that 82% of consumers are willing to pay more for a burger that’s topped with bacon, according to Technomic’s 2017 Burger Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, this stall at the SteelCraft Food Hall in Long Beach, Calif., could catch on.
3. Gourmet, made-to-order sandwiches
Here’s a food hall concept that started as a food truck (which still operates today). Husband-and-wife team Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz, both with fine-dining pedigrees, started The Fat Shallot food truck in Chicago in 2013 and added the stall at the city’s Revival Food Hall a couple years later. The menu ranges from grilled cheese to a truffle BLT to an Italian sub with salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, eggplant, greens and balsamic reduction. The concept has become known for its indulgent sides like truffle fries, spicy sesame fries and fried potato salad.
4. Grandma’s Polish dumplings
The folks behind Pierogi Boys at DeKalb Market Hall in Illinois aim to introduce these old-school dumplings to a new crowd. The menu is simple: potato-and-cheese pierogi, sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi, and a meat pierogi with braised beef cheeks and pork butt. The pierogies are made on-site in view of customers.
5. Burgers, with a side of sass
The Toro Bravo Restaurant Management & Design Group, which operates about a half dozen restaurant concepts in Portland, Ore., is behind Bless Your Heart Burgers in the city’s Pine Street Food Hall. The burger concept is inspired by childhood comfort foods such as burgers and fries, with a cocktail menu that’s influenced by the ’90s to “elicit memories of underage drinking days,” according to the restaurant’s website. Burgers include the signature offering, topped with chili, onions, cole slaw, yellow mustard, housemade pickles and American cheese.