Pass the poke please: Food hall at City Foundry opens to enthusiastic crowds

6.%09Exterior+of+the+food+hall+entrance

6. Exterior of the food hall entrance

CHERYL BAEHR, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The moment St. Louis diners have been waiting for has finally arrived: The Food Hall at City Foundry, the dining arm of the brand-new sprawling, multi-use development in Midtown, welcomed its first guests on Wednesday, Aug. 11th. The grand opening comes five-years after the project was first announced, fulfilling its promise to breathe new life into an underutilized stretch of Midtown.

The Food Hall is the crown jewel of the ambitious City Foundry, a massive 300,000-square-foot complex consisting of retail, office, entertainment and residential space. Located near the intersections of Vandeventer and Forest Park avenues between Cortex and St. Louis University, the development is angling to be an anchor for that area of the city while drawing people in from the entire St. Louis metropolitan area and beyond.

Dining is a key part of that calculus, and extra care was put into making the Food Hall a unique culinary destination. Under the direction of Gerard Craft, the James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Niche Food Group, the dining complex brought in several familiar faces of the city’s dining scene while introducing up-and-comers as well. Eleven restaurants make up the opening line-up, including the Korean-Mexican eatery formerly located on Cherokee Street, Kalbi Taco Shack, and Turmeric Street Food, which is a casual spinoff of the University City Indian restaurant, Turmeric. Other concepts include the West African restaurant, Chez Ali, Hello Poke from the owners of Sando Shack food truck, Press Waffle Co., Poptimism, and Patty’s Cheesecakes. The team behind the popular Lafayette Square area restaurants the Bellwether and Polite Society have two eateries inside the Food Hall – Good Day, which features crepes and breakfast fare and Subdivision, permanent home for the sandwich pop-up they launched last year.

“These are 11 unique concepts, and as we open more, they will also serve different types of food,” says Christina Weaver, director of marketing for City Foundry. “You will not find the same type of food anywhere else at the Foundry. If you are here with a group, everyone in the group with different preferences has options; there is something for everyone.”

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Aliouan Thian, the chef and owner of Chez Ali, is thrilled to be one of those options for guests of the Food Hall, and he is excited to bring something new and exciting to the St. Louis culinary scene.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” says Thian. “I’m from the Ivory Coast and Senegal, and I wanted to bring African cuisine here. The food is great, and we have so many diverse cuisines, which is why we are doing a buffet. I’ve had three restaurants here, but it’s such a good opportunity to be with City Foundry, which is so well-known. It’s going to be really successful.”

Amy Guo, who owns Hello Poke with her partner, Dan Jensen, echoes Thian’s enthusiasm, especially when it comes to the diversity of cuisines available at the Food Hall.

“I really love how the space came together and how each stall is so individually creative and has its own style,” Guo says. “Everyone is their authentic self, and I love how diverse everything is. [City Foundry] told us to make ourselves known and shown and encouraged us to do so. It’s such a great community, and this concept shows how we are all in this together.”

Though food is the main draw, the attractiveness of Food Hall at City Foundry’s design should not be understated. The soaring space, a former factory, embraces its industrial roots with steel rafters, glass and concrete floors, punctuated with large, live greenery-wrapped columns. The centerpiece of the space is the Kitchen Bar, the hall’s beverage concept, which is run by Niche Food Group.

The Food Hall currently offers dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, however, each restaurant has its own individual hours. Guests are encouraged to check City Foundry’s website for these and other details. For now, the Kitchen Bar is open during dinner hours only, but plans in the works for this to expand to lunch and late-night service. This, together with nine additional concepts opening throughout the fall, means that St. Louis is only experiencing the beginning of what City Foundry will be – something Weaver hopes eager diners will come out to see for themselves.

“Come on out,” encourages Weaver. “We’re ready for you. There’s so much work that’s gone into this for so long, and we are ready to see it fly.”