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  • Writer's pictureKaren Bartlett

Foodies, Rejoice!

Five Must-Do Food Halls in Atlanta and the World

Markthal by Mihaiulia | Shutterstock


According to The Travel Channel, two Atlanta food halls, Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, are among the top seven in the world (yes, the world!), and they're within walking distance of each other. Both also happen to be walking distance from the cozy apartment in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward (O4W), where I’m spending a cold and sunny winter weekend. Which is so lucky for me because the route is as delicious as the destinations. I love historic neighborhoods, especially the gracious Victorian-era gingerbread homes and classic cottages reclaimed in Atlanta’s first planned suburb, Inman Park. Plus, I’m all about food grazing: breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours mean nothing to me. Furthermore, cold weather makes me hungry.

Both famed food halls are the coolest destinations on the Atlanta BeltLine, a former railway corridor. The wide pedestrian/biking/jogging path will one day connect 45 in-town neighborhoods. The O4W section is an outdoor gallery of street art and sculpture, and ever-changing graffiti bordered by abandoned industrial buildings reimagined as urban-chic housing, restaurants, and businesses.

The massive Ponce City Market, a 1920s-era Sears, Roebuck & Co. retail/distribution center on Ponce de Leon Avenue (pronounced like a local it’s Ponts-duh-LEE-ahn) and a former stove factory reborn in 2014 as Krog Street Market tick all the boxes of the nouveau-hip evolution in food halls. Along with the oh-so-Southern booths serving up fried chicken and soul food, there’s mouth-watering Cuban, Middle Eastern, Asian, Italian, Mexican fare, and more.

Unlike their sophisticated twentieth-century predecessors (think Harrods in London and the Great Food Hall in Hong Kong), these and other new-paradigm food halls around the world are all about reclaiming crumbling factories, warehouses, rail stations, and in one case, an orphanage, transforming industrial eyesores into urban-chic gathering places. Many are adding trendy overhead lofts and apartments, and rooftop event venues. The more exposed brick and ductwork, floating iron staircases, and institutional light fixtures the better. Extra points earned for original signage and bits of salvaged machinery-turned-objets d’art.

Chattahoochee Food Works, Atlanta

Krog Street Market: a former stove factory, Atlanta

Ponce City Market, Atlanta

photos by Karen T. Bartlett


It’s brilliant, really, especially after the pandemic changed the way the world does business. What better venue for budding food artisans to test their creations before deciding whether to dive into full restaurant mode. Visitors may well be rubbing elbows with a future Michelin or James Beard chef. Coffee snobs and gastronomes mingle with omnivores and vegans in a discovery quest for down-home comfort food to downright epicurean fare. You’ve got your takeout booths, your counter service, your main hall communal tables, and your artful semi-enclosed sit-down spaces, each one jazzed up (or boiled down to its essence), reflecting its own vibe.

Intimate conversation is not particularly a part of the food hall experience, where the buzz of a hundred voices and live or recorded music is another raison-d’etre, though most do have outside tables. Pedestrian breezeways may include small businesses such as gift shops, wineries, yoga studios, or bicycle shops. Inside or outside, everyone from early joggers and dogwalkers to families, all-day grazers, and the late-night cocktail crowd, seems to be smiling.

And why not?

Mural at Chattahoochee Food Works, Atlanta

Chattahoochee Food Works, Atlanta

Krog Street Market, Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta


Ponce City Market ::

Krog Street Market ::

Marche des Enfants Rouges, Paris

The seventeenth-century building in the Haute Marais district began as a sad orphanage during the reign of Louis XIII, where abandoned children were dressed in identical red clothing (hence the name Enfants Rouges – red children). Reimagined as an oh-so-hip food hall, Marche des Enfants Rouges nails the Parisian foodie vibe. Besides mountains of fresh produce and cheeses, it’s replete with independent boulangeries, patisseries, and dining counters that run the international gamut. The adjacent Square du Temple – Elie Wiesel is a beautiful garden to spread out your Marche picnic, Parisian style. If you crave tantalizing inside stories with your food samplings, foodie tours abound. Haut Marais is in the 3rd arrondissement, eight minutes by taxi from the Eiffel Tower.

Markthal, Rotterdam

From flower stalls and fishmongers to artisanal cheesemakers and bakers from all cultures, this horseshoe-shaped gastronomical wonderland under a soaring glass dome ceiling covered in supersized psychedelic fruit and vegetable mosaics is number one on my food hall wish list. Those grayish squares hidden in the massive veggie art are kitchen or living room windows to some of the 200-plus upper-level apartments. Talk about world-class people-watching! Authentic Dutch dishes are a must-taste, but with more than 100 vendors all cuisines are represented. Markthal is exquisitely suited to this city celebrated for totally outside-the-box architecture. Rotterdam is 20 minutes by train from The Hague; 40 minutes from Amsterdam.

Chattahoochee Food Works, Atlanta

Part of a multi-faceted food, shopping, and entertainment complex in a former industrial strip on Atlanta’s upper west side, Chattahoochee Food Works is the newest of Atlanta’s food halls. I enjoyed some exceptionally fine fried green tomatoes (and I’m picky) at Delilah’s Everyday Soul. Plans include a luxury hotel and residences.


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