It's a family rule that when we are traveling, we don't eat at places we have at home. We love trying beloved local favorites, be they unique fast food chains or family restaurants with a cool gimmick or high-end food from a different culture. And we really, really love food halls.
It's important to clarify that food hall ≠ food court. While food courts usually feature fast food chains, food halls tend to have local, higher-end cuisine. There are usually more globally-inspired options. The seating at food halls tends to be more communal, offering opportunities to meet up with others, and it's common to see games like cornhole or giant Jenga. A food court is a place to eat when you're doing something else (shopping), while a food hall is a destination. Finally, food halls often have a market component, which you don't find in food courts.
We love being able to order dishes from multiple vendors in a food hall. Some of the best food we've had while traveling has come from food halls. It was a challenge, but I narrowed down the list of places we've visited to our top 5 favorite food halls. Click the links to read about our experiences at each.
Our Family's Favorite Food Halls in the United States
Starting at #5: North Market in Columbus, Ohio. It's on the smaller side, but we had great food here and it was very affordable.
At #4, Transfer Co. Food Hall in Raleigh, North Carolina. Before visiting, I didn't realize Raleigh has such a fantastic food scene. We ate very well at Transfer and it was bustling with locals. I'd go there all the time if it were local.
#3 is the 3rd Street Market Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We overate because there were so many things we had to try. The atmosphere was really fun. It felt open and roomy, despite there being a lot of people there.
My runner up at #2 is Assembly Food Hall in Nashville, Tennessee. It was so good (and so big) that we actually ate there twice. The food options were really interesting and diverse. It was quite crowded, but we were able to find seating fairly easily. I'd love to go back.
And, our very favorite food hall: Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is enormous and everything looked and smelled amazing. It was crowded and seating was harder to find, but no matter what you were looking for, it was there. You could eat there daily for months and not repeat a meal. What a gem!
If I'd done a top 6 instead of a top 5, Ponce City Market in Atlanta probably would have gotten the spot. If you have a favorite food hall, let me know in the comments. I'd love to add them to my places to visit.