Chicago Takes on the Food Hall and Succeeds

Revival Food Hall (125 S. Clark St.) has become my sanctuary on Monday nights this semester. Between eight-hour days at my internship and two-and-a half hours of night classes, each evening, I was looking for a place where I could relax and get some tasty grub. Revival Food Hall fit my bill and exceeded my expectations.

A tradition in Europe for many years, food halls have recently made their way to the United States. These multi faceted, typically indoor markets feature a variety of local food vendors and artisanal products. Stylish and convenient, Revival Food Hall in particular provides endless food options for customers.

World-class chefs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianach brought Eataly (43 E. Ohio St.), a high-end Italian food hall containing many different restaurants and craft products, to Chicago in 2013. Then came Latinicity (108 N. State St.), a Latin food hall featuring Latin street food, in 2015.

Finally, on Aug. 17 this past summer, Revival Food Hall was born. Instead of featuring just one type of food, Revival provides visitors with cuisine options ranging from Mexican, to Japanese, to southern barbecue. Since opening, it has grown into a place for people to eat during the workweek lunch hour or with co-workers after the workday ends. Inside, you can walk around the hall while you think about which one of the 14 food vendors you will choose.

Dreamt up by the owners of 16” On Center, who have yet to steer me wrong (they also own restaurants such as Longman & Eagle and Dusek’s and venues such as the Empty Bottle and Thalia Hall), Revival Food Hall is a market-like dining concept that showcases Chicago’s best culinary options all under one roof. Built on the ground floor of The National, a historical building, the massive, 24,000 square-foot marketplace is located in the heart of Chicago’s central business district.

I appreciate its locality and its ability to take risks on young, up-and-coming chefs who cannot afford to start their own restaurants in expensive areas such as The Loop.

I have yet to eat the same meal twice at Revival Food Hall; the options are limitless. When you find yourself walking around in circles confused about what to eat, remember these recommendations from a self-proclaimed Revival Food Hall expert. Here are the top five places to eat at Revival Food Hall:

  1. The Fat Shallot: This sandwich shop, which serves options including reuben sandwiches and grilled cheese, is proof that the Fat Shallot food truck needs to open an actual restaurant. The Truffle BLT is hands-down the best BLT I have ever had. Order your sandwich with a side of truffle or spicy sesame fries. This vendor offers several desserts, but its chocolate chip cookie is to die for.

  2. Graze Kitchenette: If you like acai bowls, Graze is the place for you. The acai bowl is fresh and delicious, but so is the seasonal bowl, which is currently a butternut pecan bowl (quinoa, apple, maple, pumpkin seed, goji berry, coconut, granola). The minds behind Johnny’s Grill and GT Fish & Oyster combine forces for this special stand. You cannot go wrong here, either. The egg will ooze out of your egg sandwich on a biscuit roll, and the burger is made with grass-fed, local beef. The combination of burgers and bowls seems strange, but it works.

  3. Furious Spoon: This Tokyo-style Ramen shop is always busy at its other locations in Chicago, and that’s no different at the Revival Food Hall location. Get the Furious Ramen and add the sweet corn; you will not regret it. The Ramen noodles are made daily with a machine imported from Japan. Besides the Furious Ramen (the shop’s namesake Ramen), you can also order Vegetable, Shoyu or Miso Ramen. Opt for a variety of additional toppings, which include bean sprouts, marinated mushrooms, roasted garlic, bamboo, beef brisket and more.

  4. Antique Taco Chiquito: This vendor has an ever-popular big-sister restaurant, Antique Taco, which has been making waves in Wicker Park for the past four years. When you try Antique Taco Chiquito out, you’ll see why. Each taco it serves is delicious, but one of my friends recommended I try the taco salad and add chicken. As one who is not usually a big fan of salads, I gambled and went with her recommendation, and I don’t regret it. Definitely do not pass up the chips or fresh-made guacamole. Pro tip: Antique Taco Chiquito has pocket-size Chiclets gum in a metal bucket on the counter, which is important when you have to dart to class and you don’t want your breath to smell.

  5. Union Squared: Detroit-style pizza, which is square pizza with a deep-dish crust, has made its way to Chicago. Not to be confused with Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, which is pressed into a round pie pan and has a hearty, bowl-like crust, Detroit-style pizza crust is light and airy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Also unlike Chicago-style deep-dish, Detroit pizza’s sauce goes on top of the cheese. Go for the one-fourth pizza and one side combination. The menu features seasonal vegetables, which change daily, as side options. I opted for the combo: a wild mushroom, leek and walnut pesto pizza with a brussel sprout salad on the side.
  6. Danke: I have not been to this charcuterie stand yet, but I have been meaning to. The sandwiches made with the freshest quality of meats and cheeses look too delectable to pass up.

  7. Revival Cafe – Bar & Bakery: Here, the barista behind the various coffee shops Elaine’s Coffee Call, La Columbe and Lavazza joins forces with the bar manager at the Aviary and Drumbar. The cafe offers a special list of caffeinated beverages and exotic cocktails. James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal, of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, provides the baked goods.

  8. Brown Bag Seafood Co.: Brown Bag has a Chipotle-style, build-your-own bowl set up, but instead of Mexican fare, it sells seafood. First choose the base of your bowl: either grains, veggies or both. In terms of seafood, you can choose from grilled teriyaki salmon, crispy fish bites, crispy shrimp or the grilled catch of the day. If you are not a seafood person, order the grilled chicken instead. Then order the truffle-parmesan tots on the side to go with it.

  9. Smoque BBQ: Dubbed some of the best barbecue in Chicago, this joint drew people out to Irving Park all the way from downtown to hit this old-school barbecue joint for lunch. But now you don’t have to make the trek. You cannot go wrong with a slicked brisket or pulled pork sandwich and sides like BBQ beans and slaw.

  10. The Budlong: With its launch in May, The Budlong fills all your fried chicken needs. Get a fried chicken sandwich, and make sure to get the buttery, flakey biscuit on the side.

  11. Aloha Poke: Also Chipotle-style dining, choose from three different sizes of bowls and then either brown rice, white rice or mixed greens. For poke, pick from either marinated or naked ahi tuna, salmon or tofu. Then, pack your bowl with toppings such as cucumber, edamame or avocado. With locations popping up everywhere in Chicago and lines always long, it’s safe to say people are in love with the Hawaiian-style poke bowls at Aloha.

  12. Harvest Juicery: Kristina Sciarra started making juice and nut milks after working in both the restaurant and the wellness industries. The menu at Harvest Juicery includes six green juices, 12 seasonal root and fruit juices, a variety of house-made nut milks and handcrafted, made-to-order smoothies. Just about anything off of this menu is bound to taste delicious and make you feel top-notch.

  13. Black Dog Gelato: Black Dog Gelato does artisanal gelato and sorbet right. With a mix of exotic and seasonal flavors, including chocolate banana curry and cucumber rosewater sorbet, this place will always keep you guessing about the available flavors. You won’t know until you show up.

  14. Farmer’s Fridge: This extremely healthy stand uses fruits and vegetables from local farmers to create a wide range of food, from an egg-topped oatmeal to a shaved vegetable and kale salad. My favorite items on the menu are any of the avocado toasts. They’re made with fresh, local vegetables and ripe avocados.

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