For nearly 130 years, farmers, sellers, shoppers, and shoppers have been gathering in Philadelphia. Read the station market. It is a dining destination where locals and travelers around the world can pick up steamed lobster and roast pork sandwiches; sushi pancake and shoo-fly; Falafel, jambalaya, and a buttery stack of Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes.
But when it comes to dining halls in Pennsylvania, the story is much bigger than that. From chicken tagine in Lancaster Southern Marketto tacos in Easton Public MarketShawarma in Erie Flagship City Food FallThe state’s modern dining halls speak volumes for local flavour.
Easton is a city that cares about food, [and] “Interested in new food concepts,” said Jared Mast, CEO of the nonprofit. Great Easton Development Partnership (waterless).
Easton Public Market, located half a block west of Downtown Square, celebrates its fifth anniversary this spring. The building had many different lives before GEDP purchased it in 2013 and began developing a 16,000-square-foot market. The organization has planned the site with a wide range of offerings, including contemporary ready-to-eat options, fast casual dining, bakery, grocery staples, meats, and produce.
says about Highmark Farmstand, which sells local, organic goods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, honey and meat at Easton Public Market. “We prioritize working with regional suppliers and food hubs.”
Shoppers can also patronize Saylors and Co Butchers (who recently expanded from their original shop in Hellertown), a new café from Three Birds Caféramen counter in Mr. Lee (preferred since market launch), More than Q BBQand nine other vendors.
The market also boasts a bustling demonstration kitchen (cooking for special events, cooking demonstrations, and lessons), regular live music and a comedy group called the Acoustic Kitchen, and kid-friendly programming. Thanks Keystone Communities Try, GEDP is building a new garage behind the market that will allow the street in between to become a courtyard, with a full slate of new events and facilities, such as a public table tennis table.
“It’s easy to see and sign a lease, but it’s hard to manage over time,” Mast says of Easton’s public market reaching the five-year mark. According to feedback from employers and landlords, the market has supported the relocation of many Easton businesses, building a robust “day economy” that attracts workers.
In Lancaster, operators are about to see if the new Southern Market can become the urban hub they envision. Built in 1888 with the iconic design of the 25-year-old C. Emlen UrbanThe building features the Queen Anne brick facade and towers. It operated for nearly a century as a farmers’ market, but activity waned in the 1980s. A conversion has been brought into office space in the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, City Council Chambers, and originsIt is a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs and economic development.
About eight years ago, a study conducted by Lancaster City Alliance Highlight the building on Queen and Vine Streets as an underutilized space, with ASSETS as the only remaining tenant. The city issued requests for proposals. non-profit union Lancaster Bank Equity CDC, the owner of the market, was the first to suggest a model for the dining hall. that caught the eye Willow Valley Communities, which was looking to expand from its aging model of living. Willow Valley came as the developer and master leaseholder for the proposed market, which opened in January 2022.
“The ambitious vision is to welcome everyone,” says Chris Ballentine, director of community relations at Willow Valley. Nine vendors, serving Egyptian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, Latin and Southern cuisines, join 30 seats. bar 1888 (Operated by Willow Valley), which specializes in a “globally influenced and locally sourced” cocktail menu, small Pennsylvania spinners, and craft wines.
Lancaster is a hospitable city – it has a wonderful community of refugees…Projects like Southern Market beautifully elevate this cultural richness and diversity.Chris Ballentine, Willow Valley
Conceived as the south side gateway to Lancaster City’s thriving lanes of shops, cafes and restaurants, the new South Market contains live exhibition space, second-floor offices and three community rooms available for an affordable rental fee, with the option of in-home catering from vendors downstairs.
The assets, which had a hand in launching a few of the existing sellers, are still on the premises. Ballentine says that this mixed income model “allows for a greater sense of flexibility from an economic point of view”. The market is designed to be an incubator for sellers and chefs who are ready to take the next step for their business. Envisioning a one to two-year lease term, Ballentine hopes vendors will outpace the market and launch their own shells elsewhere in the city, further diversifying the restaurant scene.
Vendors, who share a commissary kitchen, have the unusual advantage of focusing on cooking and customers, while Willow Valley takes care of logistics such as building maintenance. Ballentine estimates that sellers now based in the southern market could have spent up to $80,000 to develop a similar footprint themselves. “Having these resources and this development for them puts a heavy burden on their shoulders in direct overhead,” he explains.
Meanwhile, customers are enjoying what Ballentine describes as “one giant restaurant with different flavors internationally influenced.” They can eat to go, or sit with silverware and a plate in the 220-person dining room.
in Erie, Main city dining hall It also hosts new food entrepreneurs along with more established entrepreneurs. Its genesis was a 2017 study that determined that investing in the heart of downtown Erie was an important part of recruiting and retaining talent in the lakeside city. The Erie Downtown Development Company (EDDC) launched the same year.
The central question was how to make investments that would encourage people to come downtown. The dining hall was a natural answer.
Flagship City opened in November of 2021 with nine vendors, including Taste of Love Southern FusionAnd Dina’s authentic Dominican cuisineand Damascus, Bassam Dabbah Shawarma Station. It seats up to 160 seats.
“Diversity was intentional, [as was] Broad base of food choices,” EDDC Director of Operations and Logistics Cory Cook says of the rooted community process for selecting vendors.
“Erie is kind of forgotten,” adds Cook, who has spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philly. He loves the location of Erie, as it combines thriving downtown, winter skiing, and summer lakeside adventures. But its population has fallen from 140,000 to just under 100,000 since 1960. Reading recently overtook Erie as the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania.
The new dining hall is part of a larger story.
“We’re trying to create an ecosystem downtown,” says Cook. The city’s leading chefs can walk down the street to get their meat and produce. EDDC operates the food court along with their much-needed new grocery store, The Erie Food Association, less than a block away. It’s all part of a new $100 million investment in downtown Erie.
“We are ready to grow, ready to evolve,” he adds. “This is one of the biggest stories that get lost sometimes.”
Dining halls have been hit hard by the pandemic, especially those that were under construction when the lockdown happened.
At Easton Public Market, vendors were able to quickly switch to a sidewalk model, since ready-to-eat food and fast food are such a large part of the market model. But companies have suffered on the retail side, without the in-house shoppers.
“We had some tenant turnover,” Mast says. As a landlord, GEDP has worked hard to research and connect tenants with county and state support.
“The pandemic has certainly caused some challenges for us, but we weren’t very far from our initial plans to open,” says Ballentine in Lancaster. During construction, he led tours for the media, stakeholders, and neighbors, causing quite a stir.
A few days before its grand opening in January, the market welcomed a guest list of nonprofit organizations and local community groups. At the official launch, there was a line outside the door. Ballentine says that a strong lunch crowd, as well as crowded evenings in the latter half of the week, means that “the vendors are a mixture of jubilant and exhausted…it’s relatively new to them, but they’ve definitely taken their stride.”
Flagship City was under construction when Covid hit, but the board took a long look. “We were building for the next 50 years, not the next three or four years,” Cook asserts. They have kept building as quickly as possible, and the opening of the 2021 holiday season was a welcome welcome. Things went downhill in January and February, but that’s on par with the industry. Work began to rise again in March.
In Easton, Lancaster and Erie, each dining hall exploits its mother city identity.
We’re trying to create a downtown ecosystem… We’re ready to grow, ready to evolve.Corey Cook, Erie Downtown Developments
“EBBM is helping the Easton brand as a contemporary cool space,” Mast explains. His quick, casual options balance out the current restaurant scene.
The market goes above and beyond for families.
“We see hundreds of thousands of visitors a year Crayola [Experience]’, which is just around the corner, says Mast. The market features a dedicated dining area with low tables, cushioned floors, and kid-friendly programs like Story and snack Every Thursday.
“Lancaster is known as a foodie destination,” Ballentine says, but there’s more to it, especially since Lancaster City distinguishes itself from Lancaster County.
“For the longest time, Lancaster says and people think of the Amish,” he explains. But this is only one part of the city’s identity. “Lancaster is a hospitable city – it has a wonderful refugee community” and a great Latino community. “Projects like the Southern Market beautifully elevate this cultural richness [and] diversity.”
This is the magic of food courts: they bring an eclectic group of vendors under one roof for the benefit of both novice entrepreneurs and a hungry audience. These three new institutions build on the Pennsylvania tradition.
Main image: Lancaster’s South Market Food Court
Alina Jones is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and editor-in-chief of BroadStreetReview.comPhilly Center for Arts, Culture and Commentary.