The Next Wave of Food Halls Will Look Very Different

Restaurateurs are scrambling to create pandemic-friendly communal spaces.

Red Apron Butcher's Nate Anda at Hi/Fi at the Roost. Photograph by Stacey Windsor.

The pandemic hasn’t slowed the food hall trend (so far), but it has changed it. When Western Market (2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW) debuts in Foggy Bottom this winter, its dozen vendors will still include an outpost of fried-chicken-sandwich purveyor Roaming Rooster, a sushi counter, and an all-day cafe from the team behind Mount Pleasant’s Elle. Now, though, expect sanitation stations at each entrance, touch-free appliances in restrooms, and expanded outdoor seating. The operators are considering a platform to let customers order takeout from multiple vendors in one shot. 

A similar delivery system is in the works for the Roost (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., SE), Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s “culinary clubhouse,” featuring everything from New York–style pizza to tacos and “bacon cheeseburger” queso. (Still to come this fall: sushi from the owners of Gaithersburg’s Kenaki, German and Alpine cooking from Richmond chef Brittany Anderson, and more.) For now, the only seating is at the food hall’s bar and beer garden, Shelter, where dishes from all the concepts can be ordered from your phone. 

At the Ghostline (2340 Wisconsin Ave., NW) in Glover Park, the future is almost all virtual. Restaurateur Aaron Gordon is using a former tavern to house ten spots, including fried chicken from Rock Harper; sushi and soups from Ramen by Uzu’s Hiro Mitsui and former Sushi Nakazawa chef Ryu Hirosoko; and Tex-Mex from Red Light chef Naomi Gallego. There’s some patio seating, but the “ghost food hall” operates mainly through carryout and delivery. 

“Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I think I’m a realist,” Gordon says. “The idea of indoor restaurants is going to be dead for a long time.”

There are still more food halls coming. Former Sushi Taro chef Makoto Okuwa is teaming up with Unconventional Diner co-owner Eric Eden to open Japanese eating emporium called Love, Makoto, which will include a ramen shop, robata grill, sushi, and more. It’s slated to open in the forthcoming Capitol Crossing development (200 Massachusetts Ave., NW) in late summer or fall of 2021. 


Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.