Restaurant Review: Short North Food Hall
The Short North Food Hall is like a little microcosm of the Short North itself. Constantly buzzing with a perfect sampling of people perched at its tables, the crowd features bros, man-buns, beards, ladies in crop-tops, stiletto heels, families (traditional and non), and empty nesters with expensive spectacles.
Like the mall ways it’s modeled after, Food Hall is a bright space, with giant televisions on the walls and an even bigger bar that spans the length from front to back. If the hosts are wearing something that identifies them as such, it’s hard to tell; they look just like the bustling diners moving back and forth from the tables. Just off the street, it can be challenging to figure out the protocol or a game plan. Here’s the deal: You can get a table and a server for drinks, or you can just go wait in line at each respective operation. Or, you can do some sort of combo. It all kinda works.
The barbecue place, Legacy Smokehouse, will likely have the longest line. You can score a whole rack of ribs there, but for less of a commitment, there are sandwiches that feature brisket, pulled pork or sausage. The Haystack ($9) offers a means to try out the the macaroni and cheese and brisket all at once. Topped with crushed Fritos, it’s an undeniably inspired combo, especially with those salty crunchies. Outside of that, the dish is mostly loops of mac, heaps of it, loaded with enough cheese to stand on its own between the noodles, and then topped off with just enough brisket to keep you from feeling ripped off.
Pizza at Vinny’s Italian is a bargain, and because it’s off in another room all to itself, it also has a shorter line. That said, the little line doesn’t go particularly fast, which is odd, but it’s unclear whether the delay was due to a talkie customer or if it was standard operating procedure. Whatever the case, Vinny’s slices are served in giant, generous wedges with a light, seasoned crust. It’s poofy and airy at the perimeter, but suitably flat under the toppings. The pizza is ideally constructed for folding in half, New York style (no one seems to be doing this though). The Four Cheese and Pepperoni pieces ($4 each) aren’t particularly life-changing pizza, but they scratch the pizza itch.
Back in the big room, Tortilla serves up burritos, tacos, salad and stuff. You can customize them, but not in the Chipotle way: you make your decisions up front. A Burrito ($9) with chicken, beans, cheese, lettuce, and pico de gallo generated no complaints.
Shokudo and Short Grain Sushi share the corner stall. In addition to noodle soups, Shokudo offers JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken, $7): micro chicken nuggets. It’s a step above KFC because there is actually meat inside the breading. The house version seems like mostly dark meat, which traditionally carries more flavor than other sections of the bird. Good crispy breading, though the sauce is mostly sweet and not a lot of anything else.
Or, you could just drink your meal. The bar menu features beer in draft, bottles and cans; red and white wine; sharable cocktails (something about many mouths connected to many straws leading to one bowl seems iffy) and bottled cocktails. The Strawberry Soda ($10) is an excellent choice. It tastes like real strawberries because it’s made with real strawberries, as well as vodka, hibiscus and lemon.
There’s a lot going on inside the Short North Food Hall. It doesn’t have the speed of typical food court (or even North Market) stops. The pace is more what you might expect for full table service. As the Food Hall is a hybrid, if you go expecting more of the latter, and less of the former, you’ll be happy. You can find it at 1112 N. High St.
For more information, visit shortnorthfoodhall.com.