The long-awaited Morgan Street Food Hall opened its doors Monday morning, Raleigh’s first foray into the food hall trend spreading across the country.
The food hall, located at 411 West Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh, will start its soft opening phase this week, said Niall Hanley, whose Hibernian Hospitality Group owns and operates the food hall.
But there may be nothing soft about the year’s most anticipated project that’s finally open for business.
It previously was scheduled to open July 23, but a delay was announced following a media preview last month.
Doors opened Monday at 7 a.m. for coffee and breakfast, with most vendors open for lunch.
What diners will find in Morgan Street is a dark wood corridor of small food vendors, each specializing in one kind of cuisine, from Southern, to empanadas, to Lebanese and burgers.
There are also more than a dozen retail vendors, from a florist to a jerky cart,
Morgan Street was the first food hall to announce its plans to open in the Triangle, moving into the former Jillian’s bar. It’s a major piece of the continued redevelopment of downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District. Combined with the Dillon building a block away, which will have restaurants, retail and a Weaver Street grocery store, and the new Union Station, the width of Raleigh’s destination blocks is expanding significantly.
Hanley first announced the Morgan Street Food Hall in the spring of 2016, expecting to open it by the next summer. A year later, the food hall was still a long ways off.
Most of the work has been done in the last year, and through the delays, Hanley has said the unique aspects of the project put it behind. He said new hurdles with permitting and inspections dragged the opening out longer than expected.
“I’ve opened a lot of restaurants, but not 22 restaurants at the same time,” Hanley said in an interview last month after the delay.
Morgan Street Food Hall restaurants
The 19 vendors run the culinary gamut, from wood-fired pizzas to boba tea, to fried fish to Thai rolled ice cream.
▪ Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas: Neapolitan-style pizzas made in a 2-ton wood-burning oven, as well as seasonal small plates.
▪ Boba Brew Bubble Tea and Smoothies: A bubble tea stand in the middle of the food hall serves classic boba tea drinks and smoothies. Look out for the lychee popping boba.
▪ Carroll’s Kitchen: Specializing in savory kolache pastries, sandwiches and soups, this is the second downtown Raleigh location for Carroll’s, a nonprofit restaurant that provides jobs and training to women facing homelessness or having completed a prison sentence.
▪ Cocoa Forte: Chocolate-dipped cheesecake is the kind of dessert fiendishness typically reserved for state fairs. Now it’s everyday.
▪ Cousin’s Maine Lobster: A fixed location for one of the Triangle’s most popular food trucks, serving fresh lobster rolls, tater tots and shrimp tacos.
▪ Cow Bar Burgers & Fries: These are chef-created burgers, from gourmet toppings like truffles, to house-made veggie burgers.
▪ Curry in a Hurry: After running a popular Triangle food truck, chef and owner Alaksha Surti opened a new location in Morgan Street, serving curries, sandwiches made with naan bread and samosas, among other authentic Indian dishes.
▪ Iyla’s Southern Kitchen: Located near the main food hall entrance, look for playful takes on Southern food, like a chicken and waffles sandwich, as well as collard greens and pimento cheese.
▪ Makus Empanadas: Already established in Durham, this Raleigh outpost serves Argentine empanadas with fillings like beef, chicken, spinach and corn, to be dipped in chimichurri sauce.
▪ Mama Bird’s Cookies and Cream: This Holly Springs ice cream shop serves gelato-like creations, alongside freshly baked cookies.
▪ MKG Kitchen: From the owners of Mekong Vietnamese Cuisine in Morrisville, look for banh mi sandwiches, spring rolls and bowls of vermicelli noodles and rice. MKG may be the owner of the loveliest wallpaper in the food hall.
▪ Morgan Street Java and Creperie: The first vendor to open every morning, serving thin French crepes and a full coffee bar, using Counter Culture beans.
▪ Oak City Fish & Chips: Fried fish is a North Carolina delicacy, and this popular food truck opened its first brick-and-mortar spot in Morgan Street. Look for fried shrimp, scallops, oysters and french fries.
▪ Raleigh Raw: A food hall location of the Hargett Street shop specializes in salads, grain bowls and cold pressed juices. Note that Raleigh Raw’s outdoor shipping container location is still under construction. (A Durham Raw is expected to open in the Durham Food Hall later this year.)
▪ Raleigh Rolls: Serving trendy Thai rolled ice cream, flash frozen in front of you and mixed with your choice of toppings.
▪ Sassool: This Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurant, one of the best known local vendors in Morgan Street, will serve a slightly pared down menu from its Cary and North Raleigh locations.
▪ The Bowls: Promising bowls of “flavorful passion,” there are a variety of rice bowls, from Korean-inspired to poke, plus egg rolls and fries.
▪ The Broth: Another addition to Raleigh’s wondrously vibrant ramen scene, serving bowls of porky and vegetarian ramen, as well as a Korean-fried chicken slider.
▪ Wicked Taco: A second Raleigh location of this small fast-casual taco chain, serving tacos on fresh tortillas as well as housemade salsas.
But wait, there’s booze
The food hall will include two bars, both run by the Hibernian group. There’s an expansive full bar in the middle of the space with a couple dozen beer taps and backing up to a large outdoor beer garden.
Another bar, Auntie Betty’s, will be much more intimate, tucked away in a corner of the food hall and focusing on gin cocktails. It is still under construction.
What are the food hall hours?
Morgan Street is open Sunday to Wednesday, 7 a.m to 10 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Where to park
Parking at Morgan Street may be problematic, as everyone rushes over to get their first peek. On-street parking may be tied up with construction for a bit, and the rest will be in high demand.
The safest bet is to plan on walking a couple blocks. There’s public parking in the deck at The Dillon, and the closest city-owned deck is on Morgan Street, north of Nash Square.
On the first day, a stable’s-worth of Bird scooters were gathered near Morgan Street, so that also works.
There’s still some room
With the Hook & Cleaver butcher shop no longer part of the roster, the food hall now has an large anchor space vacant. There’s also an outdoor shipping container space open, similar to where Raleigh Raw will be, but Hanley said it could end up being another place to get a drink.
“It might be a bar,” Hanley said. “It looks like I’m going to need it.”
411 W. Morgan St., Raleigh. Morganfoodhall.com
Vendors: Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza, Boba Brew, Carroll’s Kitchen, Cocoa Forte, Cow Bar, Curry in a Hurry, Iyla’s Southern Kitchen, Makus Empanadas, Mama Bird’s Cookies + Cream, MKG Kitchen, Morgan Street Java and Creperie, Oak City Fish & Chips, Raleigh Raw, Raleigh Rolls, Sassool, The Bowls, The Broth and Wicked Taco