Not to be confused with a food court (the fast food variety usually found in shopping malls), a food hall is an artisanal shopping and eating experience all under one roof. The concept is said to have originated in Europe and is fast becoming a go-to dining experience here in America.
Since we were going downtown for a smaller activity, we decided to make a day of it and include one of the more well-known destinations, Eataly, into our plans for the day.
Eataly is an Italian food hall concept that was brought to America through a partnership that includes famous Italian chefs such as Mario Batali*, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich. They have locations in Los Angeles, Boston, and two in New York. The one in Chicago is considered to be the largest in the U.S.
This two-story location is overwhelming when you first walk in but, fortunately, they have a map and guide that walks you through each department so that you don’t miss out on anything.
We decided to do the self-guided tour and, as directed, we started upstairs and got a glass of wine. You can walk around with it so, sure. From there, we hit the olive oil department, and this is where you realize what you have really gotten yourself into. ROWS and ROWS. I had no idea there were so many types and flavors of olive oil. I expected this from the wine department but not olive oil. Every department is like this.
And bring your appetite – hence the Girl’s Gotta Eat connection. There are a few sit-down restaurant style options. They are smaller spaces, but we had no problem getting seated. Take away counters are available as well for sandwiches, panini, and other Italian specialties.
But don’t fill up upstairs. Once you get back down to the main level you have way too many desserts to choose from. There is a gelato bar, pastry counter, cannoli bar, and Nutella station. Oh, and coffee. I’m getting full just remembering this visit.
So, all in all, this was a great way to spend a couple of hours together and share some great food as well.
*For those of you who are aware of the sexual misconduct allegations against Mario Batali, Eataly has terminated its relationship with the chef and all products bearing his likeness have been removed from the shelves.