Written by Julian Rankin
Food halls are trending, but not just because of buzzwords like â€œartisanalâ€ and â€œavocado toastâ€ – both of which youâ€™ll find at Cultivation Food Hall, set to open Fall 2018 at The District at Eastover in Jackson’s LeFleur East neighborhood. Theyâ€™re popular because they embrace innovation, flexibility and accessibility, qualities that resonate with patrons, entrepreneurs and developers alike.
Located on the ground floor of the BankPlus building at The District, Cultivation Food Hall will house eight distinct culinary storefronts, a cocktail bar, plus indoor and outdoor seating. Restaurant concepts include Fete au Fete StrEATery, Local Honey, PokÃ© Stop, and Whisk (a crÃªperie by La Brioche). Cultivation builds out the space, buys the kitchen equipment and helps secure permits. Theyâ€™ve removed traditional impediments to opening a restaurant. In a market where startup costs for a new restaurant can easily exceed $1 million, thatâ€™s a big deal.
â€œI’ve been keeping an eye out for space around the city, but as a new startup, it isn’t always easy,â€ says entrepreneur Rachel Phuong of PokÃ© Stop. â€œThey have been helping me every step of the way, and I just love the community feel of it all.â€
What we saw was a lot of creativity amongst the chefs in Jacksonâ€¦ people who have a real passion for food,â€ says Breck Hines, Co-Developer of The District Land Development Company, LLC. â€œThey bring in their food and their knives and they start selling.â€ Hines, along with Ted Duckworth and the late Michael Barranco, had the vision for The District, a multi-use development always intended to create an atmosphere of community.
Imagine a day in the life of Cultivation. Out-of-town visitors refuel with bowls of steel cuts oats. Residents of The District Lofts join Jackson foodies for a lunch of fresh sushi and gulf shrimp and grits. After work, business-people talk strategy over signature cocktails. As night falls, a family huddles around a table in the capacious dining area, the children grass-stained from an evening soccer match, sharing a dessert of French crepes stuffed with strawberries and topped with drizzled chocolate and gelato. All the while, a self-employed copywriter with her laptop and headphones has made the food hall an office for the day, with espresso just a few steps away.
The muddy soccer kids and the buttoned-up business executives eating fresh and local fare together? â€œYou canâ€™t do that at every restaurant,â€ says Hines. â€œIt offers a lot of flexibility.â€
If â€œstreet food is real food,â€ as Chef Micah Martello of Fete au Fete says, then Cultivation is a proverbial boulevard that puts a roof over that irresistible authenticity. The purpose is to â€œcultivate direct relationships between… chefs and patrons,â€ says Patrik Lazzari, Director of Operations for Cultivation.
Cultivation Food Hall is the first of its kind in Mississippi. Developers were inspired by other food halls, including St. Roch Market in New Orleans, whose team is consulting on the Jackson project. But donâ€™t expect a mirror image. The beauty of a food hall is that it derives its identity from its locality. Breck Hines saw the promise of a place to gather, â€œfor a neighborhood, for a city, for a village, for a district.â€ The developersâ€™ central question will soon be answered. â€œHow can we â€˜Jacksonizeâ€™ it?â€