Are we finally heading inside? After a five-year progression from outdoor street cart gatherings to multiple full-blown food truck conclaves, The Hall has finally brought multi-vendor noshing back under a roof.
Situated in the former Hollywood Billiards space on a getting techie-er but still gritty stretch of Market Street, this collection of five food concepts, plus a coffee spot and a bar, is actually temporary. The building will be demolished in two years to make way for condos for all of the young Square, Uber and Twitter toilers nearby. Until then, they gotta eat – and what first-rate new choices they have!
If The Hall solely existed as a mechanism to offer The Whole Beast's lamb gyro, I’d be a regular. Smoky, tender shards of lambs neck brought to mind a slightly gamy version of pulled pork. Piled alongside a crunchy mound of red peppers, cucumbers and romaine and enveloped by a warm wheat pita, the combination vaults to the top of the best local gyro list, even surpassing establishments where gyros are a specialty.
A $12 banh mi at Little Green Cyclo seemed a bit steep when considering that there are many versions sold for a quarter of that price within a few blocks. However, one bite into this luscious combination of pork roll, homestead pork belly and house made chicken pate had me wondering if I might gladly pay more. The capper was a shattery, light-as-air French baguette that comes from a secret source in San Jose.
Cassia promotes its menu as being Moroccan-Peruvian which I didn’t know was a thing. Nonetheless, its earthy meatball tagine served over a bed of toasty quinoa satisfied as a light, healthy dinner, especially when balanced out by a lightly dressed crisp kale salad served alongside.
At Fine and Rare, a wild salmon sandwich served on a pretzel roll (weren’t we done with pretzel rolls in 2011?) was marred by an overpowering duo of arugula and excessively salty goat cream cheese that rendered the rare fish unrecognizable. However, a decadent, rich oyster chowder was the perfect balance of cream, smoke and brine.
Mr. Singh’s chicken, Raj & Singh’s take on chicken tikka masala, fell flat. The sauce possessed no kick or hints of sweetness and the chicken itself was dried out. Worst of all, the naan was rubbery and tasted like it had been reheated.
During three visits at different times of the day, The Hall always buzzed and seating, though expansive when including the outdoor picnic tables, was at a premium. An ubiquitous generic techno soundtrack bouncing off of the hard walls combined with twinkly lights strung from the ceiling made for a gentle warehouse rave atmosphere.
Only during a Monday night dinner did the malfeasant side of the neighborhood come into play. Three cops cuffed and arrested a guy who screamed “What did I do?” repeatedly at the top of his lungs while being hauled out. We never found out – nor did the after-work crowd seem to care – as conversations continued uninterrupted.
Though no sociology professor, I couldn’t help but notice the growing dichotomy between the two prominent populations in this area and how The Hall’s doorway was a sort of unofficial divider. Certainly, the neighborhood still has a ways to go, but a gathering place like this is a good start.
Location: 1028 Market St. (between Sixth and Seventh streets), S.F.
Contact: (415) 558-8293, www.thehallsf.com
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Price range: $6 to $13
Recommended dishes: Lamb gyro at Whole Beast ($9), dac biet banh mi at Little Green Cyclo ($12), Moroccan meatball tagine at Cassia ($13), smoked oyster chowder at Fine and Rare ($4) Credit cards: Accepted
Reservations: Not accepted