Tipster Al M. noticed some movement earlier this week at 1355 Market St., and we have since confirmed that the new Ferry Building-style marketplace will begin construction any day now. Tom Kolbeck, a representative for the project, said the food hall should open around the first quarter of the new year.
Kolbeck said he and his team have secured five vendors for the 14,000-square-foot spaces that once housed French bistro Bon Marche and restaurant/beer bar Dirty Water.
The most notable is a new outpost of upscale ramen restaurant Mensho Tokyo, which regularly draws lines at its original Tenderloin location.
Other newcomers will be Northern Ducks (which will serve items such as Peking duck and dim sum), Hot Bird (serving Nashville-style hot chicken), 3-19 Coffee (which also has a Mission location) and Heroic Deli, an Italian-style deli.
A few more businesses will also move into the marketplace, but those aren't yet confirmed, Kolbeck said.
The idea for the food hall came from Chris Foley, owner and developer of The Market, located right next door. But while both the Market and the Market Square Food Hall are Foley's plan and vision, Kolbeck said the concepts are separate sites and entities.
The Market opened in 2015 and has been bustling ever since. The food complex has a coffee shop and various vendors that sell hot food, such as pizzeria Slice House and fried chicken spot The Organic Coup, but it also offers grocery items. The new Market Square Food Hall will only offer cooked, prepared foods from restaurant vendors.
We asked Kolbeck if he had concerns about opening a new food business in Mid-Market, which struggles with homelessness, crime and poor foot traffic at night.
Bon Marche closed in 2016 after just one year of business, while Dirty Water which closed in 2018 after just three years of business. Across the street, the former Alta CA and Kaya space has changed hands and concepts a few times.
Restaurateurs have blamed Twitter and other tech companies who provide their employees with free lunch, arguing that they've made it impossible for businesses to survive in the area. Two Supervisors even introduced legislation to ban tech cafeterias, though it didn't take off.
Kolbeck said that while Bon Marche and Dirty Water were full-service restaurants, the marketplace will offer more of a fast-casual concept, which he says is "more economical and comfortable" for the nearby office crowd.
“People love high-quality food, but they don’t necessarily really have to be in an overdone environment to enjoy great food," he said. “Even if it’s the most amazing food, people like a more down-to-earth casual place [to eat], and one that's comfortable too.”
And while the neighborhood is still edgy, he said, it has drastically changed over the past few years and has become a lot cleaner and more vibrant. In addition to The Market, Southern spot Hazel and Mexican restaurant Cadillac Bar & Grill have done well there.
“We are creating a living room for the whole neighborhood — this kind of very active, fun, social space where people can come in and feel welcome and comfortable," he said.
Kolbeck also noted that with several new housing developments under construction, as well as the city's plans for renewing the Civic Center area, the Mid-Market area is not just a place to work — it's becoming a place to live. And residents will need to eat.
“We want to be an iconic place similar to the Ferry Building ... or something similar to the Chelsea Market in New York, something with the same kind of energy," he said.
Kolbeck also noted that since it’s so expensive and so hard to open restaurants and businesses in San Francisco, the food hall is an opportunity for fledgling restaurateurs to be front and center in a busy location, without having to spend $2 million on a buildout.
"We’re lowering those barriers for these restaurant owners to be able to open," he said.
Thanks to Al M. for the tip. If you've seen something new (or closing) in the neighborhood, text your tips and photos to (415) 200-3233, or email [email protected]. If we use your info in a story, we'll give you credit.