Beer may be the secret weapon that makes Fulton Galley stick out from the quartet of food halls opening this year in Chicago. This food hall at 1115 W. Fulton Market is from a Pittsburgh company which has opened halls in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cleveland. There will be five restaurants inside Fulton Galley: a Jewish-inspired deli (Steingold’s of Chicago), Northeastern Thai food (Pink Salt), Mexican-American food (Taco Mucho), Italian food (Italianette), and a vendor featuring roasted meats (Fairview).
“We always have a great cocktail program, but our powerhouse is our beer,” Galley Group co-founder and co-CEO Benjamin Mantica said. “We’ll have 20 taps here...I’ll sort of geek out I guess, but you’ll see a lot of places that don’t have the glass rinsers, they don’t keep it at the right temperature, they don’t serve it in the right glass — that’s the kind of stuff that we care about.”
Galley’s about eight to 10 weeks from an opening, said Mantica. Three other food halls are opening in Chicago this year: Politan Hall off Randolph Street hopes to open in early May; Time Out Market should open later this year east of Galley on Fulton Market; One Eleven Food Hall opens this week in Pullman.
Mantica said his food halls have always been lively happy hour destinations. There’s a daily promotion where management offers drinks for half off and Mantica plans to continue that in Chicago. Galley’s built strong relationships with local brewers and have hosted limited edition beer releases. They hope to do the same in Chicago.
Galley food halls feature meals served on real plates. There’s a chef table for monthly ticketed dinners and a private dining room with space for 24. The bar will feature TVs and there’s Wifi for laptop workers. Live music, like a jazz band, is also planned. Galley will close at 1 a.m., emphasizing the bar side of the business. Mantica pointed out most halls close in the early evening.
“I’ve been to a million food halls, and I think some of them are great — some of the ones in the city are great — but you go in and it’s kind of a churn and burn, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and nobody says anything to you while you’re in there,” Mantica said. “You could walk in — and I’ve done this — you can walk in, walk out and get food and nobody has said anything to me except ‘what do you want?’ That’s not the experience that we want.”
In Cleveland, Mantica said Galley partnered with dating app Bumble to create events for singles. They’ve done indoors and outdoors events. The Chicago food hall will also feature a large patio.
Having other food halls already in the market makes it easier for Galley to make it through Chicago’s permit process; city workers are now familiar with the unique needs of food halls. Aspiring chefs wanting to be part of Galley are also used to the food hall application process, Mantica said.
Galley acts as an incubator with the hope that chefs will graduate and open their own full-service restaurants. Typically, Mantica said chefs don’t all leave at once. Departures are usually staggered; Galley won’t have to replace all five chefs at once. Mantica estimated that 90 percent of Galley’s restaurants in other markets have been profitable. Galley doesn’t charge rent; it’s entirely a revenue share, Mantica said.
Each of the five restaurants will have their own kitchen space. Though some prep areas will be shared, having their own kitchen space will help the quality of the food. Some vendors, such as in the case with Fairview (the restaurant from former Publican chef de cuisine Dennis Bernard) will elect to install their own equipment. Bernard needs a rotisserie for Fairview’s space.
Some may see food halls as a way to decrease labor. Restaurant owners have long complained about rising wages and food costs, and the food hall concept seems to cure much of that; they’re not paying for servers. Mantica scoffed at that notion. He pointed out that Galley offers health insurance to its dishwashers and other staff that’s been working for at least 90 days. The coverage wouldn’t extend to the restaurant chefs. While Galley provides them with support, the chefs are considered independent business owners inside the space.
Stay tuned for more coverage on Fulton Galley as the opening, slated for late May or early June, approaches.