When Hub Hall opens at the Hub on Causeway this winter, it will have plenty of competition, with more on the way. The Boston area is already home to two new food halls, Bow Market in Somerville and Time Out Market in the Fenway, and at least two more will open soon, High Street Place in the Financial District and the Beat in the Globe’s old building in Dorchester.
So how does a new arrival in this crowded scene distinguish itself?
For the folks behind Hub Hall, it meant convincing some Boston stalwarts like Sullivan’s Castle Island and Mike’s Pastry to come on board.
Hub Hall won’t tout highbrow fare, unlike many of its counterparts; instead, it’s offering food and drink that Bostonians hold dear, said Ariel Gardner, the head of marketing for Patina Group, a restaurant subsidiary of Delaware North, which is codeveloping the Hub on Causeway. Its slogan is “Boston Eats Here.”
In addition to Sully’s and Mike’s, Hub Hall will include an outpost of Monica’s Mercato from the North End, a Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood stand from the Back Bay’s Mooncusser Fish House, a branch of the North Shore’s Sauce Burger chain, and barbecue from Andy Husbands’ Smoke Shop.
While Time Out Market is associated with a global brand, “Hub Hall is nothing without the brands that we partner with,” said Don Bailey, Hub Hall’s director of operations. The goal, he said, is “to create something truly unique to Boston.”
When all 18 stalls are up and running, Gardner said, they’ll pull in travelers and event-goers all day and into the night. At least five restaurants will serve breakfast during the week, starting at 5:30 a.m., and the hall will stay open an hour after events end at TD Garden.
There was, of course, a time when food courts were best known for their uniformity: Visit any rest stop or mall in America, and you could probably find a Sbarro pizza or a Panda Express.
But today’s younger restaurant-goers want diversity and convenience, and the same factors that prompted the rise of the fast-casual lunch boom have contributed to the rise of the food hall craze, said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “The food hall is really the food court for the new millennium,” Luz said.
And restaurateurs like them, he said, because “they’re an interesting business model in that it allows restaurants to expand their footprint with limited labor.”
Luz is in the unusual position of rooting for both the established eateries and bars near the Garden that have come to rely on game-day crowds and for their new competitors in the Causeway complex. In addition to Hub Hall, they will include the 575-seat Banners Kitchen & Tap restaurant, a 65-seat bar and lounge in the ArcLight Cinema, and Guy Fieri’s 60-seat Tequila Cocina restaurant inside the Big Night Live concert hall.
Luz is hopeful the arrival of hundreds of new restaurant seats won’t gut the neighborhood’s existing food businesses. At the same time, he worries that the cyclical nature of an entertainment center — tables routinely empty before the tip-off or the puck drop — will leave it struggling to draw a steady year-round crowd.
“The one question I have is, are there enough people there who are going to support it?” he asked. “I’m just not 100 percent certain that there’s enough there to really keep these things up and running and full.”
But for a business like Sully’s, the allure of the Garden — and the chance to join a quintessentially Boston food hall — proved irresistible. “Their pitch was: It’s all the places that only locals would know,” said Michelle Leone, a manager at Sully’s. “To bring a little bit of Southie to the Garden was a great opportunity.”