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We got a peek inside Chapel Hill's new food hall. Here's what you can expect.

Chapel Hill's Blue Dogwood Public Market, a food hall off of Franklin Street, will include patio seating and eventually an outdoor beer garden behind the building.
Chapel Hill's Blue Dogwood Public Market, a food hall off of Franklin Street, will include patio seating and eventually an outdoor beer garden behind the building. jleonard@newsobserver.com

This weekend's grand opening of the Blue Dogwood Public Market — the new food hall in Chapel Hill — is a big moment for the Triangle.

After a soft opening this week, Blue Dogwood is launching with an opening celebration all weekend.

We got a peek inside the market off Franklin Street this week. Here's what we found, and what the opening means for area eaters.

1. It's the first to market

Blue Dogwood opens as the Triangle's first food hall, a national trend that is coming to the area in a major way.

Food halls have been around for centuries in Europe and Asia, largely as produce markets or food stalls, where individual vendors prepare and serve a single dish. In the States, food halls have been in many large cities for decades, but the trend caught fire in the last 10 years or so, popping up all over the country, from Charlotte and Birmingham to now two dozen in New York City.

The Triangle will eventually have four, so far: Blue Dogwood, Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh, which announced it will open July 23, Transfer Co. Food Hall in Raleigh and the Durham Food Hall.

2. Small local vendors

When Blue Dogwood opens, there will be seven vendors, most operating as their first ventures, with a few more branching out with their second location. The food hall trend is an extension of the food truck — with food halls serving as incubators for ideas having a chance to exist and grow, maybe into something larger.

The Blue Dogwood space isn't huge, but the options are incredibly diverse. The vendors include:

Chocolatay Confections: This husband-and-wife chocolate shop from Danielle and Matthew White started as a way to make sweets for one of their sons who has a severe nut allergy. Chocolatay has appeared at area farmers markets, but Blue Dogwood will be the first store.

Left Bank Butchery: Ross Flynn runs this whole animal butcher shop in Saxapahaw and sells products at the Carrboro Farmers Market. At this new Chapel Hill location, he'll sell his charcuterie, raw cuts to take and cook at home and a couple daily sandwiches.

Pizzelle Bakery: This gluten- and soy-free bakery from Kelly Taylor is named after the oldest known Italian cookie. On the menu will be sweets and pastries, as well as savory breads and a coffee bar.

Rumi Persian Cafe: Chef and owner Manuchehr Haghshenas will serve traditional Persian dishes, featuring various stews and kebabs and rice dishes like tahcheen, or crispy saffron rice. Haghshenas says there are medicinal qualities in Persian food. "I like food that makes me feel good," he says.

Soul Cocina: This Latin American counter from owner Silvana Rangel-Duque serves vegetarian arepas, tacos and tamales to eat at the market or take home.

Vegan Flava Cafe: This is the second location for the Durham based vegan restaurant from chef Yah-I Amen. The menu is entirely plant based, with curried lentils, chana masala and coconut rice and wraps.

3. There's a bar

Pouring drinks will be the Bar at Blue Dogwood, which food hall owner Sarah Boak said focuses on small North Carolina breweries without distribution deals, so you may find something on tap you haven't tried before. Among this weekend's taplist are brews from Hopfly in Rocky Mount and Crank Arm in Raleigh and Chatham 64 cider. In the future, the bar may feature some oysters.

4. Something new on Franklin Street

The Chapel Hill market is tough and has claimed some notable victims in the last few months, and another, the Cave, saved at the last minute. Most concepts going in these days have the UNC student body in mind. Pizza, burgers, beer and wings, universally beloved but collegiate necessities. The food hall makes for a different type of destination in the heart of Franklin Street.

The market is at 306 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. It is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more, go to bluedogwood.com.

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