Morgan Street Food Hall opens in Downtown Raleigh
Earlier this spring, we explored the Morgan Street Food Hall — the first in the Triangle.
And we have to throw in the towel halfway through our exploration. We have loosened our belt a couple of notches and revisited the food hall in the Warehouse District to complete the assignment.
As with many such establishments, the list of vendors might change from time to time. Even from our first visit, one has left (Carroll’s Kitchen) and another has changed concepts (The Broth is now The Katsu.)
And last week, as Morgan Street celebrated its first birthday, it announced some new arrivals. Aunty Betty’s, a gin bar, is open next to Iyla’s Southern Kitchen.
New restaurant vendors include Primal Cuts, a sandwich shop, with an emphasis on prime rib sandwiches and house-fried chips.
In September, we’ll look for Pazza Pasta, from the owner of downtown’s Mulino Italian Kitchen. There will be pasta, Italian meats and a cannoli bar. And then there will be Raleigh Donuts, known for its food truck with mini doughnuts.
In other words, conquering the food hall will be a moving target.
For now, here’s a look at some of our favorite bites.
The wares: “Taste the rainbow” takes on a whole new meaning at Amitie, where the vendor’s namesake confections beckon in a palette of a dozen or more colors, from the vibrant green if matcha green tea to the pastel purple of lavender. Even more colorful are macarons with meringues and creamy fillings in contrasting shades — Nutella mousse sandwiched between dainty meringue cookies in a vibrant shade of aqua, say, or ruby red pomegranate macarons with a dark chocolate filling.
The wares: A pastel rainbow of bubble teas — some two dozen shades of exotic flavor, from rose to matcha green milk tea. There’s even a tea named Rainbow: mango layered with raspberry hibiscus tea and topped with butterfly pea tea, which gets even more colorful if you switch out the traditional tapioca pearls for rainbow jellies. A colorful assortment of smoothies (I Love Veggies, Hawaiian Harvest, Berry Berry Good) and smoothie bowls broadens the spectrum of options further still.
The wares: If you’re looking for a healthy option, you’ll find it among theses rice bowls and poke bowls. The Malibu poke bowl, for example, serves up your choice of tuna, salmon or spicy tuna over a culinary kaleidoscope that includes citrus kale, spicy seaweed salad, charred corn and avocado. Or the vegan (and gluten-free) California rice bowl, featuring crispy tofu and a supporting cast of half a dozen veggies. Don’t care if it’s healthy? Check out the first ingredient in the Hong Kong bowl: “melting pork belly.”
Iyla’s Southern Kitchen
instagram.com/Iylassouthern/ or Facebook
The wares: Named for owner/chef Greg Nelson’s daughter, Iyla’s offers a wide variety of ways to put a little South in your mouth, from shrimp and grits with a Cajun cream sauce to chicken and waffle sandwich. The BBQ “Sundae” lives up to the menu’s “fill your belly” promise with a mound of smoky pork (or mushrooms, for a vegetarian alternative) on a bed of mac and cheese, collard greens and barbecue sauce. Be sure to leave room for a side of Quiet Dogs (aka hushpuppies) with peach jam.
The wares: A sibling establishment to The Bowls next door, The Katsu serves up sandwiches featuring its namesake pork cutlet and other variations on the theme, ranging from Pacific shrimp to Tex-Mex chicken to the Godzilla, a towering monster that lives up to its name with katsu chicken, katsu shrimp and half a dozen other fillings, topped with a fried egg. Factor in the excellent fries that come with the sandwiches, and a food coma is virtually assured. Oh, and be sure to grab a plastic fork and knife from the bin. You’ll need them.
The wares: Baked, braided-crust empanadas (Argentinean style, if you’re an aficionado, thought some of the filings take a little poetic license) with your choice of 10 fillings ranging from bacon and cheese to pork chimichurri to sweet corn (one of four vegetarian and/or vegan options). Make that 11 if you count the Empadog, a hot dog wrapped in empanada dough. Be sure to grab a couple of homemade dulce de leche cookies for dessert.
The wares: Brought to you by the friendly folks at Mekong in Morrisville, this satellite operation offers a streamlined selection from that restaurant’s menu. Banh mi is an obvious (and reliably rewarding) choice, but if you’re looking for something more substantial you can fill up with a generous helping of vermicelli or rice dishes. And don’t overlook sleepers like the pork dumplings and the lotus root salad, tossed in a fish sauce vinaigrette (pro tip: spring for the optional shrimp and soy-marinated pork).
Oak City Fish & Chips
The wares: OK, so this is not authentic beer-battered fish and chips. It’s more like Southern-fried with a spicy kick, and the seafood options go well beyond traditional cod (or in this case whiting) to include shrimp, scallops, oysters and calamari among its mix-and-match options. Choices range from a small single seafood basket (oysters if I’m ordering), all the way up to a shareable large basket with your choice of four items, all served over crispy fries. In no time, you’ll forget what you were quibbling about.
The wares: If you haven’t already tried rolled ice cream, here’s your chance. The trendy frozen treat is made by pouring a liquid base of cream and sugar onto a super-chilled steel slab, topping it with mix-ins, and scraping the instantly frozen result up into rolled cylinders. Cool combinations include Grandma’s Nanner Pudding, Benelux Biscoffee, and Chocolate Overload (mixed-in Oreo cookies, topped with M & Ms, sprinkles, whipped cream and a Nutella drizzle). Or choose from 26 mix-ins and toppings to create your own combo
The wares: There can never be too many locations of this Lebanese eatery (this is the third, by my count, not including the three sibling Neomonde locations). You can’t go wrong with the Pick 3 or Pick 4 combination plate (choosing from a colorful selection of traditional dips and fresh salads, and modern twists like jalapeńo-cilantro hummus and kale salad with golden raisins, apples, red bell pepper and walnuts tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar.
YoHo Hibachi and Sushi Burrito
The wares: brought to you by the owners of YoHo Asian Bistro, a popular Cary restaurant for more than a decade, this food hall satellite’s name is pretty much its menu. Hibachi plates are available in chicken, shrimp, steak and vegetable versions, all served with your choice of white or brown rice. The trendier half of the menu features nori-and-sushi-rice-wrapped “burritos” with five filling variations ranging from salmon and crab stick to shrimp tempura. Customize your choice with your choice of sauce: spicy mayo, eel sauce, spicy chili sauce, or Sriracha.
Morgan Street Food Hall is at 411 W. Morgan St., Raleigh. It is open Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight. For more, go to morganfoodhall.com.
Here are other vendors we visited earlier this year.
▪ Arbor Bar & Garden
▪ Bad Cat Coffee Co.: badcatcoffee.com
▪ Bella’s Wood-Fired Pizza: bellaswoodfired.com
▪ CowBar: facebook.com/cowbarraleigh
▪ Cousins Maine Lobster: cousinsmainelobster.com/restaurant/raleigh-nc
▪ Curry in a Hurry: curryinahurrytruck.com
▪ Mama Bird’s Cookies + Cream: mamabirdsicecream.com
▪ Wicked Taco: morganfoodhall.com/vendors/wicked-taco/