Colony Square was ahead of its time when it broke ground as the Southeast’s first mixed-use development in 1968, but stop by the building’s food court today and you’ll find the dining options are fairly limited (a Moe’s, a Chick-fil-A, among a few others). Steve Palmer, the man behind Oak Steakhouse, Colleta, and O-Ku, is looking to change that. He’s consulting on a new food hall called Main & Main, opening on the corner of Peachtree and 14th streets in the summer of 2019. The food hall is part of major overhaul that North American Properties—the developer that built Avalon and revived Atlantic Station—set into motion when it purchased the building in November 2015.
Main & Main will have 14 food stalls and 28,000 square feet of event space. There will be a dog-friendly green space called the Grove with Spanish steps and a beer garden. Palmer is even bringing one of his own concepts to the space.
This isn’t a project Palmer and North American Properties are taking lightly—the team embarked on a food research tour, visiting more than 20 food halls across the country.
“Of course Chelsea Market is the original food hall, but I also liked R. House in Baltimore. They had a central bar and live music. It was vibrant, young, and fun,” Palmer says.
Below he reveals plans for Main & Main, including his brand new concept.
How did you get involved in this project?
The North American Properties folks—who did Avalon, where I have Colletta and Oak [Steakhouse]—asked me to help figure out the food hall. I remember as a boy in the 70s, I’d go to the Dogwood Festival [in Piedmont Park] and there were these great restaurants in Colony Square. [Today] everyone’s building [condos] in Midtown, but we all go to West Midtown to eat dinner. The density of food offerings ended up on that side of the highway. I bought a condo at 1010 Midtown and am excited about bringing more nightlife to the area. I’ll be the first tenant.
Which of your restaurants are you bringing?
Something new. It’s a fast-casual concept called Sukoshi. In Japanese, when you want a little of something, it’s called sukoshi. There will be poke bowls and maki. We’ll have design-your-own [rolls]. We’ll have sake, sparkling sake, and beer. We’re also operating a bar separate from Sukoshi but located right next to it—Central Bar. We’re toying with the idea of that being a beer spot, but still debating whether you need more of a wine bar in that location.
What other types of food stalls will there be?
Nothing’s leased yet, but I’d have an oyster bar and Indian food. I look at success of Upbeet and think we all need a salad concept now. We’ve talked about arepas. I’d love to see a southern place with biscuits and such. There’s a few people in Charleston I want to talk to, but we would love [the stalls] to be Atlanta local as much as possible. I’m trying to find things that are unique. Maybe someone’s been in a food truck and is ready to come to a stall. Those are the things that drive creativity.
There will be one stall that rotates. This is for the person for whom this is their first shot at running their business. Maybe its a sous chef who doesn’t have the financial resources [to open their own restaurant]. Maybe they want to test drive their idea. It’ll be a short-term lease, maybe rotate every three months.
Mark [Toro of North American Properties] and I are also heavily involved in the City of Refuge women’s shelter. They have a 180 Degree Kitchen cooking school, and we’ve talked about having a food stall for 180 Degree Kitchen to raise money for the shelter.
Main & Main is being touted as “experience-driven.” What does that mean?
Food halls tend to die at night. They are heavy lunch places. We’ll have night-friendly programming. We have the walkable neighborhood to support it. The experience will include everything that’s happening around the food hall, similar to how Avalon has an ice skating rink in the winter time and yoga [on the lawn]. Right now there’s talk of a movie theater, live music, and chef demonstrations.
Where did the name “Main & Main” come from?
North American Properties believes Midtown is the center of Atlanta, and the intersection of Peachtree and 14th is “Main and Main.”
How will it be different from other nearby food halls, like those at Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market?
We’ll have 14 different types of cuisine. It’s the largest food hall of the three in terms of [culinary] diversity. There are no sit-down restaurants planned at this moment. We want to make sure the space is open and that there is connectivity. The key is creating the energy that you want.
What will the space look and feel like?
Colony Square was built in the midcentury modern era. I think of Mad Men: clean lines, classic. We’ll have some soft seating, elevated seating, and communal tables. We’ll need old school martinis for the bar. There will be significant [remodeling] to the center of the building. A lot of the [current] food court tenants are leaving, but some will stay.