Ponce City Market Guide: Where to eat
The food hall is home to 15 vendors and restaurants, with at least six more on the way. Not sure where to start? Never fear: We cherry-picked all the best bites and sips. —Evan Mah
One Hot Dish
Xiao Long Baos at Jia
The Sichuan chefs of Tasty China bring us the best soup dumplings inside I-285 (count on a 20- to 30-minute prep). Other notables: hot and numbing crispy tender pork belly, a tongue-tingling braised fish in chili oil, and fiery rice stalks.
Anatomy of a Hop’s Chicken Sandwich
Linton Hopkins spent 10 months testing more than 74 recipes before landing on this battered bird.
Buttery, squishy, and toasted on the inside, it’s the finest Chick-fil-A knockoff we’ve seen yet.
What makes the cabbage, carrots, and onions so sweet and tangy? Buttermilk and an apple cider vinegar gastrique.
Frim Fram is a mix of Heinz Chili Sauce and Duke’s mayonnaise and spices. It adds a friendly cayenne kick.
W.H. Stiles Fish Camp
A cross between the industrial-glam Star Provisions and the nautical-blue Floataway Cafe, this fish “shack” might be a far cry from the prix-fixe riches of Bacchanalia, but Anne Quatrano’s casual dining debut is still plenty focused in the kitchen. And with 15 other food stalls or restaurants just a hop and a skip away from her fryers, she’s happy to keep the menu centered squarely on seafood. “It’s been liberating,” Quatrano says. “We don’t have to serve coffee; we opened without a dessert on the menu. I had never done that before.”
Having also never operated inside a food hall, Quatrano says she was surprised by the crowds. Whereas Bacchanalia might sell 300 oysters in a week, Dub’s (the restaurant’s abbreviated moniker) shucked 1,300 in the first five days of opening.
If a store dedicated to hats sounds niche, check out this 500-square-foot stall devoted to essential cocktail accoutrements like bitters, tinctures, and shrubs. Kristin and Missy Koefod concoct everything (available for tasting) on-site. Before browsing, brush up on these keywords.
Potent liquid extracts of botanicals, these add depth and dimension to cocktails like palomas and grapefruit-lavender martinis.
Try: coconut-lemongrass tincture with rum, vodka, or gin
These additives are like cocktail syrups but are made with vinegar.
Try: caramelized orange, honey, and ginger with bourbon
Sean Brock (of the taco-themed Minero) is the fifth James Beard Award winner to open in PCM, following Linton Hopkins (Hop’s Chicken, H&F Burger), Anne Quatrano (W.H. Stiles Fish Camp), Jonathan Waxman (Brezza Cucina), and Hugh Acheson (Spiller Park Coffee). A sixth, Meherwan Irani, will open Boti in 2016.
Beef Bulgogi Bun from Simply Seoul
Hannah Chung spent two years selling her fluffy, savory baos at farmers markets before opening this stall, her first brick-and-mortar outpost. Try the grass-fed bulgogi (marinated beef) topped with her signature napa kimchi.
H&F burger + B&W milkshake
The juicy double stack that launched a score of imitators is as good as the original at Holeman and Finch (and much better than the sloppy version at Turner Field). Wash it down with a slow-churned chocolate and vanilla shake (called a B&W) made with High Road Craft ice cream.
Spiller Park Coffee
Need to fuel up before you shop? Try the smooth whole milk latte at Hugh Acheson’s coffee bar.
This thick smoothie blends a lemon wedge, basil, kale, apple juice, and frozen strawberries.
This is one mean dreamsicle-esque shake with vanilla bean gelato, orange zest, and whipped cream.
Eleven olive oils (most out of California) line the left-hand side of the stall. Against the back wall are flavored oils pressed with herbs like basil and rosemary, as well as flavored balsamic vinegars. Each comes with tasting notes, and some are best suited for sauteing, others for drizzling.
Sampling is encouraged, and oils become more intense and peppery as you move farther into the stall. Pour a teaspoon into the cup; sip; and, as you would with wine, suck in air to roll the oil onto your tongue.
Olive oil, unlike wine, tastes best while it’s young, so watch its expiration. Store in a dark, cool cupboard. $16 to $26 per 16-oz. bottle
18.21 Bitters • Bellina Alimentari • Brezza Cucina • El Super Pan • Farm to Ladle • H&F Burger • Honeysuckle Gelato • Hop’s Chicken • Jia • King of Pops • Lucky Lotus • Minero • Simply Seoul Kitchen • Spiller Park Coffee • Strippaggio • W.H. Stiles Fish Camp
Ton Ton Ramen
Soup and yakitori from Guy Wong of Miso Izakaya and Le Fat
Potent potables from the team at the Pinewood in Decatur
South African beef jerky and cocktails by 10 Degrees South’s Justin Anthony
Grilled and skewered meats by Chai Pani’s Meherwan Irani
Shawarma, falafel, and a Mediterranean market
An as-of-yet unnamed steakhouse
Coming to the rooftop, per rumor
The food hall space served as the Sears retail store from 1926 until 1979, with hats, clothes, and household goods for sale. Now the hall houses relics—clocks, motors, scales, compressors—with plaques that detail how they were used.
Enter the food hall from the west courtyard to walk through an original (now stationary) freight elevator.
The Ponce de Leon Springs were said to carry healing powers, and in 1872 a company began delivering their water in bottles by wagon. By the turn of the century, the springs were such an attraction that an amusement park had grown up around them.
Spiller Park Coffee is named for the ballpark that once sat across the street, built in 1924 for the city’s minor league and Negro League teams, the Atlanta Crackers and the Black Crackers. (It’s now the Whole Foods, but the great magnolia tree that once graced the outfield endures.)
Objects from eras past that were recycled, tossed, or auctioned off when the city sold the building include mounted police saddles, food carts from the 1996 Olympics, and an original card catalog of Sears inventory.
From the BeltLine, enter via the third-floor trestle, where trains once loaded goods for shipment. Now it takes on the feel of Manhattan’s High Line.
Original signage was found engraved on the Ponce facade behind city hall banners—“retail store” on each of the two wings and “Sears, Roebuck & Co” above the main entrance.
Photographs by Andrea Fremiotti; illustrations by Claire McCracken