The high-risk restaurant industry seemed to offer only one option for chef Rachel Rinas — work for someone else.
But then she was approached by the owners of a new Crossroads food hall, Parlor KC. She could create a menu from scratch and serve it in her own space under a low-risk, one-year lease. The food hall operators would even run the bar operation, something she said she knew nothing about.
"It was a big risk thing for me to branch out on my own," she said. With the food hall, "you don't have to worry so much about front house things — the liquor license, putting all the equipment in place, securing a location. It's 'Here's your 240 square feet, just come and cook.'"
Parlor KC, now under construction at 1707 Locust St., has signed Rinas and four other tenants for an August opening. Two spaces are still available.
"A lot will be my own take on Turkish and Mexican street food," Rinas said. "This is like a tech incubator but for restaurants. It will be a nice challenge to myself. Can I do this?"
▪Sura Eats, Korean street food. Owner Keeyoung Kim also has a catering company and does pop-up restaurants.
"I will be doing something similar — Korean street food, heavy emphasis on bowls and some late-night options on the weekend," said Kim, who signed a three-year lease. "There's nothing like it in Kansas City, so we can't anticipate how it will go for the late-night specials. I'm excited to be part of the family, to learn and grow with the other chefs."
▪ Mother Clucker, Nashville hot chicken. Derrick Foster, a Kansas City native and owner of Ember BBQ in Santa Ana, Calif., and food hall veteran Andy Nguyen have signed a three-year lease and will focus on Nashville hot chicken and traditional sides, including mac-and-cheese and slaw.
"I've always wanted to put something in Kansas City and to bring Nashville hot chicken to Kansas City, because it isn't available," Foster said. "I think this food hall will be one of the hottest spots for the next five or six years."
▪ Vildhäst, Nordic street food. Josh Rogers and Katee Mclean, owners of Krokstrom Klubb & Market, will offer a variety of sausages (Korvs) and open-faced sandwiches (Smorgas) that are commonly consumed late night in Nordic countries and that they currently serve on the restaurant's bar and happy hour menu.
"Our restaurant, Krokstrom Klubb, is Scandinavian comfort, like what your grandmother would cook," said Rogers, who signed a three-year lease. "This will be street food — hotdogs, sausages, Danish fries — and we will rotate through some seasonal ones. It's a way to try out a new concept and not have to do the long-term thing. Vildhäst stands for 'wild horse.'"
▪ Providence Pizza. It will offer regional-style pizzas, starting with Sicilian, classic Italian, New York and Detroit-style, by brothers Luke and Aaron Salvatore. They opened Providence Pizza restaurant four years ago in Grandview.
"Our claim to fame is different styles and staying true to how they are done," said Luke Salvatore. "But this won't be a sit-down like Grandview so there will be different sizes of pizza, sharable or if you are by yourself, and we will be doing some different concepts and different appetizers. But you will definitely recognize Providence Pizza when you eat there."
Providence had previously created a Korean barbecue pizza with Sura Eats that's on its menu, and Sura Eats has done a pop-up in the Grandview restaurant. So the collaborative aspect of the food hall concept was appealing.
"Sharing ideas. And we wanted to get into the Crossroads. We love what is happening there, and we want to bring our pizza more into the metro," Luke Salvatore said.
All five concepts will be part of the grand opening scheduled for late August, along with the remaining two concepts yet to be announced.
Dominic Hoferer will be general manager. He grew up in the Waldo/Brookside area and attended culinary school in New York. He has held management roles at New York's Lupa, Rosemary’s, La Pecora Bianca and as general manager for the opening of Eataly's second New York City location at the World Trade Center.
Parlor KC started as a partnership between an Atlanta-based chef, Kevin Gillespie, and Meriwether Cos. of Boulder. Gillespie is no longer involved with the project.
The 18,000-square-foot Crossroads building with will have three kitchens, a lounge area and a main bar on the first floor, and four kitchens, a bar and an outdoor deck on the second floor.
Chefs might have a successful food truck and want to try out a brick-and-mortar location. Established chefs might want to test a new concept, and up-and-coming sous chefs might want to helm their own operation.
Gillespie and his team will mentor the chefs, focusing on the food and service. Meanwhile, Meriwether will focus on the environment, marketing and social media, and bar operations.
Consumers like food halls because they offer a variety of choices in one location and serve as a community gathering spot. In 2015, Bon Appétit referred to them as 21st-century food courts for food lovers.
A Lenexa food hall, the Lenexa Public Market, has such tenants as Red Kitchen Tamales. Locally owned Made in Kansas City plans to open a marketplace and food hall on the Country Club Plaza this summer.