Maxim – Top Order The Ernesto

Invite a woman on a date to a food court and you’ll find out how reviled America’s least prestigious eateries have become. On the one hand, we can understand why: There are the overstuffed containers full of aging cuisine, the overstuffed patrons full of aging cuisine, and the overstuffed trash cans full of aging cuisine – and that’s just during lunch. (Come back after school lets out and it’s a whole different ordeal.) Fortunately, change – like the smell of Szechuan pork – is in the air.

High-end food halls have been cropping up all over the country as smaller eateries (or food trucks) band together to build an audience and a business. Like every other trend of late, this one is trickling up. Suddenly, Michelin-starred chefs are dishing out next to their competition and offering their customers something more eclectic than a 7-course sit down.

While the less-appetizing establishments still exist, they’re headed the way of the neighborhood mall, which is to say out of business. Hopefully the stigma will die with them because, as Americans, we have the write to pursue happiness even when it means chasing a burrito with pad thai.

Here are the food halls leading the charge:

Gansevoort Market: New York, NY

The new, enclosed food court located in the city’s Meatpacking District has an American feel, but remains a cross-country affair. Order some lobster rolls, mozzarella pies, and LA-style tacos pica dill before settling in at one of the mismatched tables.

Top Order: The Ernesto from Cappone’s Salumeria

Thanks, Maxim! For the full list, go here.

Pretty and Tasty – Metro NY

If you’re stuck for what to eat at lunch, Gansevoort Market won’t make the choice easy. The Meatpacking District warehouse between Greenwich and Washington streets is the latest spot to experience the city’s hottest way to serve food right now: in a hall. There used to be an indoor market in the same spot during the mid-1800s — several identities later, it’s back to serving up fresh fare (albeit mostly the grab-and-go kind).

The concept is working for Heermance Farm, which has its upstate produce on display and fresh eggs and cheese available in a small refrigerator, but its biggest sellers are jar salads and bite-size cookies. Three daily soups also rotate; get there early for the gumbo, which was gone by 1 p.m. when we visited, a blustery Thursday that couldn’t keep away a chatty mix of SoHo hipsters, tourists on their way to the High Line and freelancers sitting beneath the skylight that spans the rear eating area, surrounded by pillars wound with vines harvested in Long Island. The effect is enchanting, shifting the mood of the space from industrial chic to a nymph’s Pinterest.

But you shoudl opt to sit and dine when the restaurants — which pack as much atmosphere into their compact stands as any other standalone joint — offer their own seating. Donostia’s seafood tapas is best served at the gorgeously surfaced counter, while the purist spirit of David Bouhadana’s Sushi Dojo — no California rolls, just excellently simple sushi and sashimi — extends to its traditional bar.

At Cappone’s Salumeria, the bread comes from Queens but pretty much everything is Italian (including Tomarchio flavored sodas). “We don’t use mayonnaise, no mustard; I use extra virgin olive oil and a cream of balsamic,” proprietor Ernie Cappone says, with the kind of fuhget-about-it accent that doesn’t brook argument about his food.

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