Culinary Travels

Food Hall Heaven

I’m on cloud nine at Hey Day Market Food Hall and Gathering Place.

By Jan Walsh

I have been anticipating the opening of the Tony & Libba Rane Culinary Science Center for years. And today I, along with my Auburn Restaurants teammates: Ada Ruth Huntley and Richard Phillips are graciously guided on a private tour by Ithaka Hospitality Partners Founder and CEO, Hans van der Reijden. The tour includes Hey Day Market and will be followed by dinner tonight at 1856 – Culinary Residence. This is the first in a series of articles of the experience.

In keeping with its namesake of Auburn University’s annual HEY DAY (when students, faculty, alumni, and the “Auburn family” gather donning name tags to greet each other with Auburn spirit) the market is the 50-yard line of gathering places. It is the place where the campus meets the community. And students in the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management have opportunities to learn and work here as well as use their Tiger Card to pay for their meals.

The food hall boasts nine front facing, fast fresh eateries, a bar, and so much more. Approaching the side door of this 10K square foot space there is a large lawn with yard games and the future home of a massive screen, to be placed on the brick of Hey Day’s long side wall, for students to watch Auburn games from the lawn. Beyond the end zone of the lawn is the future home of the Micro Brewery and Tap Room, scheduled to open March 2023.

Walking inside the side door, a dramatic “Fearless and True” photo backdrop invites selfies and photo opportunities. The opposite (outside) wall will be the home of a collage of a HEY DAY mural, showcasing this tradition since it began after WWII. Here aromas of spit roasted heritage pork and grilled pineapple, from WildChild Tacos, make my mouth water and whet the appetite for their Al Pastor Taco.

As I feast my eyes down the hallway, it conjures up childhood food memories from the county fair not knowing which colorful ride to ride first and craving all the textures and flavors, from sugary pink cotton candy to shiny red candied apples reflecting the carnival lights. This global food map of eateries lure with colorful neon signage and a world of options, inviting us to eat with our eyes. Wrapping around one wall is Cherry Moon’s Vietnamese and Cantonese fare, Saint Bernardo Gelateria’s traditional gelato, and a future incubator stall for graduates to create startup restaurant concepts, coming Fall 2023. There is also a pod cast booth where DJs and podcasters host a captive audience of all who eat here. Also coming soon is a large disco ball for Sunday Soul Brunch! Along the other wall are POKEMEN’s Hawaiian poke and ramen noodles, Khoodles’ Malasyian street noodles inspired by generations of family recipes, Loud Roots’s build your own smoothies, Little Darling Burger Company’s All-American fare plus hand spun milkshakes, La Cubanita’s classic, pressed Cuban sandwiches, The Bar with adult beverages including frosty, frozen cocktails, and at the front door are the flames of Pizzeria Ariccia’s pizza wood fired oven.

At each stall smiling faces, working the spaces, look hopeful that we will order there. And Chef Marc Osier, Managing Partner, Restaurants and Food Halls at Ithaka Hospitality Partners is also here overseeing it all. With so many cultures under one roof, Hey Day Market is the ultimate food hall heaven! How in the world do we choose?

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