Temple developers hope a new dining concept they’re cooking up downtown will fill empty buildings and empty bellies.
City Eats Food Hall, at 106 and 108 North Main St., will offer a wide selection of food, drink and entertainment, said co-owner Patrick Guillen.
“We’re looking for the ‘wow’ factor,” he said. “We want to create an experience you can’t get elsewhere in Bell County.”
A food hall is an elevated version of the shopping mall food courts, or a food truck plaza that’s indoors — without the trucks.
City Eats will be a collective of chef-driven mini-cafes, bars, a bakery, a coffee shop and a game area all under one roof, Guillen said.
The food hall will utilize 22,000 square feet and three levels of space. Each level will have its own bar and theme, he said. There will be 13 total kitchens — seven will be fully equipped for featured chefs and six will serve as preparation areas for vendors who will provide soups, salads and sandwiches.
“Customers will be able to order through a central kiosk located near the entry or directly at each kitchen,” Guillen said. “The kitchens will include stool seating so customers can interact directly with the chefs.”
Seating also will be available in stalls and at common tables.
“Shared tables allow for a sense of community and lets customers get to know each other,” he said.
Guillen said City Eats owners are exploring new ideas.
“Chefs may use the food hall as an incubator to test the waters before opening a brick-and-mortar establishment,” he said. “Some could be there a couple years, others might make City Eats their permanent home.”
Several tenants have expressed interest in locating inside City Eats, but Guillen said owners are looking for a certain image.
“Our chefs must have a passion for creating original, authentic foods that you can’t find anywhere else in town,” he said.
“All of the vendors will be independent — no restaurant chains. We may have some chefs who specialize in Asian- or Indian-inspired foods, and we may have some Mediterranean options and specialty burgers as well.”
The basement will include a bar and comfortable seating that encourages conversation.
“It will be a quiet space,” Guillen said. “Nice cocktails and maybe some jazz, but low key so guests can talk. Something special, but comfortable.”
The top floor will feature a bar and a variety of games.
“The games will be very unique, and we’re designing some of them ourselves,” he said. “We will have common tables and a vendor that specializes in shareable appetizer-type foods. Again, it will be very community oriented.”
Guillen and other investors purchased 108 North Main with the idea of opening a business of some sort.
“We thought about retail, but my sister mentioned the food hall idea,” he said. “We got online, then visited some food halls. The food hall concept is big in Europe and has caught hold in America during the past few years. I thought, ‘This is a possibility — Temple might be ready for this.’”
Guillen and the ownership team began planning City Eats, but plans were delayed when the building next door became available.
“We purchased 106 (North Main) but pretty much had to restart the planning,” he said. “We now had much more space, so we were back to square one.”
Guillen — a veteran of the food industry and a self-described “foodie” — hopes the delays work to their advantage.
“Today’s climate is very challenging,” he said, referring to a post-pandemic labor crunch and higher construction costs. “We’re pacing ourselves. The labor situation should be OK by the time we open, and construction costs should drop. We’ve had to delay our plans a little, but it will be better in the long run.”
Guillen said the City Eats team is excited to be part of a thriving downtown scene when it opens in 2022.
“Temple is really catching fire — especially downtown,” he said. “We are seeing new, innovative ideas, and support from the city and community has been amazing.”
Guillen said downtown business owners have a unique relationship.
“We don’t compete, we cheer for each other,” he said. “If every business wins, Temple wins.”