What's the difference between a food hall and a food court? Is it ego?
We tend to associate the term food court with an open area with fast food inside a shopping mall. Inevitably, there's chain food: maybe Sonic, Panda Express or McDonald's. A food hall, then, is also an open area with food, fast. But it might feature local chefs or craft beer or cool art. "Artisanal" is a word.
Urban8's founder Stanley Rose doesn't quibble over semantics. He opened Urban8 on Highway 121 in The Colony -- in the heart of the Dallas 'burbs, near the new Toyota Headquarters and Nebraska Furniture Mart -- and calls it a food court.
That isn't a bad word, he says. He's never owned or opened restaurants, anyhow; he recently moved from Colorado to North Texas to see if Urban8 is replicable. He describes a food court as "one big room where you can see everything and say 'meet me in the middle.'"
He may even open Urban8s in or near shopping malls someday; his second one is expected to open near Allen Premium Outlets.
Urban8's modern-industrial building has graffiti on the walls and a "living wall" of indoor plants flanking the bar. None of the chefs' names at its seven food stands are lit up in neon. Rose seems more intent on the restaurant mix -- pizzas, pho, tacos, burgers, salads and more -- than brand names. (And, notably, there's no Sonic, Panda Express or McDonald's.)
One of the restaurateurs, Suzanne Bonham, is a former Disney executive who is behind three of the eight businesses inside Urban8. The recipe for the dough at Rustic Flats, a pizza joint, is the recipe she makes at home. She traveled from her home in Florida to the Dallas 'burbs to help guide the opening of her piece of Urban8.
The 8,500 square-foot space in The Colony feels like part food court, part sports bar, part meet-up spot. A small stage in the middle of Urban8 features dueling pianos and a plan for live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Makes sense: Beyond Rose's current gig opening Urban 8, he's the frontman for a Tom Petty cover band.
"I want to make this about the community," Rose says of his new food court.
What's to eat inside Urban8?
- Beyond the Box: grab 'n go food like soups, sandwiches and build-your-own salads
- Rustic Flats: a pizza shop
- Burger Craft: a burger joint
- STIR bar (which stands for Stories That I Remember): a book-themed bar with cocktails inspired by novels like The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet
- Monster Yogurt: serve-your-own frozen yogurt shop with candy, fruit and nut toppings
- Pho Corner: a banh mi, pho and boba tea counter, operated by the owners of What the Pho in several Dallas suburbs
- Taco Cielo: a taco shop that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Firewheel Coffee: a latte shop that sells owner Brian Wells' "floofles" -- known by some as a puffle cone, a popover-like pastry served with jam and maple syrup or with eggs and sausage