So many world-class cities have been offering food halls for years, New York, London, Tokyo, Chicago and this year Miami opened four in one year. Toronto has finally got on the food hall bandwagon, a great concept whose time has finally come with the opening of Assembly Chef’s Hall.
Representing cuisines from all over the world, driven by established Toronto chefs, as well as some up and coming, offering up lots of options. For a first time visiting it can be a little overwhelming. This 18,000 square foot space packs 18 restaurants and food retailers into its sprawling eatery. They will be adding another 4,000 square feet of patio this summer. They were working on it on a weekend when I visited. Seventeen of the stalls are permanent and one is a rotating seasonal popup.
I won’t lie, the place is a madhouse on weekdays with hipsters, bankers, techies and assistants drawing from the downtown financial district.
Located at 111 Richmond Street behind the Sheraton hotel by York Street, the hall offers a fair amount of seating, but it is noisy, busy, high energy with lots of lineups. I suggest going for a first visit on a Saturday when the place is quiet and manageable. This way, you can take your time navigating the options, such as The Good Son for pizza, Love Chix for incredible fried chicken, noodles at Ramen Ischun, Little Khao for Thai food, Colibri for Mexican, Blue Nose Lobster for a lobster roll, Cherry St. BBQ, Resto Boemo for Canadian comfort food, Mira Mira for the health conscious, Reyna for Mediterranean, Taci for an 11 course Omakase, Bull Dog Coffee, Hibiscus for organic and gluten free, or Short and Sweet for a cupcake or cookie. You can wash all this down and one of two bars, or at individual restaurants with wine, beer, a latte, a margarita or a fresh pressed juice. They really try and cover all tastes. You can sample a few restaurants, and then if you go back midweek you will know which line to stand in.
Assembly is now open 6 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will soon be opening on Sundays as well. The hall is crowd-pleasing, clean, modern and in a prime location in the basement of the Google building. I already have a few favourites including Love Chix for the sweet and spicy fried chicken, and a quick 30 minute Omakase at Tachi.
You can now eat out with friends and not worry about someone’s dietary restrictions. It is fun, unfussy, and won’t break the bank. Some people are complaining that the prices are on the high side. I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars in return for quality eats. Please note they do not accept cash, only credit cards.
The all-star lineup of chefs, plus having something for everyone’s taste, and a prime location with great hours equals a successful endevour. A concept whose time has finally come and hopefully this will be the first of many food halls for Toronto. After all, Toronto is so rich in cultural and diverse ethnic groups, just think of the possibilities.