Will a food hall give the North Side a boost?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 05:03:46 AM. Federal Galley opens in early December, followed by Galley Group food halls in Cleveland and Detroit.

The founders of Smallman Galley are on a roll. Tyler Benson and Benjamin Mantica of Galley Group have partnered with New York-based Faros Properties to open Federal Galley in Nova Place (200 Children’s Way) on the North Side in early December.

Following this debut, they’re opening a food hall in Cleveland that’s on track to open next summer, and another in Detroit slated for the fall. Over the weekend, the group opened its online application portal for kitchen space in those two locations as well as the next round of Smallman Galley.

And their pairing with Faros ups their cred and opens the door for future opportunities and funding. 

Why? Because Jeremy Leventhal — managing director of Faros, son of Boston’s Alan Leventhal of Beacon Capital Partners, one of the country’s biggest real estate investment trusts — decided to go with the Galley Group to open Federal Galley, Faros’ first food hall in the U.S. A rising star developer, Faros’ properties range from office complexes in Boston and Westchester County, New York to historic properties in Nantucket, Mass. 

A swankier version of food courts in suburban malls, food halls are opening at a fast clip around the country with cities like New York home to more than 20 and counting. Though smaller cities like Pittsburgh are just embracing the trend, it’s not a bad thing that they’re just taking off here, since real estate prices aren’t as tight as some big markets — which feeds momentum in the city’s restaurant boom.

But real estate prices are rising in neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and the Strip where Smallman Galley is based. And experienced restaurateurs recognize that there’s something to be said for not having to worry when a building’s pipe burst or over other unexpected expenses tied to a stand-alone restaurant.

That Mr. Leventhal is opening a food hall with Galley Group has as much to do with the landscape of Pittsburgh as anything. Unlike Faros’ projects in other states, a food hall “was not as imperative to the viability” of those projects, Mr. Leventhal says. Many of his projects opened in neighborhoods where there’s more density in the immediate area. “There were more choices.”

Formerly Allegheny Center, Nova Place is situated near the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the National Aviary and features 1.5 million square feet of office space that will include tenants like Confluence, PNC, Bank of America and co-working space Alloy 26. It’ll also have a 10,000 square-foot gym and a 3,000-square-foot garage. But there’s not much nearby in the way of restaurants — or foot traffic for that matter. The development will help change this. 

The birth of Federal Galley

More than a year ago, Mr. Benson and Mr. Mantica were approached by Faros because the company needed a food hall anchor for the development. Mr. Leventhal and others from Faros had been to Smallman and told them, “This is exactly what we need at Nova Place.”

The more than 5,000-square-foot Federal Galley will be slightly different from the 6,000-square-foot Smallman, which opened in late 2015. Although it will be smaller, the North Side location may seem more spacious because of the layout. With 150 seats inside and 100 seats outside, come spring it’s going to feel like a open-air beer garden.

The bar in a former bank vault will be a focal point, with 30 taps that will include beer, wine and cocktails. Unlike Smallman, Federal will be open every day and will include brunch and Sunday dinner service.

While Smallman hosts Strip District tourists, especially on weekends, Federal Galley likely will host more locals because of its location — with the exception of game days at Heinz Field and PNC Park. The partners see Federal Galley as “a cool addition” to the development that’s in progress on the North Side.

The vendors

Stephen Eldridge, one of the inaugural vendors at Smallman, sold about 18,000 burgers out of his 140-square-foot space in his 18 months at Provision PGH.

Mr. Eldridge, who moved here from Arizona with his wife Susan Cope, has harbored dreams of opening his own brick-and-mortar restaurant. But selling all those burgers — not including other menu items — without the headaches of running a standalone restaurant worked out well for Mr. Eldridge, whose run at Smallman ended in June.

So he’s decided to shelve plans for a standalone restaurant to continue working with Galley Group. He’ll man two of four stalls in Federal Galley, a revival of Provision PGH with burgers, a fish sandwich, and sides like fries, beets and Brussels sprouts. He’ll also roll out El Lugar, which will offer Mexican and Mexi-Cali fare like the food he loved out west, such as made-to-order corn and flour tortillas along with tacos, tortas, burritos and sides inspired by a recent month-long food trip around Mexico. He also has drafted friends from Arizona to move to Pittsburgh to help.

With Iron Born Detroit-style pizza doing so well at Smallman, it’s no surprise that there will be another Galley Group vendor slinging square pies — Michigan & Trumbull from Michigan natives Kristin Calverley and Nate Peck. They were among the original applicants to the Smallman space. Named for the Detroit intersection where the old Tiger stadium resided, the stall will offer eight pizza options and two salads.

One more vendor, Vincent Perri, former chef of Revel + Roost, Downtown, will staff the stall called Supper, a vegetable-centric restaurant that, despite the name, will be open all day. Look for squash soup, duck-fat fries, veggie burgers, sea bass and desserts like sweet potato souffle.

Unlike Smallman, which launched as a restaurant incubator, Federal Galley will allow vendors to remain tenants longer than the lease periods at Smallman. Mr. Mantica says the space will also feel a bit roomier for vendors with features like a prep kitchen that wasn’t an option on the tighter Smallman budget, which costs around $900,000 to open.

With more money in the mix, as part of a $127.5 million development package, Federal Galley is poised to have more of an impact. 

“We’re building something that is transformative,” Mr. Leventhal says. “There is nothing else like it in the city.”

Melissa McCart: mmccart@post-gazette.com; Instagram @postgazettefood; Facebook @postgazettefood

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