by Julian Rankin
Food halls are trending, but not just because of buzzwords like artisanal and avocado toast – both of which you’ll find at Cultivation Food Hall at The District at Eastover in Jackson’s LeFleur East neighborhood.
They’re popular because they embrace innovation, flexibility and accessibility, qualities that resonate with patrons, entrepreneurs and developers alike.
Located on the ground floor of the BankPlus building at The District, Cultivation Food Hall has space for eight distinct culinary storefronts, a cocktail bar, plus indoor and outdoor seating. Current restaurant concepts include Poke Stop, Honey Hush, La Brioche and Gold Coast Bar. Cultivation builds out the space, buys the kitchen equipment and helps secure permits. They’ve removed traditional impediments to opening a restaurant. In a market where startup costs for a new restaurant can easily exceed $1 million, that’s a big deal.
“I’ve been keeping an eye out for space around the city, but as a new startup, it isn’t always easy,” says entrepreneur Rachel Phuong of Poke Stop. “They have been helping me every step of the way, and I just love the community feel of it all.”
“What we saw was a lot of creativity amongst the chefs in Jackson people who have a real passion for food,” says Breck Hines, Co-Developer of The District Land Development Company, LLC. “They bring in their food and their knives and they start selling.” Hines, along with Ted Duckworth and the late Michael Barranco, had the vision for The District, a multi-use development always intended to create an atmosphere of community.
A day in the life of Cultivation might include out-of-town visitors refueling with croissants. Residents of The District Lofts join Jackson foodies for a lunch of fresh sushi and gulf shrimp and grits. After work, business-people talk strategy over signature cocktails. As night falls, a family huddles around a table in the capacious dining area, the children grass-stained from an evening soccer match, sharing a dessert of gelato. All the while, a self-employed copywriter with her laptop and headphones has made the food hall an office for the day, with espresso just a few steps away.
The muddy soccer kids and the buttoned-up business executives eating fresh and local fare together? “You can’t do that at every restaurant,” says Hines. “It offers a lot of flexibility.”
Cultivation Food Hall is the first of its kind in Mississippi. Developers were inspired by other food halls, including St. Roch Market in New Orleans, whose team consulted on the Jackson project. But don’t expect a mirror image. The beauty of a food hall is that it derives its identity from its locality. Breck Hines saw the promise of a place to gather, “for a neighborhood, for a city, for a village, for a district.”
Originally published to FindItInFondren.com in spring 2019, reimagined for summer 2020