The much-anticipated R. House food hall opens Dec. 8 in a former automotive showroom in Remington. Its 12 stalls will offer a wide variety of foods. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun video)
From cortado-style coffee to Old Bay barbecue-flavored ice cream, guests could come to R. House when the doors open at 7 a.m. and find reasons to stay all day.
More than a year in the making, the Remington food hall is ready to welcome patrons from Baltimore and beyond to sample food and drink from a dozen different vendors. The space opens to the public at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"We call this thing R. House — we want it to be welcoming like a home," said Jon Constable, development manager at Seawall Development Co., the food hall's developer. "We're trying to create just the friendliest, warmest place in the city."
The cynical might call them classy food courts. The money-minded, public markets that are finally profitable. Epicures could describe them as farmers' markets reaching maturity. For the nostalgic, they might evoke a college dining hall.
Housed in a former Anderson Automotive showroom at 301 W. 29th St., R. House will become one of the largest food markets in the city, rounding out offerings from the city-owned public markets and the Mount Vernon Marketplace. Although R. House is home to fewer vendors than Mount Vernon Marketplace, it has more than twice the amount of seating and longer hours.
Another large food hall was a natural fit for a city that's seen so much restaurant growth, R. House General Manager Peter DiPrinzio said, and it was designed to lower the cost of doing business for chefs with fledgling concepts.
"For the little guy that isn't quite ready to [open a restaurant], you need a place to incubate and test," DiPrinzio said. "It's a force that I think can help accelerate that growth."
R. House is poised to be as transformative for the chefs it houses as the community it serves. The $13 million project, which also includes office space and a fitness studio above the food hall, isn't Seawall's first run in Remington. The group also developed Miller's Court, a haven of affordable housing for teachers and office space for nonprofits in the neighborhood.
"Our philosophy was not to be guests but to be neighbors in the community," Constable said. "We've worked really hard in the community over the years to listen."
What the company heard was a yearning for a "third place" — a community space to play, eat and drink — in addition to places to live and work. That much was true for Amie Ward, the lead bartender at R. Bar, R. House's central watering hole. Ward previously worked at Aggio, but the Remington resident said she was drawn to R. House both personally and professionally.
"I found myself everywhere but my own neighborhood," she said. "This is giving people, including myself, a reason to stick around."
The development team met with more than 80 chefs and restaurateurs as they considered concepts for the 12 stalls within R. House, curating a mix that would appeal to a range of palates. Seawall took input from neighbors and from Baltimore chefs, some of whom served in a focus group that predated R. House's construction and who later came on board as vendors.
Many of the stall owners, like J. J. Reidy of Stall 11, said R. House was an attractive venue to do business not only for its foodie vibe, but also because of Seawall's investment in the surrounding community.
"They're the real deal in terms of building impact," said Reidy, whose hydroponic farm network Urban Pastoral will supply the produce for Stall 11, a vegan and vegetarian eatery. "We're all kind of growing something together."
In addition to the permanent concepts at R. House, the space houses a pop-up stall for chefs to test out new concepts for as short as two weeks or as long as two months. The chef piloting the pop-up space during December has not yet been announced. One more permanent vendor will join the food hall in January.
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"Baltimore really has become a food city, and this just creates more options for talented chefs," Constable said. "We're lowering the barrier for entry."
R. House opens to the public Thursday at 5 p.m. Its regular hours will be 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. All of the stalls but Ground & Griddled open at 11:30 daily, closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Ground & Griddled is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
To learn more about the 10 stalls operating on R. House's opening night, browse the photo gallery: