In downtown Wilmington, dining options are abundant, from Le Cavalier to La Fia and The Quoin.
But if residents and workers near the Brandywine River crave a variety of culinary choices, they have to schlep for their meals.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, The Chancery Market Food Hall & Bar will open at 1313 N. Market Street, which longtime Delawareans still call the Hercules building.
The new food hall features eight food-and-beverage vendors in a distinct indoor/outdoor
A behind-the-scenes look at the new venue proved that the public is in for a treat.
When it comes to bringing together multiple food vendors, the 12,000-square-foot hall is breaking the old rules — and that’s a good thing.
Chancery Market founders
The 12-story trophy building at 1313 N. Market Street has been a conversation starter since it opened in 1983.
The $80 million project quickly received press for its 12-story atrium with potted trees and plantings.
Hercules, however, is long gone, and now many tenants in the renovated building are law firms, including Potter Anderson & Corroon, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell.
The occupants led to The Chancery Market’s name. After all, the Court of Chancery is Delaware’s business claim to fame.
But the market is no corporate café.
The culinary collective is the brainchild of Scott Johnson and TSG Hospitality, which has been redeveloping 1313 N. Market St. and 1201 N. Market St. in the central business district.
To create The Chancery Market, TSG partnered with Brooklyn-based Hospitality HQ, which has 15 food halls under its belt, including Salt Lake City and Houston sites.
Hospitality HQ’s founding partner, Akhtar Nawab, is well-versed in the ins and outs of restaurant ownership.
He started Alta Calidad and Alta Calidad Taqueria in New York and Otra Vez in New Orleans.
Street food in sophisticated setting
For the food halls, Nawab, who is of Indian descent, takes a multicultural approach that puts street food in a modern setting.
To start, he brought Fuku on board.
Launched by celebrity chef David Chang, the concept specializes in spicy fried chicken sandwiches with specialty mayo and pickles served on potato rolls. The “sando” was a hit at
Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar before getting its fast-casual platform.
Also quick to sign was Kati Roll Walla, featuring a popular dish from Kolkata, West Bengal, in India. Like a gyro, flatbread wraps around a filling, such as cheese, chicken or egg. There are
vegan options and also bowls.
The Chancery Market will be the Kumar family’s second Kati Roll Walla. The first is in a Knoxville, Tennessee, food hall.
The diverse concepts helped attract other businesses, and many might sound familiar.
- Toscana Pizza & Panini is part of Dan Butler’s family of restaurants, including Piccolina Toscana and Toscana To Go. The Chancery Market will offer Neapolitan-style pizzas made in a gleaming black-tiled forno. The menu also includes salads and sandwiches on sourdough.
- Oath 84 is an offshoot of the restaurant of the same name at 405 N. Market St. The market menu includes such international fusions as Indi-Mex lasagna, crab rolls with saffron-pimento sauce and bahn mi sandwiches.
- Rooted AF is from the same team that opened The Juice Joint on the Riverfront, and this site will also feature freshly pressed juices plus vegan food.
- Espresso specializes in coffee, espresso-based and tea beverages and bagels.
- Market Street Burger & Dog keeps it simple with America’s favorite quick foods, fries, tots or onion rings.
The final vendor is in negotiations.
Nectar Bar, which serves alcoholic libations, not smoothies, has a view of the patio. In warm weather, the windows open so bartenders can serve patrons inside and outside.
Interestingly, the vendors do not rent their stalls; they own them, and each is outfitted with the commercial equipment they need.
While the open kitchens face customers, many stalls have private areas behind doors for refrigerators and sinks.
A shared commercial space is in the back.
No average food hall
In the days before opening, Fuku workers in black uniforms were undergoing training, and a stack of bright orange-and-white boxes sat waiting for the signature sandwich.
Some stakeholders sat staring at laptops at the bar or in the seating area. As they tapped, tradespeople hammered and drilled, putting the finishing touches on the room.
Despite the activity, the private tour revealed that The Chancery Hall is no mall food court.
The sophisticated décor includes a palette of black, silver, charcoal and shades of gray accented with warm woods and monochrome tile. The result is a clean, polished vibe.
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The neutral colors showcase colorful art from Wilmington native Monique Rollins and local artist Milton Downing.
To hide an air valve, Wilmington artist Christian Kanienberg crafted a metalwork covering that can serve as a backdrop for selfies.
Throughout the space, bold lines and geometric designs define the areas.
For instance, a wood ceiling ornament — a cloud ceiling — and a juxtaposition of dash-like lighting hang above the seating area. A similar pattern decorates each vendor’s stall.
Although a practical concrete floor covers most of the market, a modern carpet distinguishes a lounge area that sports sofas, round tables and a double-sided fireplace, visible from inside and
There is also seating in the back at long tables with pop-up outlets for computer connections.
Keep sitting to order if you wish. Cards on tables instruct users to scan a code and order food. When it’s ready, someone will bring it to your numbered table.
Granted, not everyone has time to spare; DoorDash will provide delivery, and for pickup, there are space age-style hot and cold cubicles near the atrium entrance that will keep food at the
A place to gather
The tables and sofas are welcoming spots for freelancers and workers who want to escape the office setting, but the Chancery Market is also open during weekends and evenings.
For instance, entertainers can perform on a portable stage with multiple configurations.
Outside, stone knee walls separate sections available for private dining. Each has tables with metal runners for ice, so guests can keep drinks cool in the summer. The furniture was made by The Challenge Program, a Wilmington organization that teaches construction and life skills to youth.
No matter the weather, there is a fireplace, now a common feature in the post-pandemic landscape.
TSG Hospitality also formed a local partnership to work on the 10,000-square-foot plaza’s landscaping. The design is a partnership between the Delaware Horticulture Center, Sasaki
Associates and Ruppert Landscape.
Plantings include native plants, shrubs, perennials and grasses.
Focused on the future
TSG Hospitality’s $6 million investment in North Market Street includes a private dining room/event space in the back that can tap Toscana’s catering division.
The old café is being turned into a place for chef demonstrations and golf swing suites.
But it’s not all about food.
Plans call for a 125-seat art theater on the lower level and a 23-room hotel on the property with conference rooms and a wine cellar with private dining. Skywalks will connect the buildings.
As always, city naysayers will pounce on the project.
However, it’s worth noting that there are two new-ish hotels across the street with hungry guests who don’t feel like walking uphill to the 900 block.
What’s more, many former offices on lawyer’s row are becoming residences, noted Gaby Indellini, a local resident and director of marketing and communications for 1201 N. Market St.,
1313 N. Market St. and TSG Hospitality.
Few would argue that we need more dining options on North Market Street.
After all, it’s been a long time since Tiffin and Waterworks ruled the roost.
While we’ll need time to learn the final verdict, the recent visit proved that The Chancery Market has what it takes to win its case.
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