The food courts of yesteryear were defined by their tinny atmospheres, grimy seating, and the smell of pizza dying beneath the heat lamps. Thank heavens that, here in San Francisco, we have the Ferry Building and the Market at Twitter. Now Emeryville is catching up, with the gentrification of Public Market, a civilized food court that aims to capture the East Bay's foodie crowd.
Located just off Shellmound Ave. (near the Urban Outfitters and the Guitar Center) since the 1980s, Public Market is taking big steps into the 21st Century thanks to its new owners at City Center Realty Partners (CCRP). “It used to be a community gathering place," says CCRP cofounder and president Mark Stefan. "Our goal is to transform it into something the community wants now.”
Mid-renovation, the food hall appears to be caught between two eras—the original storefronts (including Hot Italian and Peet's Coffee & Tea) remain in tact near the main entrance, while the modern magic is beginning to happen at back (“Once we’ve built out, we’ll go back and refinish the others,” Stefan promises.) Here, the space is being overhauled with skylights, contemporary flooring, a living wall, and original installations from four local artists.
(A portion of the newly revamped space at Public Market; courtesy of A.K.Carroll)
When complete, the updated Public Market will host nearly 20 international food concepts at a variety of pricepoints. Among the newcomers is Shiba Ramen, owned by husband-wife team Jake Freed and Hiroko Nakamura.
"There is a real reluctance on the part of the developers to go with established concepts," says Freed, who also points out the "rigorous design, architecture, and construction process, involving a lot of stakeholders,” of setting up shop here. As with the best food halls in SF, the CCRP is being highly selective about its vendors: “We’re looking for something unique,—something you can’t find in every center in the Bay Area,” Stefan says.
Freed, meanwhile, is relieved to be on the other side of negotiations and to have opened in the space that he believes will be perfect for their ramen concept. “We immediately knew it was the right fit,” he says. “We expect the food hall to be a pretty dynamic and lively environment, with a modern feel and diverse, international food.”
The Korean-Japanese fusion restaurant KoJa Kitchen is also among the new additions; outposts of We Sushi and Mayo and Mustard are scheduled to open later this spring, and a new Peruvian concept from Carlos Altamirano (of La Coastanera) is set to open sometime in the next six months. We can also likely expect to see a Mexican concept, a brewpub, and a few dessert options.
(Shiba Ramen; courtesy of Jake Freed)
The 20,000-square-foot space is only phase one of a much larger development that will eventually includes 300,000 square feet of specialty retail, restaurants, and entertainment space, as well as the New Seasons market (which will occupy the old movie theater) and 450 residential units. // Public Market, 5959 Shellmound St. (Emeryville), publicmarketemeryville.com