CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Food halls are becoming increasingly popular in Charlotte.
What You Need To Know
An 85,000 square foot warehouse in South End is being converted to a food hall
Optimist Hall in NoDa celebrated its second anniversary in August
Food halls bring more accessible options for chefs who otherwise couldn’t afford to build a full-sized restaurant
Qian Zhang runs The Dumpling Lady stall at Optimist Hall in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood.
Zhang is bringing a taste of home from China to the Queen City with her dumplings and other Sichuan-style dishes.
“All the dumplings are handmade,” said Zhang, who learned to cook while growing up with her grandmother in the Sichuan province.
Zhang began selling her dumplings frozen at a farmer’s market in Charlotte.
“And then people really like it, and then we decided to give it a try to start our food truck,” Zhang said.
Zhang delighted taste buds around the city as she cooked up her dumplings and other Sichuan staples.
“I take it as I’m very lucky,” Zhang said. “I was able to find the niche in the market.”
Zhang hopped off the road and moved into Optimist Hall in 2018 to cook up a new vision for her business by expanding her menu and her staff.
“I’m very thankful for Optimist Hall,” Zhang said. “They were able to give us a platform, and we’re able to provide a lot of jobs to people in need.”
Zhang’s stall is surrounded by 54,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, which is plenty of room for people to sit down and sample her food. Zhang has more than 20 employees who help keep her kitchen running during a pandemic.
“We kept most of our employees [during the pandemic],” Zhang said. “We use our limited income to pay the staff so that they don’t get kicked out of their apartment and they have money to buy their kids’ food.”
As Charlotte’s food hall scene grows, Zhang is optimistic about the future of her brand and other small businesses.
“To grow from a food truck to a restaurant…it proves your concept and it gives you such satisfaction,” Zhang said. “We just need to be focused on doing one thing and doing it really good.”