I've always been told that you shouldn't trust a restaurant with a really long menu. That hasn't stopped me from frequenting places that inexplicably serve from multi-page menus ranging from Mexican to Chinese, but the logic makes sense. Short menus mean more repetition, which encourages consistency and quality, and all that stuff.
But I also want ramen and chocolate chip cookies, and I don't have all day.
Enter the food hall, a hot dining trend of the past few years. Instead of trying to deck out a single restaurant with all of the bells and whistles, you can simply put a bunch of them into one shared space, allowing guests to pick and choose whatever dubious combo gets their blood pumping. It's like a high-end food court for cool people, and you don't even have to walk through a Dillard's to get there.
The Hall on Franklin is Tampa's first foray into the genre, and it's a good one. The food options are as eclectic as they come, ranging from bao buns to sandwich melts, and the food is both cheap and of excellent quality, which I wasn't expecting going in.
The best part about it all is the integration. You don't need to order from each business individually, you can just post up at the bar and order there. Which bar? The Collection, yet another Ro Patel project. You know what that means: killer cocktails, with the same creative flair and smooth execution that you've grown to expect from other bars that Patel's had a hand in, like Anise, Ciro's, Franklin Manor and Grille One Sixteen.
The Collection is right in the middle of the Hall, taking full advantage of the open, airy feel, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling picture windows wrapped around most of the exterior, allowing plentiful natural light to pour in and keeping the chandeliers on standby until the evening.
The rest is wood floors, exposed ductwork, faded brick and so on. "Ubiquitous modern" is the term I'm going to start using, so I don't repeat myself every few weeks. It looks great, though, like the lobby of a really cool boutique hotel, or a restaurant for which I'm underdressed. There's valet parking.
The drinks at The Collection are more straightforward than I expected. Patel has arguably had a greater impact on local cocktail culture than any other single figure, bringing obscure ingredients and modern techniques to an area that was mostly of the Jack and Coke variety a decade or so ago. It's somewhat ironic, then, that his latest list features a cosmo right at the top, along with standards like the old fashioned and Moscow mule.
I find this refreshing. Cocktail culture always seems to be escalating, both in terms of elaborate ingredients and processes as well as prices. It's nice to be able to grab a $10 negroni with no fuss at the newest hot cocktail spot.
And there's a Jack Rose on the menu, which makes The Collection only the second place in the bay area (the second being Zom Hee Chinese restaurant in Seminole) that I'm aware of serving this personal favorite. This version contains egg in the Luxardo cherry foam, but the bartenders also can make it the classic way — "deconstructed," as my bartender explained.
If you want something more left-field, there's a truffle infused martini, which features Tito's and Italian black Périgord truffles foraged specifically for The Collection, made with a brine produced from a sous vide of the two. That, truly, is something new.
With the shared space format comes great potential for collaboration, and The Collection wisely capitalizes on that, featuring a handful of coffee-cocktail hybrids made in partnership with Ty Beddingfield of Kôfë, the coffee bar located a few paces away. There's the Campari-cold brew Americano Americano — anyone who chuckles at the name gets a gold star — and a tequila-oolong concoction, as well as my favorite, the Not Root Beer: Licor 43, Galliano and nitro cold brew.
It's not all cocktails, either. The wine list is excellent and fairly-priced, and there's a very nice selection of brews, including many local options. The top pick here is easy — it's a collaboration between The Collection and next-door neighbors Hidden Springs Aleworks called The Hall Pass. It's a hibiscus-cucumber-yuzu Florida weisse that couldn't possibly pair better with citrus tofu and baby kale salad from The Hall's Poké Rose. I'm talking some serious synergy here.
The food hall concept is hot for a reason, and The Hall on Franklin delivers in all respects. The Collection is just the right fit here, both in format and in execution. Put another score up on the board for Tampa Heights — this one's well deserved.
Contact Justin Grant at email@example.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.