Food Review: Ponce City Market: Chomping at the bit

This Halloween, stow the candy corn and miniature Kit Kats. Treat yourself instead to a good meal at one of Atlanta’s newer and cheaper eateries at Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall (675 Ponce de Leon Ave.). You’ll likely not find a trick in the cavernous space, but you already know you’ll be trolling Grindr after you win the Eagle costume contest for dressing like Caitlyn Jenner dragging Violet Chachki around on a leash.

Not everything is open yet, but progress is brisk. Please understand that this is not your typical food court. Like the Krog Street Market, PCM’s food stalls feature quick cuisine of first-rate chefs. You really need that in a development that rents apartments starting at $1,500 for a studio.

The opening stalls that are gaining the most attention now are H&F Burger and Hop’s Chicken. These are the work of Linton Hopkins, who is chef/owner of the acclaimed Restaurant Eugene and Holeman and Finch Public House.

Hop’s is my favorite of the two. It’s nothing but perfectly fried chicken and some pretty classic, but comparatively disappointing sides like mac and cheese, biscuits, and a weird cold salad-like version of succotash. But, oh, the chicken.

The buttermilk-marinated meat retains full moisture, bursting with flavor under a crunchy coating that includes a dash of cayenne, whose heat builds slowly in your mouth. And the prices are dirt cheap. You can, for example, get a breast for $4 and half a chicken for $9. Get at least one of the several sauces available. The frim-fram is basically a remoulade. Black-pepper gravy is my second choice—if it’s hot.

There is no dining room at Hop’s. You must take your feast to a table in the hall. On the other hand, H&F Burger includes fairly roomy bar seating. This stall mainly vends the double-cheeseburger for which Holeman & Finch became famous a few years ago.

The burger is indeed delicious, and do get the double, instead of the single-patty version. It’s pure meaty pleasure unfettered by excessive toppings. Granted, I don’t think it’s the best burger I’ve ever tasted, as many do. But we all know, burgers are iconic in America and people literally bond around their favorite. This is the foodie burger.

Also now open at PCM is Farm to Ladle, which should help keep the upstairs residents from becoming obese. I’ve only visited once, a few days before this writing. You can order salads, sandwiches, and soups here. Sounds Panera-esque, huh? It’s about 10 times tastier. Picture a salad made of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, arugula, and pecans with a balsamic-sriracha dressing. Try a sandwich of shaved chicken layered with sriracha mayo on a parmesan bun. Add a root vegetable soup. To get a good sampling of the menu, order a $12.99 “trio special” in one of four different combos.

A warning. There’s a metered fee for parking in the lot and garage. The garage in particular is so huge that finding my car to leave was difficult. A friend had to enlist the help of one of the golf-cart-riding attendants to find his. You probably don’t want to be calling for help in full leather or a black slip as I did two years in a row long ago.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who now specializes in collaborative life coaching (404-518-4415),