Carlsbad’s iconic windmill building on Palomar Airport Road will soon be transformed into a food hall with 11 restaurant concepts, a full bar and children’s games.
Windmill Food Hall, which will open in the summer, will fill the 12,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by TGI Fridays restaurant, which closed in 2016.
Windmill Food Hall is the latest brainchild of Carlsbad restaurant entrepreneur James Markham, who developed the national chains Pieology, Project Pie and MOD Pizza, as well as his newer local concepts Crackheads, Rolled Up, Doughballs and Jarfood.
Markham’s ahead-of-the-curve thinking has led to glowing write-ups in numerous trade publications, including Restaurant Hospitality, Business News Daily, Fast Casual, Pizza Marketplace and PMQ Pizza Magazine.
In 2015, Entrepreneur magazine wrote that Markham “may not have created fast-casual pizza. But the serial entrepreneur is definitely the Johnny Appleseed of custom quick-serve pies.”
So if Markham is known for hitting home runs with his food ideas, does he see food halls as the next big thing? Yes, but he plans to improve on the concept.
“I think that food halls are here to stay,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “Most of the stuff I do is a little different than everyone else. Food halls now are daytime-driven, dependent on the lunch and early-day weekend crowd. None of them have created an atmosphere that draws people in at night. We plan on doing that.”
Windmill Food Hall will have 11 individual food-service areas that will be leased to different vendors. Some will be Markham’s own concepts, like Crackheads, an all-day breakfast sandwich eatery, and maybe Doughballs, which serves wood-fired pizzas. But others will be up-and-coming, locally-born restaurants that Markham wants to help transition up from farmers markets and food trucks.
To keep the venue family-oriented, Markham said there will be children’s games like Skee-Ball, a vintage Pac-Man video game, Ping-Pong, Jenga and other hands-on games and play items.
And for the grown-ups, Markham will be introducing a single-point payment system, similar to the one used last fall at the KAABOO festival in Del Mar. When parties arrive at the check-in desk, they’ll be issued a key fob or bracelet synced to their credit card, which can be swiped at any booth or the bar.
Markham said this will simplify the purchasing process for large parties and free up cocktail waiters, so they can concentrate on filling table-side drink orders without having to process credit cards.
Windmill Food Hall, which is aiming for a June opening, is one of three food halls now in the works around San Diego County.
This summer, the Little Italy Food Hall will open next to the pedestrian-friendly Piazza della Famiglia on West Date Street between Columbia and India streets.
Also this summer, Whisknladle Hospitality will reopen the former San Diego Tech Center in Sorrento Valley as Park Commons, a 10,000-square-foot food hall and event space. One chef will oversee multi-concept food stations that will serve salads, Middle Eastern wraps, street tacos, poke, sandwiches and coffee, plus an evening bar.
They all join Liberty Public Market, a highly successful 30-vendor food hall that opened two years ago at Liberty Station in Point Loma.
The lease for the Windmill property was handled by Bill Shrader, David Maxwell, and Serena Patterson of Colliers International San Diego Region’s Urban Property Team.
Shrader said the explosion of food halls is part of a nationwide trend among diners to have more than just a meal when they go out to eat.
“Experiential retail and restaurant concepts will continue to thrive as consumers want choice when dining out,” he said. “The Windmill Food Hall will deliver an exciting, new concept in one of North County’s iconic buildings.”
The Windmill Food Hall will open at 890 Palomar Airport Road, just west of The Flower Fields and Legoland California. The 150-room lodge portion of the property is the Carlsbad By the Sea hotel.
The windmill-topped building was constructed in 1982 as the southernmost location of Pea Soup Andersen’s, a cafe/hotel company founded in Buellton in 1924 by Denmark-born restaurateur Anton Andersen. The buildings were sold to Holiday Inn in 1998. Last September, RAR Hospitality assumed management of the hotel. The company is planning a $1 million refreshment of the property.