R. House Baltimore is Changing the Restaurant Game

When I hear “food court,” I think packed tables and troughs full of orange chicken and fried rice – a throbbing, anxiety-inducing center of activity in the mall. R. House, the new fast-casual eatery/food hall/hangout spot in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood, turns that idea on its head.

The space is bustling at 1:00 on a Wednesday, the St. Vincent song playing over the speakers barely audible over the chatter of college students. The space – formerly a car body shop – is the kind of industrial chic you’d expect, with concrete floors and exposed ceiling beams. Wood tables are dotted with succulents in bright planters, small pendant lights hover over the large seating area, and the old garage doors open for access to the patio. It’s the kind of place where millennials can stock up on double tap-worthy content.

R. House is home to nine stalls, each serving food you’d be happy to eat in a sit-down restaurant. There’s trendier fare, like poke bowls at Hilo and creative vegan dishes and smoothies at Stall 11. There are the unexpected pastries and unusual (and sometimes savory) ice creams at the Little Baby’s Ice Cream and Blk//Sugar stall that are a bit more off the beaten path. And of course, there are more traditional (but no less lauded) stalls, featuring fried chicken (BRD) and egg & cheese breakfast sandwiches (Ground & Griddled).

It was nearly impossible to pick where to start, but my eating team and I settled on a Korean barbecue bowl from Be.bim. It starts with steamy white rice pulled from a rice cooker and a helping of sweet, tangy chicken. As you work your way down the line, you can choose five toppings – our picks included cabbage kimchi (they offer radish and other varieties, too), edamame, and shredded beets – and one of seven sauces (the gochujang sauce is a can’t-miss).

We picked up three arepas – crisp cornmeal pockets stuffed with a variety of meats, vegetables, and sauces – at White Envelope, too. The wait was a bit long, but watching the cooks prepare the fillings on their specially made circular grill behind the counter is a good way to pass the time. The arepa featuring meltingly tender roasted pork leg, lime mayo, fresh tomato, and arugula was inarguably the best (and had my favorite of all the cheeky names – The Literate Pig). Also worth getting is The Imperial Crab – a well-seasoned crab fritter in a coconut arepa with mango mayonnaise, crispy fried plantains, red cabbage and hot sauce. Eva & José’s Goats, an herby goat cheese number with a fried green tomato, was a little overpowered by the pesto inside – but it was good pesto.

On the way out, I was tempted by the locally brewed kombucha on draft at Ground & Griddled and succumbed. I’m helpless against the call of probiotic tea. It was a smooth and refreshing (though overpriced) end to an enormous feed.

To regurgitate a cliché, R. House truly has something for everyone: from Asian food to Mexican, fried chicken to salads, breakfast to dessert, you can find what you’re craving in a hip and buzzing environment. It’s daunting at first as you navigate the ordering and pick-up lines and walk the length of the space, trying to decide what stalls to stop at, but not totally overwhelming. It’s fast-casual eating, but the environment makes it an experience in itself. If the crowd at R. House is any indication, the food hall trend is here to stay.