Hall on Franklin in Tampa Heights has been closed since last December, but the space may have a new occupant by the end of this year.
Asian food hall Urban Hawkers plans to open in the space in the coming months. CEO and founding partner Victoria Vo told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that it’s too early to commit to a date, but the company is eyeing a late 2021 or early 2022 opening.
The concept, located at 1701 N Franklin St., will feature multiple booths, and all of them will focus on various Asian-inspired menus. Vo said patrons will walk up and order food then eat it at communal tables—meaning the model is more similar to Armature Works than it is to the former Hall on Franklin.
“We are in an underserved community when it comes to Asian cuisine,” Vo added. “There’s a lot of Americanized Asian cuisine, but we’re going to have a heavy focus on bringing back a certain side of the culture to Urban Hawkers.”
New “Coming soon” signage featuring giant images of Pepsi went up Tuesday outside the space.
Though the names are similar, the concept is not affiliated with the popular Florida-based Asian street food chain Hawkers, which has a nearby location in St. Petersburg.
In August of 2020, Hall on Franklin founder Jamal Wilson announced plans to open a new, yet-to-open project called the Hall in Midtown Tampa in early 2021.
Urban Hawkers—whose moniker is a nod to the Asian hawker street food centers—will feature 8 food stalls. Ownership wouldn’t specify what kind of Asian cuisines will be represented, but did say that the stalls aren’t all filled; Urban Hawkers hopes to connect with local chefs to cement those last few spots.
Vo grew up in the Bay area and watched her parents run Vo Vo Express, Tampa’s first drive-thru Chinese restaurants. She said that as a child, it felt like they might have been the first Asian family in Plant City. “I remember being in first grade and teaching my classmates how to use chopsticks,” she said.
So it’s fitting that she’s part of a group that hopes to bring the best Asian food from across the U.S. back home.
The partners behind Urban Hawkers met many of the chefs coming to the food hall during trips to states like New York, California and even Texas where pockets of real Asian cuisine are prevalent.
“Some of the chefs coming here are some of my favorites that I’ve met across the U.S. I’m usually traveling to these places, which are food destinations for me,” Vo said. “But we want to bring them to Tampa and hopefully open the door for more Asian businesses to come to the Bay area."
UPDATED 09/01/21 3:30 p.m. Added additional details from Urban Hawkers ownership.
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