Galley Group owners Tyler Benson and Benjamin Mantica got the idea for a food hall while serving on the same ship together in the Navy.
“We spent some time in Southeast Asia and the Far East,” says Benson. “And there’s huge food markets and food halls with a ton of different vendors inside, with some of the best street food you’ve ever had in your life, at an approachable price point.”
For the past few years, Faros Properties of New York has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp the desolate former Allegheny Center Mall into a campus for high-tech companies, Nova Place. They picked Galley Group, of the successful Smallman Galley in the Strip District, to fill in the final missing piece.
Federal Galley opened this week, filling a vast 190-seat space in an unrecognizable former PNC Bank, with communal seating, giant garage doors opening to an outdoor patio, and old bank vault doors that open into the bar.
Like its older brother in the Strip, Federal Galley combines forces with several other ambitious startup restaurants — and a top-notch bar program, with 30 taps and some of the city’s best cocktails. This makes a lot of sense, as it allows the chefs time to focus on the food.
Smallman Galley was envisioned as a kind of incubator, or accelerator, for new restaurant businesses — helping restaurateurs that had the culinary chops, but lacked the startup capital for full-sized restaurants.
“The whole thing was started to allow chefs the opportunity to start their own restaurants,” says Mantica. “Help them, mentor them on running the business and managing people. For a chef, it’s under $10,000 [at Smallman] to get a business up and running, to get your brand set up in a really cost-advantageous way.”
“You don’t see other food halls doing this — nearly all treat their operators like tenants. They require chefs to come in and purchase all the equipment and do the buildout of the kitchen; it’s like $50,000 to $100,000 to do that.”
Stephen Eldridge, one of the chefs from the first “class” at Smallman Galley (they’re now on their second grouping of four restaurateurs), is helming two concepts at Federal Galley. Provision brings back that spot’s popular burgers. El Lugar was inspired by Eldridge’s days in Arizona and a recent food tour of Mexico.
Michigan & Trumbull also brings back something that has absolutely taken off at Smallman — Detroit-style pizza. It’s a little bit softer, thicker, chewier crust than we’re used to here, though not nearly as heavy as, say, Chicago-style. It’s run by Kristen Calverley and Nate Peck, both Michigan natives.
The fourth concept is called Supper, from Vincent Perri, the former executive chef of Revel + Roost, Downtown. It’s vegetable-forward, with a lot of scratch-made vegan and gluten-free dishes, but there’s also Poutine with duck fat fries and Emerald Valley cheese curds.
Smallman Galley in the Strip has “bested all expectations,” notes Benson.
It’s doing well enough that two more Galleys are in the works for next year, one in Cleveland and one in Detroit.