Fork Forty Food Hall, which has 7 food and beverage vendors, opened in downtown Salem with several accommodations for public health.
Salem Statesman Journal
Fork decals mark reminders of physical distance on the floor and a fork-shaped dispenser offers hand sanitizer at the entrance. It wasn’t the opening they had planned, but Fork Forty Food Hall invited its first guest on Friday.
Leslie Stewart and Will Pbahrman share a table full of containers, Korean fried chicken bao parties, kimchi fried rice, and creme rice pudding brulee. Nearby, a physical distance line is formed at Chubby Panda Bao House.
Owners Joseph Ngo and Sara Cisneros have been serving to take from the room for weeks but, said Cisneros, “It’s nice to see everyone, seeing them enjoying it.”
The food hall had been planned to open months ago, but the coronavirus interfered with the plan.
“We are sort of in this limbo,” said Charles Weathers, who has space in partnership with Conrad Venti of Vent’s Cafe. “We just have to dive in and make this happen.”
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Fork Forty has been waiting for since Weathers and Venti plan announced first to turn 440 State Street into Salem’s first food room, a collection of businesses that share indoor space. Following the Pine Street Market model in Portland and similar food halls in other cities, the Fork Forty building involved a major renovation of a former two-story Chinese restaurant.
Unrecognized now, ready to unite the rows of bustling restaurants on High Street – Table LIMA 08, Epilogue Kitchen & Bar, Bari, DaVinci’s – with State Street staples Wild Pear, Taproot, Archive and Ritter’s.
Two entrances offer access to a room full of sensory shock. Figure 40 lights up on a pulsating wall in time with music, gold goose decals on The Best Goose are made for selfies, and neon murals from pop-up pin art models let visitors know that they have found Slick Licks, taken by Salem. soft serve.
Everything about this place is very Instagrammable, but it’s the food that gives Fork Forty’s character.
A cubano on gluten-free waffles, teriyaki wings, steamed buns filled with carne asada, oreo Oreo, soft dishes, Khmer meatballs; the whole idea behind this concept is to offer a variety of choices to suit different tastes.
Seven independently owned businesses frame the U Fork Forty-shaped space, with a shared seating area in between. Of the seven, five have been opened. This includes Slick Licks Soft Serve, Panda Bao Chubby’s house, Portland Press, and King’s Kitchen. Best Goose, which occupies its own room outside the main area, is the all-friendly Fork Forty bar.
For two weeks “soft opening” all businesses maintain slightly different hours. Sunday June 15th they plan to shift from open from 11:00 to 9:00. Monday to Saturday and 11:00 to 3 nights on Sunday.
According to country phase one opening requirements, workers in all businesses wear masks and gloves.
They have adjusted the seating arrangements to allow guests to keep their distance from each other and, except drinks at The Best Goose, package all orders in takeout containers.
Because the seating is open, Fork Forty has posted signs on the table, asking guests to turn it over when they finish eating as a signal to staff to clean the table between uses.
Weathers called the system “an effort in good faith to try and reduce risk.”
This is a strange time to open a business, especially one that has been running for almost two years, but Weathers hopes that a slow launch will allow businesses to adapt and take on new regulations calmly, preparing for a busier and happier future.
Emily Teel is Food & Beverage Editor at Statesman Journal. Contact him at [email protected], or via Facebook or Twitter. See what he cooked this week on Instagram: @emily_teel
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