In the sun-drenched lobby of a downtown office building, two veteran Cincinnati chefs watched over a series of banquet tables piled with fried chicken sliders, sushi rolls, bao buns and bacon-wrapped dates.
They were just some of the offerings cooked up by Josh Campbell and Derek Dos Anjos at Atrium Food Market, a new, multi-million dollar breakfast and lunch spot from Pittsburgh-based Parkhurst Dining, and, perhaps, a preview of the future of casual downtown dining.
Atrium might also be a welcome option for downtown workers who are growing tired of the current fast-casual options, which, based on a recent walk through this part of downtown, includes a lot of Subway locations.
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It’s an odd venture for the two chefs. Campbell once owned and operated the Django Western Taco locations in Northside before going on to restaurants such as Yard Bird, Maverick and SQR, while Dos Anjos first made a name for himself with the Anchor, in Over-the-Rhine before going on to open Parts & Labor, inside the Oakley Kitchen Food Hall. Both said the opportunity to work normal hours (they get in around 6 a.m. and out by 3) is a welcome change from the craziness and unpredictability of owning their own spots.
“The benefits are great, too,” Campbell told me.
Atrium isn’t a food hall. Rather, it’s a market consisting of one long counter with four stations that rotate biweekly through eleven different dining concepts. Those options include Chinese food, Asian food, Italian food, barbecue, salads, Belgian waffles and hand-tossed pizza. Seating is available in the lobby and, as soon as the weather warms up, a large outdoor patio with views of Great American Ballpark.
The market also offers grab-and-go options including salads and sandwiches and a small grocery selling everything from potato chips to pasta sauce.
Both chefs said they will still be able to flex their culinary muscles by coming up with original menu options and specials. The goal of the market is for at least 20% of its ingredients to be local. Campbell offered me a quick tour of the kitchen, which will also produce house-baked bread for their deli sandwiches, pastas, Belgian waffles and egg rolls. Pointing to a several bags of frozen French fries in the walk-in, he told me they weren’t from a mass food distributor like Sysco. “We make those right here, too,” he said.
Atrium will also host pop-ups with local chefs and provide catering services for meetings and office gattherings.
“We’ve got to encourage people to come downtown and work downtown,” Kearney said. “Don’t stay at home. Let’s not keep that COVID mentality. Let’s come on down, let’s mingle, let’s meet each other, let’s eat together and play together, let’s work together. We need to be together. That’s what Cincinnati is all about. We are a strong community and having our restaurants and businesses thrive makes us even stronger.”
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Cincinnati vice mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney told the crowd that she hopes the new market will encourage people to come back downtown not just to eat, but to return to the office, too.
After the ribbon was cut, I headed to the table of food that was set up for the day’s guests (many, like myself, from local media outlets) and assembled a small feast consisting of a chicken slider, two sushi rolls, a bao bun, a bacon-wrapped date and a slice of focaccia. Sure, I was suspicious how so many flavors from so many cultures could be turned out of one kitchen. But everything was surprisingly on point.
As I ate, I looked across the lobby to the Subway location that sat largely empty. I couldn’t help thinking it looked lonely.
201 E. Fourth St., Downtown. 513-873-0865, atriumfoodmarket.com. Hours: Atrium Food Market is open 7-10:30 a.m. for breakfast and 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch.