The whole point of a food hall is to offer variety and convenience to customers so they can choose the exact dish they're yearning for on any visit. But at Avanti Food & Beverage's upcoming Street Feud, from chef Merlin Verrier, you'll be able to get global variety all at one counter.
Street Feud is slated to replace BorraCho Taco on the second floor of Avanti in early August, serving a range of steamed buns, flatbreads, tacos and lettuce wraps, all drawing from Verrier's life experiences with Asian and Latin American cuisines. Verrier's background has spanned a wide variety of culinary influences, from his childhood through his professional experiences working in Michelin-starred kitchens.
"I grew up on California's Central Coast in Santa Cruz," the chef explains. "There was lots of produce and some of the best Mexican food I've had to this day. And my mom was born in Indonesia, so I grew up with a Southeast Asian pantry."
As a chef, Verrier has served as culinary director for the Next Door American Eatery group and director of operations for Graham Elliott in Chicago, which earned several Michelin stars during his tenure. He was also the culinary director for Lollapalooza for ten years, meeting the various demands of rock stars performing at the annual festival.
But street food has been his passion for years, so last year he left the Next Door group to plan Street Feud, envisioning it as a counter-service operation from the beginning. "At a food hall like Avanti, you instantly have a captive crowd and an established reputation," he points out.
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Since Avanti runs on an incubator model, the concepts rotate regularly; Verrier has signed a one-year lease at the food hall and says a brick-and-mortar is his eventual goal, but he also hopes Street Feud will be successful enough to stay on at Avanti after the first year.
Verrier hopes to appeal to a wide variety of tastes and eating habits, and he keeps health and nutrition at the forefront of his recipes. "I have the gift of making food tasty," he explains, "but I also have the responsibility of healing. Food should give you energy, not make you feel tired."
With that in mind, Street Feud will appeal equally to carnivores, vegans and those with other dietary needs. But Verrier says that no matter the preparation, he'll rely on the vibrant flavors and ingredients of the cultures he's drawing from. His vegan taco, for example, is made with huitlacoche black beans and oyster mushrooms that have been slow-cooked and then crisped until they achieve the texture of chicharrones.
Street Feud will join QuickFish Poke on the second floor of Avanti. Downstairs options at the food hall include Quiero Arepas, the Rotary, Bistro Georgette, Brava! Pizzeria Della Strada and the brand-new Chicken Rebel. The food hall at 3200 Pecos Street is open daily from 11 a.m., closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.