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Take your pick at Windmill Food Hall

Finally a legitimate excuse to visit Carlsbad’s windmill

Dolsot bibimbap from Friend's House Korean restaurant, in the Windmill Food Hall
Dolsot bibimbap from Friend's House Korean restaurant, in the Windmill Food Hall

I never went when it was a Pea Soup Andersen’s, though I’ve been around long enough to remember it. I never went when it was a TGI Fridays, for reasons I hope would be obvious. But after years driving past the Danish-style windmill that towers over the 5 freeway at Carlsbad’s Palomar Airport Road exit, I’ll admit it was a treat to have a reason to go inside.

A Danish styled windmill, now the site of a food hall

That reason is the Windmill Food Hall, which opened this fall. In case you’re not familiar, a food hall is a food court without the mall attached. And, fortunately, rather than the ubiquitous Sbarro or Hot Dog On a Stick type franchises that have fed many generations of mall-going teens, a food hall tends to aim higher. In the case of this food hall, it’s done so by hand-picking local farmers market vendors, food truckers, and restaurants.

Windmill Food Hall's main hall and bar

The 1200-square-foot space features a long, fully stocked bar in its main hall, surrounded by a good fourteen counters featuring the likes of grilled cheese, rolled ice cream, and pho. It’s a bright and colorful space, with loads of windows and games ranging from tabletop pac man to skeeball. Seating includes cushy bar seats, lounge sofas, high top tables, and picnic tables, the latter continuing outside, to a length of patio behind the bar.

Patio seating and games outside the Windmill

But there’s more to the space — continue to the back hall to find treats including Belgian French fries, lobster rolls, and poke bowls, as well as a library-styled lounge, windowless, but lined with bookshelves and booth seating, and the shine of metallic ceiling tiles. Word is a BBQ restaurant will eventually open in the base of the windmill itself, so I suppose I will have to return for that.

A MASH like sign pointing out food hall options

Not that I needed any more choices my first couple visits. Adding to the aforementioned options, Carlsbad’s Notorious Burgers has a booth serving sliders and salads, and naturally there’s a taco spot. But if I were a Carlsbad resident, I’d be most excited about a couple of Convoy Street Korean restaurants now serving in the food hall, being that I can’t find evidence of any dedicated Korean restaurants currently doing business in the city otherwise.

The library-like back room of the food hall

One of them is fried chicken specialist Cross Street Chicken, which serves the double-fried style Korea has become known for. Someone’s going to have to explain to me what makes this place so popular: to me it tastes like the batter was seasoned with store-bought ramen flavor packets. But other people seem to love it, and I’m sure there are plenty in North County who will benefit from its arrival here.

Place

Windmill Banquet and Catering

890 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad

My preference has a familiar Kearny Mesa name: Friend’s House. Like most of the food served in the food hall, it’s assortment of rice bowls and soft tofu stews are served in cardboard containers. However, it only costs a dollar to upgrade the bibimbap to the dolsot bibimbap, meaning it’s served in the traditional hot stone bowl. For the moment at least, its sizzling rice, vegetables, beef, and fried egg look like the food hall’s top option to me. Having that heavy stone bowl, served in a wood box tray, doesn’t hurt. But I suppose the beauty of a food hall is you can disagree with everyone around you about what looks good today.

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Dolsot bibimbap from Friend's House Korean restaurant, in the Windmill Food Hall
Dolsot bibimbap from Friend's House Korean restaurant, in the Windmill Food Hall

I never went when it was a Pea Soup Andersen’s, though I’ve been around long enough to remember it. I never went when it was a TGI Fridays, for reasons I hope would be obvious. But after years driving past the Danish-style windmill that towers over the 5 freeway at Carlsbad’s Palomar Airport Road exit, I’ll admit it was a treat to have a reason to go inside.

A Danish styled windmill, now the site of a food hall

That reason is the Windmill Food Hall, which opened this fall. In case you’re not familiar, a food hall is a food court without the mall attached. And, fortunately, rather than the ubiquitous Sbarro or Hot Dog On a Stick type franchises that have fed many generations of mall-going teens, a food hall tends to aim higher. In the case of this food hall, it’s done so by hand-picking local farmers market vendors, food truckers, and restaurants.

Windmill Food Hall's main hall and bar

The 1200-square-foot space features a long, fully stocked bar in its main hall, surrounded by a good fourteen counters featuring the likes of grilled cheese, rolled ice cream, and pho. It’s a bright and colorful space, with loads of windows and games ranging from tabletop pac man to skeeball. Seating includes cushy bar seats, lounge sofas, high top tables, and picnic tables, the latter continuing outside, to a length of patio behind the bar.

Patio seating and games outside the Windmill

But there’s more to the space — continue to the back hall to find treats including Belgian French fries, lobster rolls, and poke bowls, as well as a library-styled lounge, windowless, but lined with bookshelves and booth seating, and the shine of metallic ceiling tiles. Word is a BBQ restaurant will eventually open in the base of the windmill itself, so I suppose I will have to return for that.

A MASH like sign pointing out food hall options

Not that I needed any more choices my first couple visits. Adding to the aforementioned options, Carlsbad’s Notorious Burgers has a booth serving sliders and salads, and naturally there’s a taco spot. But if I were a Carlsbad resident, I’d be most excited about a couple of Convoy Street Korean restaurants now serving in the food hall, being that I can’t find evidence of any dedicated Korean restaurants currently doing business in the city otherwise.

The library-like back room of the food hall

One of them is fried chicken specialist Cross Street Chicken, which serves the double-fried style Korea has become known for. Someone’s going to have to explain to me what makes this place so popular: to me it tastes like the batter was seasoned with store-bought ramen flavor packets. But other people seem to love it, and I’m sure there are plenty in North County who will benefit from its arrival here.

Place

Windmill Banquet and Catering

890 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad

My preference has a familiar Kearny Mesa name: Friend’s House. Like most of the food served in the food hall, it’s assortment of rice bowls and soft tofu stews are served in cardboard containers. However, it only costs a dollar to upgrade the bibimbap to the dolsot bibimbap, meaning it’s served in the traditional hot stone bowl. For the moment at least, its sizzling rice, vegetables, beef, and fried egg look like the food hall’s top option to me. Having that heavy stone bowl, served in a wood box tray, doesn’t hurt. But I suppose the beauty of a food hall is you can disagree with everyone around you about what looks good today.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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