Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, things downtown have gotten a bit…off. Sure, there’s been a slow crawl back toward something resembling normal, with events and performances resuming, new retail spots opening, and restaurant dining rooms beginning to fill back up. However, with work-from-home protocols becoming more and more popular—not to mention many folks’ newfound appreciation for the various corners of their living rooms—the old downtown energy just isn’t the same as it used to be. A lot of us have turned into homebodies, is what we’re saying. (No judgment—us too.) But maybe it’s time to get back out there?
Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney sure thinks so. She doesn’t mince words in her call to get our derrieres downtown.
“We’ve got to encourage people to come downtown and work downtown,” she says. “We are a strong community, and having our restaurants and businesses thrive makes us even stronger. Don’t stay at home. Come back downtown, let’s meet each other, let’s eat together and play together, let’s work together. We need to be together.”
On Jan. 18, Lemon Kearney attended the ribbon cutting for Atrium Food Market, which was conceived to give people one more reason to come back and really savor what downtown Cincinnati has to offer.
The market started when Atrium building representatives reached out to contract food service provider Parkhurst Dining about a desire to provide high-quality food prepared by local chefs. On the ground floor of Atrium One tower on East Fourth Street, the location has unique offerings that make an ideal pitch to get workers back to enjoying their lunch breaks again with local purchases.
“The food market is a chef-driven experience for corporate dining,” explains General Manager Josh Campbell (of Maverick’s Restobar & Lounge and Django Western Taco), who runs the market alongside Executive Chef Derek Dos Anjos (formerly of Parts & Labor and Anchor OTR). “It’s geared toward really well-executed food. People are going to notice the quality and consistency that we bring to the table from day to day.”
What this looks like for downtown diners is 12 distinct brands via four stations that rotate weekly, including:
- Billie’s Coop House Sandwiches (chicken)
- Cinco Cantina (casual Mexican)
- Corner Mercantile (handcrafted deli sandwiches)
- Firehouse Grille (American grill classics)
- Hello Bistro Express (fresh salads)
- Hot Tomato Pizza Co. (hand-tossed pizza)
- Leaf & Grain (salad, grain, and protein bowls)
- Pastascuitta (pasta)
- Slō Smōk Barbecue (barbecue meats and classic sides)
- Wild About Waffles (Belgian waffles)
- Wok (stir fry)
“We have food that people can feel comfortable with, but also on a high level of execution,” Campbell says. “Food is so important with the gathering of people, the resting time of when you sit down and eat. You can be having a terrible day at work, but you’re going to come and grab something from us, and it’s going to be fast, but it’s going to be very, very good.”
He knows that people have the idea he’s a super busy guy (we even reported as much last year). And while he does like to keep a handful of irons in his proverbial kitchen fire, Parkhurst and the Atrium Food Market are his primary job—and diners can expect his full attention on the operation.
“I know everybody sees me doing all the things that I do, but this is my No. 1 focus,” Campbell explains. “Just the opportunity to do the things that I do and work in that style of kitchen with the people around me really attracted me to this project.”
He’s notably excited about his partnership with Parkhurst. But at the end of the day, it’s the chance to work with Dos Anjos, a Michelin star chef, that really gets him going.
“We’re going to be able to do so many neat things,” Campbell adds. “It’s going to be a dinnertime experience at lunch, sort of kinda. I think the opportunity to do those things and redefine what corporate dining is—I think it’s going to be really fun.”
Atrium Food Market’s grab and go meals, snacks, and beverages are available all day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hot breakfast is available from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and lunch is available from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.