Newly-opened food hall provides a unique experience for college students


The light and open interior of High Street Place offers customers a bright space to eat and socialize. Photo credit to Brian Samuels Photography.

Alleyna Pitaso, news correspondent

High Street Place is Boston’s newest food hall, hosting 20 local Boston restaurants, breweries and coffee roasters. Located between the buildings at 100 High St. and 160 Federal St., the warehouse-like space’s high ceilings and open floor plan provide a communal area for customers to try a large variety of foods and drinks while mingling with others.

Food halls are a growing trend in the culinary industry, starting in Europe and eventually making their way to the United States. This can be seen in Boston, with the recent addition of High Street Place, or HSP, joining the city’s other popular food halls, Time Out Market, Hub Hall and Faneuil Hall. However, Johnson explained that what makes this venue stand out is its dedication to vendor diversity.

“When developing this place, we really wanted to make each vendor shine and do their own thing. They’re all so different, so we wanted to make sure customers would know there’s something here for everyone,” said Lauren Johnson, manager of HSP. 

Walking into the hall, it’s clear each vendor caters to a different audience. The individual spaces are uniquely decorated and provide different types of food and drinks. Customers know when they’ve approached a new space because the architecture and decor are distinctive from one to another. 

“We hand-picked almost every vendor you see here,” Johnson said. “We carefully curated this space to be an area where people from all walks of life can enjoy their time here. Tourists, office tenants and locals can come here and not have to worry that they all agree on what to eat.”

The design of the venue was created specifically to blend the historic architecture of 160 Federal St. with a more contemporary style that would reflect Boston’s dedication to maintaining history while modernizing the city. The utilization of the large space creates a warm and open environment that draws customers in.

“The point of going to a food hall is for the atmosphere. You want to be around other people and socialize. You want to be around people that have similar interests to you. If these halls were designed in a tiny and cramped area then it would completely defeat the purpose,” said Sean Jung, an assistant professor of hospitality analytics at Boston University.

Food halls are also separated from regular food courts due to their higher price point and quality of food. This difference can cause hesitation from an important Boston demographic: college students.

“Typically college students aren’t a huge demographic for food halls because the food is usually more expensive and the venue itself is nicer. They might settle for regular food courts because it’s more affordable. However, it’s not impossible to cater to them, it just needs to be done right,” Jung said. 

Despite expert opinions stating it can be difficult marketing food halls to college students, HSP has managed to successfully brand itself as a fun place for college-aged residents of Boston to go to. The venue is packed on the weekends and at night with young students looking for somewhere to have fun and relax.

Kevin McGuire, co-owner of Pennypacker’s, has seen incredible success with a wide variety of age ranges since he opened a location within HSP. From Monday to Friday, most of his customers are office workers coming in to enjoy his specialty porchetta sandwiches. At night he gets a lot of business from college students eating before going out. He doesn’t believe that there’s a certain type of person that he sees more of than another.

“You won’t believe how busy it gets in here on the weekends. During those times it’s a lot of families and students in the area looking to do something and have a good time,” McGuire said. “People come here because they prefer the atmosphere and activities this place has to offer. My food truck isn’t accessible during the winter, and my Somerville location doesn’t have the same opportunities that this place has. I’ve had a great time since opening here and I’m very grateful.”

While popular in the summer and during warmer weather, food trucks struggle to attract customers during the winter. This lack of business can be difficult to navigate without a physical location available for people to eat. Other vendors at HSP who spoke with The News have dealt with the same issue and are now happy with their place within the food hall.

Rebecca Parchment, the owner of North East of the Border, also owns a food truck with her husband. Her restaurant sells authentic Mexican cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Her time as a business owner made her realize that she wanted a permanent location for her customers.

“There’s something so special about people eating my food and me being able to watch them sit down and enjoy it. Usually, with my truck they grab the food and go, but to have that tangible enjoyment of knowing I make food that people will then be able to come back and say they loved is a great feeling,” Parchment said. 

Events such as “Sweat N’ Sip Yoga,” “Kentucky Derby Watch Party” and live music provide opportunities for residents to come and interact with other people in an open environment, something that many people have been missing since the pandemic began. 

“We’re always planning a wide variety of things for people to do besides eat and drink. That on its own is great, but in combination with these activities makes it so much better,” Johnson said.

More events are in the works, with future plans to create college-affiliated discounts for students and college football activities on the weekends. Johnson said she and her management team are aware of this market and are making sure they include students in their programming. 

“We’re constantly coming up with new events and ideas to draw people in,” Johnson said. “This place always seems to be changing and growing which is what makes it so special. Returning customers can come in weeks or even just days later and be able to experience something new.”