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Rice Village’s new food hall Politan Row opens to public

Varun Kukunoor/Thresher

By Varun Kukunoor     11/12/19 9:14pm

Last weekend, long-awaited food hall Politan Row opened in Rice Village, expanding nearby restaurant options beyond tried-and-true Rice Village favorites. While most universities boast giant fast-food names like McDonald’s or Subway on their campuses, Rice’s unique culture allows student-run businesses and other smaller eateries to dominate the food scene outside of the serveries. Thus, in search of more choices, many students find themselves repeatedly wandering to Rice Village joints like Yoyo’s Hot Dogs or heading downtown to try out some of Houston’s famous food halls such as Finn Hall and Conservatory. Politan Row helps bridge that gap by offering a cozy study space and a dozen diverse culinary options, all just a short walk from campus.

Think of a food hall as a food court without the department stores or screaming children attached. Politan Row brings together twelve chef-entrepreneurs, some of whom have already made names for themselves in Houston’s food scene, together in one spacious venue. Vendors bring a diverse range of flavors from Japanese-Peruvian fusion to Caribbean-inspired cuisine. 

For those of us in desperate need of a new study spot, Politan Row is perfect. With plenty of tables, spacious sofas and a diverse coffee and snack selection, you can work comfortably with free Wi-Fi while enjoying some of Houston’s delectable cuisine.

As an attendee to Politan Row’s press preview event, I was able to try a dish from each stall, and I can affirm that the careful selection of chefs did not go unnoticed. Each chef told a story through their food, and the dishes served as a microcosm of the beauty of the cuisine’s culture. Phillip Kim, the mastermind behind Breaking Bao, delivers with his signature savory bao sliders while Victoria Elizondo of Cochinita & co. translates her Mexican roots and love for Houston with locally-sourced tacos.  From signature cocktails to vegan dessert bowls to shrimp tempura sushi and everything in-between, my stomach had the happiest night it has had in months. 

The interior of Politan Row is extremely well organized. When entering, Bar Politan takes center stage with towering, post-modern architecture. The bar is Politan Row’s first agave-focused bar, chocked full of specialty spirits for Rice Villagers (of age) to enjoy. With drinks like “Megan Thee Collins” and “La Alondra,” the New Orleans-based food hall shows its love for Space City.

Will Donaldson, the founder and owner of Politan Row, is an innovator in the food hall industry and said he wanted to bring his chef-driven vision to the Rice Village neighborhood. Donaldson is the entrepreneur behind the Politan Group, a company formerly known as Helpful Hound, that has seen staggering success at its New Orleans food halls St. Roch Market and Auction House as well as its Chicago Politan Row location. This award-winning family of food halls are designed to be collaborative spaces for people to work and mingle, according to Donaldson.

Donaldson said he chose Houston as a target location due to its cultural diversity, which he says is incomparable to most other parts of the nation. “Houston doesn’t get recognized enough for its amazing food scene,” Donaldson said. With that lack of recognition comes a myriad of underrated chefs who sell amazing products but may only reach limited audiences. With Politan Row, Houston food lovers can benefit from the diverse talents of local chefs while enabling those entrepreneurs with a platform to showcase their unique cuisine. 

Politan Row is located in Rice Village at 2445 Times Blvd. The food hall is open every day — Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m.

 Nov. 15, 2:31 p.m.: This article was updated to correct the names of two beverages served by Bar Politan. 

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