The last time I walked into The Bourse was probably around 2010. I was an awkward fourth–grader hanging out with my friend and her mom took us there to eat. From the outside, the historical Old City building seemed beautifully grand. But once I stepped inside, the building reeked of oily food, the seats and tables were sticky, and the food was mediocre at best, kind of like what most mall food courts used to be like before Chipotles and Honeygrows made them more appealing. It was also situated in one of Philly’s largest tourist spots, right next to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, so other than a few dining options, it was mostly unoccupied space and touristy gift shops full of cheap tchotchkes.
Eight years later, I walked in to see what the newly–renovated Bourse looks like after months of Instagram DM’s from my overly–excited, foodie mother about the remodeling. While the Bourse has yet to fully open with all of the options they’ve advertised (that’s happening on November 15), many vendors are doing a "soft open" in the meantime. I decided to try some of the new food and see if the trendy, globally–inspired food hall lives up to the hype.
The first vendor we tried was Lalo, which defines itself as a “a fast–casual concept focused around Filipino comfort food.” Upon walking into The Bourse, it’s the first one that caught my eye with its bright interiors and friendly staff. We tried the Chicken Inihaw and loved it. The grilled chicken was cooked and spiced well and the atchara (pickled unripe papaya) was an tangy and flavorful companion to the chicken and garlicky rice. At $13.50 for three skewers, it wasn’t cheap, but for the flavor and quality, the dish was worth it.
Next up was TaKorean, a Korean taco grill. One create–your–own taco is reasonably priced at $3.50 and there are a variety of meats, toppings, and slaws to put in. The meat (we tried chicken and pork) was succulent and cooked well, but the marinated tofu was slightly too sweet. Overall, there wasn’t much character to the tacos and the flavors of the meat overpowered the slaws and toppings. The tortillas were also slightly soggy and had a weird aftertaste, again taking away from the meal. Not exactly worth your time or your tastebuds, but in a pinch, it’s a decent and cheap snack.
As the food coma set in, we went next door to Mighty Melt, which prides itself on its fancy grilled cheese. Again, the visuals were on point and the plethora of options for sandwiches and sides was exciting. We tried the Better Together, which features Amish cheddar and hot honey on sourdough. Immediately upon touching the sandwich, the grease was overpowering and unnecessary. The sandwich itself didn’t have much flavor, as the cheese was bland and the only additional flavor came from the hot honey, which didn’t have much of a kick either. That said, it was reasonably priced at $7.00 and there are several other sandwiches with more complex flavors available to try.
By the end of our time at The Bourse, we journeyed over to Prescription Chicken to see if this was the godsend that could cure the freshman plague. We tried the Grandma Style, which is chicken soup with your choice of either matzo balls or noodles, we went with matzo balls. While the soup does its job in warming you up and the matzo balls had a nice, fluffy texture, the broth itself was slightly bland and was at times overwhelmed by the taste of pepper. Overall, it won’t compare to your mom’s recipe, but if you have a hankering for a taste of home (or if you’ve been sick since NSO), it does the trick.
Overall, the Bourse was clean, well–designed, and had a nice, laid–back ambiance. The peak of our trip was at the beginning with Lalo, which is definitely a must–try if you’re in Old City and looking for a fresh and innovative alternative to the many cheesesteaks and hotdogs in the area.
Tl;dr: The Bourse isn’t fully fleshed out yet, so it’s hard to say whether or not Philly’s newest food hall is worth the hype, but once it’s fully opened I’m definitely making a trip back.