Let’s admit it, Philly natives, the Bourse used to seem grand and useful but ultimately ended up being gritty and underwhelming. Luckily, the historic food court and destination for weary tourists near the Liberty Bell recently underwent a near $50 million renovation. Gone were the sticky tables and generic mall food court vibes. They’ve been replaced by 29 eclectic food vendors, seven of which are imports from the DC area, an open air space with sky high ceilings, and a flower shop. 

Last time Street visited the Bourse, it was soft opening. In other words, the highly awaited food hall was gradually unveiling vendors to the public until its slated grand opening on November 15. What did Street find? A laid–back ambiance, remarkably middle of the road offerings, and not enough vendors to determine if the Bourse really was all it promised.

Photo: Beatrice Forman The Bourse during its Grand Opening weekend.

However, my visit during the Grand Opening celebration painted an entirely different picture. Nearly every vendor, ranging from Egyptian Halal to classic Philly cheesesteaks, was up and running. The space was polished, with smooth black accents, lighting good enough to delight even the most particular Foodstagrammer, and a distinctly individual space for each vendor. The Bourse even bought in truckloads of oversized black and gold balloons, giving the space a truly celebratory mystique. 

Here’s what I, and a group of hungry friends, tried: 

Chaat and Chai:

Photo: Beatrice Forman Chaana chaat (left) and a mango lassi (right) from Chaat and Chai.

A fast casual Indian joint with a major South Philly following, Chaat and Chai brings the impactful flavors of Indian street fare stateside. We dined on chaana chaat—a cold chickpea salad topped with all the veggies and chutney—and a mango lassi. The chaat was filling and hit a complex array of flavor notes. It was sweet, thanks to the chutney and yogurt, yet a tinge sour and a dash savory. Order it if you’ve got an adventurous palette. Meanwhile, the lassi was just short of life–changing. With a consistency that toes the line between milkshake and smoothie and a genuine mango flavor, this beverage will make it difficult to return to a world filled with Starbucks frappuccinos. 

Abunai Poke: 

Photo: Beatrice Forman Custom poke bowl from Abunai Poke.

A DC native with food truck beginnings, Abunai Poke is dedicated to the art of crafting the perfect poke. We made our own poke bowl with rice, salmon, seaweed salad, wasabi peas, and avocado. While admittedly not the most groundbreaking poke around, it gets the job done with fresh ingredients, made–to–order service, and a solid topping–to–rice ratio. If you’re looking to make your first trip to the Bourse a healthy one, Abunai Poke should be your first stop. 

Mighty Melt: 

Photo: Beatrice Forman The Sweet Caroline from Mighty Melt.

Last time Street went to Mighty Melt, we found it unnecessarily greasy and flavorless, especially for a place that alleges fancy grilled cheese. Upon our return trip, we found a similar tune—only this time, for dessert. We ordered the Sweet Caroline, a dessert sandwich made with bananas and Nutella squished between pieces of chocolate sourdough bread. Ultimately, the sandwich was high on concept and low on flavor. The bread tasted little of chocolate and a lot of supermarket brand raisin bread and was much too messy, with oversize banana chunks falling out after every bite. Despite being a grilled cheese enthusiast who sees the merit in every simple sandwich, I’m going to have to lay down a tough ruling: skip it.

Bonatsos at the Bourse: 

Photo: Beatrice Forman The Bonatsos' flower stand at the Bourse.

A third generation flower shop dealing in intricate terrariums and impactful bouquets, Bonatsos is my favorite part of the Bourse. It mimics the vibe of Chelsea Market’s Bastille Flowers, a spot I frequent back home in New York City every time I need a quick pick–me–up. Both are tucked in corners of their respective food halls, infiltrating cheesy and meaty aromas with notes of peonies and roses. Teeming with Instagram fodder in the form of well–thought bouquets, Bonatsos is the perfect place to stop and smell the roses. 

The bottom line? The Bourse is most definitely better than what it once was, but falls short of all that it promised. What it lacks in flavor, it makes for up with a diverse cross section of vendors. Come to the Bourse at least once—for the Instagram clout and novelty of it all—but for a similar experience closer to home, stick with Franklin’s Table.

The Bourse: 

Location: Old City | 111 S Independence Mall E

Hours: Mon—Sat: 7 a.m.—8 p.m.; Sun: 9 a.m.—6 p.m.