Eclectic food hall: New dining concept to open in former Cook County Hospital building

Food fans can prepare to explore a new dining concept in early August within the historic former Cook County Hospital building.

Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall opens its doors Aug. 3 at 1811 W. Harrison St. in Chicago. The 10,000-square foot food hall will feature a range of chef driven eateries, a lounge and bar. At the helm of the culinary project is chef Akhtar Nawab, who’s won various culinary awards and owns and operates several restaurants around the country. Nawab has also been featured on “Iron Chef America.”

Nawab said he and other personnel behind Hospitality HQ (HHQ), which is a management and consulting group he helms, were looking for culinary artisans with innovative food concepts and ideas to bring their menus to Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall.

“We wanted to give them an opportunity to create something,” Nawab said.

“The hospital has been closed for so many years,” the chef said, adding the renovators did a “great job” restoring the building. (It closed in 2002.) The food hall is part of a $150 million renovation on the hospital building which will also include medical office space, a daycare center, a Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Chicago/Medical University District Hotel. The ornate hospital building opened in the late 1800’s.

Nawab said diners will find an array of international cuisines as well as an all-day breakfast vendor, pizza eatery and much more in the food hall.

“We did our best to give a (variety) of offerings,” the chef said.

Being in the new food hall is a coveted spot for a restaurateur’s business. Nawab said there was much interest on the part of restaurant personnel to take part in the food hall.

“The food hall is fully leased. There’s a waiting list,” he said, about businesses waiting to get into the hall.

Nawab, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, lived in Chicago as a toddler. The Cook County Hospital building is a special place for Nawab to have the food hall as the hospital was the place his father did an internship when the chef was a child. Nawab said he doesn’t currently have an eatery in the food hall because he concentrated on the development of the concept, which his Hospitality HQ is managing and developing.

Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall was named for Dr. John B. Murphy, a renowned surgeon in the U.S., who studied, taught and interned at Cook County Hospital decades ago.

Nawab said the hall will offer a quality selection of food to the medical community but it will also be a place that will draw diners from around the city and surrounding locales because of its diverse offerings.

The chef is the owner/operator/chef of a few restaurants around the U.S. including Alta Calidad in Brooklyn and Otra Vez in New Orleans. His first cookbook “Good For You: Bold Flavors with Benefits” is due out at the beginning of August. To learn more about Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall, visit drmurphysfoodhall.com.

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