THE HUNGRY HOUND: Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall offers variety in landmarked Cook County Hospital building

CHICAGO (WLS) — After several years of construction and tens of millions of dollars, the landmarked Cook County Hospital building has been reborn as a hotel and food hall.

The latter comes as a welcome sight to the hundreds of hospital workers in the Medical District. Our Hungry Hound sampled a bit from each vendor there.

What can you get for $150 million — a stunningly refurbished hospital building, filled with a hotel and a 10,000-square-foot food hall. Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall contains a dozen vendors, all curated by Chef Akhtar Nawab, a New Yorker who has assembled an impressive collection, including Taqueria Jarabe, for starters, where they’re making their tortillas from scratch for an assortment of freshly-made tacos.

“They actually had a fire in their original location not long ago, so when we met, timing was really good, and we were able to offer them a vented stall,” Nawab said.

Local roaster Passion House handles the espresso pulling and coffee drinks, while the Brekkie and Bake Shop is a welcome sight to anyone in scrubs, looking for something better than a vending machine around sunrise, with its hearty sandwiches and protein-and-grain-filled breakfast bowls.

Ottobagatto has gas-fired pizzas baked on stone decks with appropriately crispy crusts, while Lexington Betty Smokehouse brings its barbecue directly from the West Side, not only tips and links but juicy smoked brisket and pulled pork, as well.

Two concepts with roots in Omaha have also branched out in Chicago — Maharani with its straightforward Northern Indian and Kathmandu Momo Station.

“That’s a Nepalese dumpling concept as well as an Indian concept. Both of them have strong connections with Chicago, so in both cases, 50% of the ownership relocated here to actually create these concepts,” said Nawab.

You can get a watermelon margarita to-go from the bar (which stays open a little later than the food stalls), but don’t miss the red-hot tamales from Wicker Park’s Delta. Here they have Lil’ Delta, with their brisket-stuffed red hots or, in a nod to the South Side, a “Jim Shoe” lamb and beef tamale covered in house-made pastrami with giardiniera and provolone.

Evanston’s Viet Nom Nom is proudly serving its Asian rice bowls, banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese iced coffee, and for dessert, two options — a new concept called Crockett Cookies, or a selection of pies and cobblers from Classic Cobbler, ironically, the first cart you see when entering the space.

“So we have this great opportunity to work with her to show off this amazing, homemade, delicious cobbler and pies that she makes,” Nawab said.

Nawab says interest from the nearby medical workers has been strong, and now they find themselves in a unique position.

“As we started to kind of find our way, we actually have a waiting list of vendors who want to get in now,” he said.

Unlike a lot of the other food halls in town, Dr. Murphy’s is open every day, from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. to accommodate all of the nearby hospital workers.

There is no signage outside the building, due to its landmark status, but the entrance to the food hall is on the east side of the building.

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