ROAR brings new dining options to Winston-Salem

The city’s newest entertainment venue is home to Fords Food Hall


Courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal

ROAR features Fords Food Hall, a place for new food ventures to feature their offerings.

Daniel Velazquez, Contributing Writer

 Restaurant, food truck or stall at a food hall — which would you prefer to have?

The restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to be successful in. About 30% of restaurants don’t make it past their first year, according to The National Restaurant Association. Food halls provide another option. 

ROAR opened on Jan. 29 on North Liberty Street in Winston-Salem as an entertainment venue with bowling, virtual golf, a live theater where local music groups perform and food. The food options include two restaurants — JL Caspers, a steakhouse, Est! Est!! Est!!!, a fine-dining Italian restaurant — and Fords Food Hall. The name of the food hall pays homage to the building’s past life as Twin City Motor Company. The floor where the food hall is was once a showroom for the Model A and other Ford cars.

The food hall features three open stalls — a fourth that has been announced but is not yet open, and two that are waiting for occupants. There is also a bar and beer wall. 

For local chef Simone Conosciani, Fords Food Hall provides an opportunity in a traditionally difficult industry to start his own restaurant. 

A native of Rome, Italy, Conosciani came to the United States when he was 18 years old. He has worked with food most of his life, formerly as the sous-chef at Sir Winston Wine Loft and Restaurant but has also worked at Harvest Table, the food provider for Wake Forest University, as well as Vinnie’s Pizzeria and other restaurants. 

“I’m really happy where I am because you know, [the owners] are really great people,” Conosciani said. “They wanna help me out. So they gave me the opportunity to [run] this place and run my own food concept.”

Conosciani and other chefs at ROAR have complete control over their menus and rather than a fixed rate rent, he splits the profits 50/50 with the owners of ROAR.

His food stall, Zero Sei, specializes in piadinas, an Italian flatbread made without yeast, according to Conosciani. 

“I want to try to introduce American people, especially people in Winston-Salem, to something else,” Conosciani said. “Because you can’t find piadina anywhere else.”

Next to Zero Sei is Andre Jones, a native of Milwaukee, WI, who came to Winston-Salem after working in northern Virginia. At Fords Food Hall, Jones is in charge of two stalls: Blue Crab seafood bar, which features oysters and other seafood options, and Dragon Fruit Asian Fare, which he plans to open soon. Jones has always wanted to run his own restaurant and his stalls at ROAR are an opportunity for him to start small. He hopes that his stalls will lead to expanding to other locations or his own brick-and-mortar store in the future. 

“I think they definitely have a leg to stand on their own,” Jones said. 

The final food stall currently open at ROAR is Correll’s American Street Food run by Joseph Correll, the operating partner at ROAR. His stall serves American staples such as wings, burgers, french fries and hotdogs. 

“We wanted an eclectic blend of international cuisine for the food hall,” Correll said. “It just always made sense that American street food is always going to be incredibly popular, especially with bars close by.”

Food halls have been opening up and gaining popularity all over the United States Since 2016, more than 223 food halls have opened with another 165 projects being announced, according to Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm. “Upscale food halls have been popular for a long time in Portugal and in parts of Europe,” Correll said. 

He continued: “Compared to a food court or food trucks, the purpose of the food hall was to offer a more upscale dining experience with a laid back atmosphere.” 

Another sector in the food and beverage industry that has been on the rise is food trucks. From 2013 to 2018, the number of food trucks in the United States nearly doubled from 3,281 to 5,970, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Just like having a stall at a food hall, owning a food truck is a way in which people can enter the restaurant business without having to invest in a brick-and-mortar restaurant. 

Que Viva! serves Latin American street food and is just one of the many food trucks that have popped up throughout Winston-Salem. 

“We did try in the beginning to have a couple of stationary locations, but it didn’t work,” Jessica Balseca, one of the co-owners of Que Viva!, said. “Opening a restaurant is considerably more expensive.”

Que Viva! is constantly on the move from Bailey Park to Wake Forest University or as far away as Greensboro. They post a weekly schedule on their Instagram account. 

Que Viva! will have been open three years in April, before ROAR was an option. 

“I think ROAR is beautiful,” Balseca said. “It’s awesome. What a very cool thing. It’s good for them, and it’s good for the small businesses that are able to take advantage of that opportunity.”