Food Courts Get Fancy

With its faux Eames chairs, plush round booths and soaring 40-ft. ceilings, the new Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery mall looks more like a place where James Bond might grab cocktails than a shopping center food court. Part of a $90 million rehab of the Bethesda, Maryland, retail behemoth completed in 2014, the chic new chow-down zone now hosts fast-casual spots like Cava Mezze Grill and full-service restaurants such as surf-and-turf specialist Met Bethesda. Sounds like a trend planners and attendees are going to eat up, especially at events at the nearby Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. “There’s a lot more attention to the food scene, and a lot more awareness of healthier choices and local sourcing,” says Jesse Tron, spokesman for International Council of Shopping Centers. “This often means mall restaurants are grouped as lifestyle centers, and that there are more fast-casual options.” At Westfield’s Dining Terrace, that translates into better eating options pre- or post-meeting (or for attendees taking a break). Think D.C.-based Wicked Waffle’s egg white-and-grilled veggie waffle sandwich or Lobster ME’s crustacean-powered rolls, mac and cheese, and tacos, all served under mod light fixtures and in the shade of real trees. There’s a lively sushi-and-drinks happy hour scene at Sarku Japan, and, upstairs from the terrace, Boston-based Met delivers New England favorites and strong cocktails in glam digs with a black-and-white-tiled bar and Gatsby-esque crystal chandeliers. “We heard from customers that they wanted more upscale dining and a higher-end aesthetic,” says Eric Howard, senior general manager of Westfield Montgomery. “We tried for a solid mix of national and local players.”