We had heard mixed comments and opinions about the new Windmill Food Hall, located near the flower fields and Car Country in Carlsbad, CA.
What has been for many years, the iconic windmill along I-5 of Split Pea Anderson’s and then TGI Friday’s, has now become yet another venue for craft-beer-foodie families, their young children and pet dogs.
We had arrived around 4:30 on this Saturday afternoon to find a rather open bar area with plenty of seating and dining areas within a uniquely designed warehouse styled eatery. The bar is comfortable with engaging seating arrangements throughout a large open area to include larger tables for groups to share cocktails, craft beer and samples of food from the variety of vendors located inside the horseshoe-shaped facility.
Windmill Food Hall is a mash-up of a shopping mall food court, a food-truck event, Chuck E Cheese/Dave & Buster’s (kid games/adult-kid games with bar) and the ever popular outdoor dog area with corn-hole and artificial grass.
When we arrived, the demographic average age was somewhere around 47; but when we left around 6:30pm, the crowd had quickly amassed to change that demographic to more of an average age of about 27, with all of the small 2.5 children the early-cusped millennial crowd was dragging behind them, including their family dog/s.
The food was all rather similar to what you’d receive at a food truck, orders taken from small counters that you had to wait in line for (contrary to several reviews saying there were no lines). But instead of waiting for your name to be called from the truck, you were given a illuminating pager for when it was time to fetch your grub. It made for some interesting entertainment when watching those of us that had ordered different items from different food vendors all with different pagers. You got it; if you ordered a lobster roll from one vendor, a beet salad from another and tater tots from yet another vendor, you had three different pagers. “Which one is this?”, as the first pager went off; now another . . . , then another; tasking us each in a different direction to retrieve our orders. Somewhat comical.
“This is fun!”, is what I heard from one of our group while we all shared several menu items from all over the food spectrum. They are all served in food-truck wax-coated landfill friendly cartons, as well as additional small paper plates that came from somewhere. The only environmental drawback that I witnessed were the abundant use of plastic forks, spoons and knives used at our table. I guess nothing is perfect; however, with all that was going on, there was a constant clearing of the rubbish and cocktail glasses from our table from the abundant service staff roaming the hall. At one point, I heard someone pass by calling, “any cocktails or beer orders?” I liked that concept so you didn’t have to get up to order drinks. I was reading that there intends to be some sort of wristband mechanism coming to automatically pay for food and drinks as they are ordered, but i didn’t see that yet being used.
Windmill Food Hall is a trending fad in the food and beverage industry. I didn’t find it something I would return to do again. The food overall was uninspiring and the crowd is not something we felt worth navigating through as it did get very busy. The idea of common-space cocktails surrounded by food and games is better left to the casinos that seem to have a much more adult-like atmosphere, with better quality food options and less of the food-truck vibe. If I want to eat from paper plates, I’ll go to the San Diego County fair just down the road. Even there you have more food and beverage options, just attached with a much heftier price tag.
Give Windmill Food Hall a try . . . , “It’s fun!”