In my teenage years, pretty much the only things to do where I grew up were riding horses and haunting the mall. My friends and I chose the latter whenever possible, hitching a ride with whoever's parents were making the 30-mile jaunt into the city so we could gawk at the cute guy selling tapes at Sam Goody, try on clothes we couldn't afford and chug down frothy Orange Julius(es…Juliui?) with sides of Hickory Farms cheddar cheese samples. The food court was our favorite place as it offered ample opportunities for people watching, as well as tastes of exotic foods we weren't likely to get at home–fresh-made pretzels, hot dogs on sticks and Karmelcorn.

Though the days of the mall food court are long past, I still love the idea. And, it seems, so do lots of other people, as everywhere I go these days there's an "elevated" food court experience to be had. On a recent trip to Atlanta, there was Ponce City Market; in Mexico City it was the Mercado Roma; in Lisbon, Portugal, a bustling Time Out Market. These so-called food halls are the grown and sexy versions of the places that anchored so many of our teenage social lives—the food court rebirthed as marketplaces hip to all that is artisanal: architecture, art, design, food and goods. I've always been a bit disappointed that we lack such an offering in Santa Fe. Actually, in all of New Mexico.

But, hallelujah! That's about to change and, come March, our neighbor city of Albuquerque welcomes Sawmill Market (1909 Bellamah Ave., 505-750-0520; sawmillmarket.com), New Mexico's first food hall.

Located in repurposed lumber warehouse, Sawmill Market will offer 33,000 square feet of, according to its press materials, "Albuquerque's best culinary experiences, local farmers, local food artisans, craftsmen and artists celebrating the diverse cultures and culinary traditions that make up the eclectic New Mexican landscape."

Sawmill Market is being developed by Jim Long, CEO and founder of Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Inc., the parent company of many local luxury stays including the Eldorado, Inn and Spa at Loretto, Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe, Hotel St. Francis and The Lodge at Santa Fe. Jason and Lauren Greene, owners and operators of Albuquerque's Grove Café & Market, have developed the project's concept, curating Sawmill Market's culinary and retail tenants.

"Each of our tenants and concepts tell a story that speaks to the spirit and cultural tapestry that make up New Mexico," says Lauren Greene. "We're thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with these artisans and makers from the very beginning and excited to see their efforts come to fruition as we get closer to the opening."

Sawmill Market is slated to open with 17 tenants offering everything from freshly made pasta and smoky BBQ to craft cocktails, waffles and even a floral shop. One of my favorite ramen places, Naruto Ramen (the sister spot to Santa Fe's Mampuku), will have a space, as will another of my favorite Albuquerque staples, fashion and lifestyle shop Spur Line Supply Co. Last, but certainly not least, Santa Fe-based Dr. Field Goods Kitchen will have a space as well.

Josh Gerwin, Dr. Field Goods' owner and chef, says his Sawmill Market space will offer hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and more, along with a butcher shop display case.

"I wouldn't have the opportunity to do this if didn't have such a great establishment here [in Santa Fe]," Gerwin. "I never really thought about opening anything in Albuquerque, but they called me and it seemed like a great opportunity so I decided to go for it."

Gerwin and his fellow artisans will anchor spaces surrounding communal eating areas, allowing customers to order food and drinks from different places, and enjoy them together. The building, once the showroom and warehouse of The Frank Paxton Lumber Co., was originally constructed in 1958 as the "Home of Beautiful Woods." In its newest incarnation, beautiful woods continue to be recognized as part of a modern industrial design, the original wood ceilings having been refurbished "with a nod toward the sawmill roots of the area," says the Sawmill Market website. Additional design elements include floor-to-ceiling windows, which keep the space light and airy, as well as garage doors that open to patios and outdoor spaces. True to the nature of New Mexico living, wood burning fireplaces and fire pits will allow customers to enjoy the outdoor
areas through the cooler months.

"I've been doing my build-out for two months now, so I've been able to see the progress of the space," Gerwin adds. "It is beautiful, with amazing finishes, and in a great location."

So, if you like local-ish history, sophisticated design, delicious food and drink, beautiful goods, people watching and supporting small business, a field trip to Sawmill Market should top your spring "to do" list.

Let me know if you want to carpool!