This writeup is part of A Quest in Honor of Jessica Pierce.
A food court is section of a mall or shopping center set aside for small storefront style food vendors. These are often large open rooms, even atriums that provide an enjoyable eating environment for mall patrons. Where they can sit, enjoy the sunny day and dine on chinese food or Sbarro's pizza or Arby's or Popeye's Chicken. A food court is like an amalgam of a group of fast food restaurants with a cafeteria, often having similar seating to a McDonald's with polished white chairs that swivle on a steel beam connected to the table, which is bolted to the floor.
The food court makes a mall a place you can eat lunch at the same time as shopping, meaning you don't have to leave the cool, climate controlled capitalist bliss. The well fed shoppers can then go back to loitering in Hot Topic or Babbage's, perusing books at Waldenbooks, searching for bargains at JCPenny's or being rich, white and anorexic at The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. Malls are a part of consumerist culture here in the United States and food courts are a major section of that, often a bigger part than the space they are typically alloted in a mall. The food court is where fast food consumerism and department store consumerism symbiotically bolster eachother.
It is important that any eatery which is within the range of the cafeteria atrium may be considered part of the food court. Any eatery which is beyond that range, in the words of the immortal Brodie, either on another floor or in another wing, is an autonomous unit for the purpose of mid-mall snacking. Also, the food court and mid-mall eateries should not be confused with the outer mall restaurants, which are actual restaurants that could get a star rating, that have bought space in the mall and use it like a restaurant that has its own building. Such restaurants often have doors that open into the mall proper and doors that open onto the parking lot.