Mike Isabella announced today that he's getting into mall food courts—really fancy ones. The restaurateur behind Graffiato, Kapnos, and countless other restaurants will open Isabella Eatery, a 10-concept, 41,000-square-foot, 600-seat dining complex in Tysons Galleria, the Post first reported.
The food hall, coming in 2017, will include variations of existing Isabella restaurants, including Graffiato, Kapnos, Pepita, Requin, and Yona. There will also be a bunch of new concepts: Arroz (Spanish tapas), Octagon Bar ("prohibition-style" classic cocktails), Non-Fiction Coffee (cafe with sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries), Retro Creamery (ice cream parlor and soda shop), and Trim (Mediterranean grill). A 300-seat common area will service half of the concepts, while others will be enclosed with dedicated seating.
Read more about the concepts from a press release below. But before you get there, here are some thoughts:
1. Mike Isabella is looking more and more like the next José Andrés every day. While their careers and empires are far from identical, Isabella has followed his former boss's recipe for success in small plate restaurants focused around different global cuisines. Like Andrés, he's also pushed his brand in innovative new ways. Isabella has moved beyond being the guy who got famous on Top Chef and opened a whole bunch of restaurants. He's legitimately cementing his celebrity chef status.
And with his new eatery Arroz, Isabella is trying his hand at what his mentor does best: Spanish tapas and paella. It seems only a matter of time before Isabella has his own global non-profit, university teaching gig, and line of artisanal olives.
2. Isabella tells the Post his new grilled meats and Mediterranean small plates concept will be “very woman-centric, very sexy and fun.” "Woman-centric" is a good descriptor for a gynecologist's office, not a restaurant. While details are scarce about the exact menu and decor, too often "female-friendly" is code for more salads and smaller portions. The place is called Trim, after all. (And, for Isabella's sake, we hope he didn't have the highly profane slang term in mind when he named it. Because, ew.)
Hopefully, Isabella will reject the false notion that a big juicy steak is men's territory and that female-friendly equals sexy. Then again, maybe "very woman-centric" just means this:
@jsidman “very woman-centric" Does that mean there will be free tampons in the restrooms? SWEEEEEET!
— Kat Kinsman (@kittenwithawhip) February 10, 2016
3. This is not just a big deal for Isabella. It's a big deal for Tysons Gallery—and the future of food courts. It's pretty much unheard of for a mall to devote an entire food hall to a single restaurateur. According to the Post, the company that owns Tysons Galleria found it efficient to deal with a single operator. Plus, Isabella already cooks up a little bit of a lot of things.
Isabella Eatery also speaks to the desire for more local concepts in malls, which are traditionally dominated by the likes of California Pizza Kitchen and Sbarro. It will be interesting to see to what extent the model is replicated elsewhere. Food emporiums are already all the rage, with the likes of Eataly, Latinicity from Richard Sandoval and Jose Garces in Chicago, and Anthony Bourdain's epic food market in New York.
And now, more about Isabella Eatery from the press release:
The emporium’s common area will be served by:
Arroz – The first Spanish concept from MIC will showcase a menu of tapas, paella and cured meats.
Octagon Bar – Located near the center of the dining area, Octagon Bar will overhang the Mall’s lower level and serve an extensive list of prohibition-style classic cocktails.
Pepita – A sister to the original cantina in Arlington, Va., Pepita will serve Mexican dishes like tacos, nachos and quesadillas. The full-service bar will also offer a small Mexican beer selection, classic and frozen margaritas.
Requin Raw Bar – The emporium’s raw bar will serve a variety of oysters, seafood cocktails and crab cakes along with a selection of Champagnes and white wines. Caviar and cured fish will also be available for retail purchase.
Yona – A sister to the original location in Arlington, Va., this Japanese/Korean noodle bar will focus on quick and easy meals, with a menu highlighted by ramen, poke and donburri rice bowls.
The Isabella Eatery concepts with enclosed or dedicated seating will be:
Graffiato – Isabella’s flagship Italian restaurant comes to Tysons Galleria with a selection of Graffiato favorites, along with a new list of paninis and a thick-crust style of pizza that is a cross between traditional Sicilian and focaccia pizza.
Kapnos Marketa – This marketplace will offer house-made Greek staples and spit-roasted meat for take-home dining only. Greek spreads and specialty items like taramasalata, melitzanosalata, dolmades, salads and phyllo pies will be wrapped and available to-go, along with lamb, pork and chicken sold by the pound.
Non-Fiction Coffee – The first coffee shop from MIC will feature beans from artisan roasters in a casual, lounge-like environment. Non-Fiction will also serve sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries and fresh juices.
Retro Creamery – This creamery will be a modern take on ice cream parlors and soda shops of the 1950s. Think egg creams, floats and ice cream available by the scoop in brightly lit display cases. Ice cream will also be sold in pre-packed cartons.
Trim – This upscale, full-service enclosed restaurant will feature a menu of Mediterranean small plates and grill favorites. Since this space will function like a traditional restaurant in an enclosed dining space, guests will not have access to the full Isabella Eatery menu. Trim will also be available for private events.
Rendering courtesy Streetsense