TRADE, an open-air Irvine meals corridor, celebrates its grand opening on Saturday – Orange County Register
The first wave of Orange County Food Halls gave us a kick-start with ocean views in Huntington Beach, gourmet New York-style pizza in downtown Santa Ana, and Indian street food in a centuries-old packhouse in Anaheim.
Now the second wave of culinary tours is emerging. And let me tell you, get ready for a tsunami.
The McFadden Public Market in Santa Ana opened last month. And in Irvine, TRADE celebrates its grand opening at 2222 Michelson Drive on Saturday, May 13th.
“This will be a restaurant mecca for international concepts,” said Kenny Liu, leasing manager at The Source, a mega-entertainment and food complex in Buena Park.
A food hall called Square Mixx is coming up next year within The Source. It is one of two international marketplaces in Orange County. The other is a Vietnamese food hall in Little Saigon.
Surprisingly, Irvine’s first TRADE grocery store is being developed on property that does not belong to the Irvine Co. Though we suspect the city’s largest landowner has culinary ambitions for the ex-Macy’s room at the Irvine Spectrum Center.
TRADE, formerly the Michelson Marketplace, is a joint initiative of Lincoln Property Co. and Alcion Ventures. The two companies spent around $ 5 million to convert the aging food court within the 32,000-square-foot strip center into an open-air hall.
Like McFadden, TRADE has recruited seasoned operators from vibrant concepts such as Dos Chinos, Slapfish, Afters Ice Cream and GD Bro Burger to bring fresh food stalls to the center near John Wayne Airport.
“We had to get these people who had the following to bring people here,” said Parke Miller, executive vice president of Irvine-based Lincoln Property Co.
Andrew Gruel restaurants opened last month. The creator of the fast-casual seafood sensation, Slapfish, developed the yin-and-yang concepts Two Birds and Butterleaf.
At Butterleaf, Gruel follows the vegetarian trend with products that are “droolable” creations that take center stage. The menu features roasted or sautéed vegetables that are bathed in a variety of homemade sauces, including green goddess and a spicy tiger sauce.
The meals come as wraps or bowls and with sides. An outstanding starter: avocado bombs, diced avocados, rolled in crushed corn chips, deep-fried and topped with kimchi tiger sauce.
Although vegetables are king here, Gruel does not call Butterleaf a “plant-based restaurant” because he does not want to exclusively serve vegetarians. he predicts carnivores will love it too.
“It’s vegetables for meat eaters,” he said.
At Two Birds, Gruel is following a forgiving trend: fried chicken. The limited menu features grilled or fried Jidori chicken served as a sandwich or salad for $ 9.
“I don’t think we’re reinventing the wheel. We’re definitely trying to take advantage of the hot chicken, ”said Gruel.
Most of the TRADE food stalls have been open for a few weeks, including a second brick and mortar store for Hop Phans Dos Chinos.
Like Slapfish, the Vietnamese and Mexican fusion joint began as a food truck. Phan parked the concept on 4th Street Market two years ago. Now he’s bringing it to Irvine, along with the new concept Megadon, a Latin American, Asian, Mexican and Hawaiian fusion restaurant.
Pig Pen Delicacy, which debuted at 4th Street Market last year, is a pork-focused restaurant from the makers of Afters Ice Cream and GD Bro Burger. It recently opened at SteelCraft, a Long Beach grocery store built from shipping containers. Popular offerings include Pork Belly Fries, Maple Bacon Jam Burger and the MacAttack Burger. The latter is served on fried Mac’n Cheese rolls.
Other TRADE food stalls: Portside, a seafood shack that serves fish and chips, calamari, and fish tacos; Gyro King, Greek Sandwiches, Gyros and Plates; Sweet Combforts, a quirky take on a classic Belgian Liege waffle. And yes, that’s how you spell it because the dimples on the wafer form a honeycomb pattern. The waffles enriched with pearl sugar are served on a stick and dipped in various biscuit butter flavors.
Following Recess at 4th Street Market’s one-bar-serves-all philosophy, Center Hub offers all libations for TRADE’s eight restaurants. Expect simple, classic cocktails, boutique wines, and 10 taps of craft beer.