TRADE, an open-air Irvine meals corridor, celebrates its grand opening on Saturday – Orange County Register

  • Andrew Gruel serves dueling creations from the latest food concepts: Butterleaf and Two Birds, which showcase vegetables and chicken, respectively, in Irvine’s Food Trade Hall. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Andrew Gruel cradles his two babies indoors and outdoors at the Trade Food Hall in Irvine with a plate of vegetarian butterleaf and chicken-inspired Two Birds. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Andrew Gruel from Slapfish loves vegetables. His latest food concepts: Butterleaf and Two Birds present vegetables and chicken in Irvine’s Food Trade Hall. Crispy Jidori chicken sandwich with cucumber and coleslaw, tiger sauce and fresh herbs (left) and a vegetable poutine with french fries smothered in freshly made vegetable soup are served in an open air courtyard. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • In Irvine’s Food Trade Hall, Butterleaf and Two Birds present a characteristic butterleaf sandwich with mushroom fillet, heirloom carrots, beefsteak tomatoes, avocado and kimchi sauce (left) with avocado bombs made from warm avocado pieces with a potato chip crust. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • The Trade Food Hall exudes a chic, casual, seaside atmosphere. There are independent restaurants in the Irvine Hall. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • TRADE Food Hall is located across from the Pathways building in Irvine near John Wayne Airport. (Nancy Luna, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Jaime Benson, owner of the Center Hub, has made a name for himself in the restaurant business. He slows down for a moment in Trade’s Bar in Irvine. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Open air commerce near John Wayne Airport at 2222 Michelson Drive is part of Orange County’s growing food hall trend. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Calm and open. Specialized display cases Center Hub, Dos Chinos, Two Birds, Butterleaf, Megadon, The Sandwich Society, Portside and more overlooking the Irvine Courtyard. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Butterleaf in Irvines Food Trade Hall offers vegetarian food for non-vegetarians by Andrew Gruel, Chef / Owner. Next to the vegetable-based restaurant is another Gruel company, Two Birds, which serves grilled and fried chicken. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Andrew Gruel serves a vegetarian dish in his new Food Trade Hall restaurant, Butterleaf. The Irvine restaurant is based entirely on plants and based on Gruel’s love of vegetables. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Andrew Gruel’s newest company, Butterleaf, offers “vegetarian food for meat lovers”. Next door is his other concept, Two Birds, which serves chicken at the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

  • Andrew Gruel eats an organic carrot from his newest concept, Butterleaf, which has a vegetable-based menu in the Trade Food Hall in Irvine. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register / SCNG)

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.

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