When Ken Schwartz FCSI, president/CEO of SSA Foodservice Design + Consulting was called upon to collaborate on Michael Mina’s first ever food hall in Honolulu, Hawaii, naturally, he was thrilled.
“It was great to work with Michael and his team,” he says. “There’s nothing like taking people’s ideas and visions and helping them make it into a reality.”
Schwartz is no stranger to the Mina Group; a longtime partner to Mina – arguably one of San Francisco’s most prolific and successful chef/restaurateurs – Schwartz has worked on Pabu and the adjacent Ramen Market in San Francisco, among other installations, but his most recent success story with the team was his work on Michael Mina’s Tailgate, a members-only diner’s club, and Bourbon Steak & Bourbon Pub at Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I have always wanted to do a project like this and it’s something I’ve been cultivating in the back of my mind. This just seemed like the perfect location and perfect time to bring it to life”
What proved different about The Street, however, was its sheer magnitude, and location outside of the mainland US. An ambitious undertaking, The Mina Group set out to transform a 6,900 sq ft chunk of space on the ground floor of the 12,000 sq ft redeveloped International Market Place in Honolulu’s beachfront Waikiki neighborhood into a one-of-a-kind food hall with the goal of showcasing the incredible bounty of seafood, produce and other local foods in Hawaii, prepared with the finesse and creativity of award-winning chefs.
Opening in spring 2017, The Street is an extension of Mina’s growing presence in the Aloha state; his team opened STRIPSTEAK Waikiki on the third-floor of the Market Place in 2016.
Mina says he calls the concept a “Social House” because of the opportunity the space affords locals and tourists alike to be able to “walk around and eat a wide variety of food that’s casual, elevated food at a great price point.”
Piggybacking on the continuing trend of global street food, The Street features 13 chef-driven concepts – or “vignettes” as Schwartz calls them – serving up everything from Hawaiian poke and shaved ice to Maui onion burgers, house-made lafa bread and even Italian-inspired dishes in a huge departure from typical shopping mall food court fare like Chinese takeout and fast food, and that was precisely Mina’s intent.
“The idea of being able to bring together so many great chefs and different concepts under one roof is something I think is truly amazing,” Mina says. “I have always wanted to do a project like this and it’s something I’ve been cultivating in the back of my mind. This just seemed like the perfect location and perfect time to bring it to life. What I love most about The Street is the ability for a family or a group of friends to sit down and have a unique night out.”
Maui Onion Burger is Mina Group corporate chef David Varley’s take on casual burgers with local ingredients, including sweet Maui onions.
Chef Adam Sobel, the former executive chef of Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Washington, DC, oversaw the development of Adam’s Nana Lu, which is named after his grandmother and focuses on authentic Italian cuisine.
Chef Gerald Chin, executive chef at STRIPSTEAK in Las Vegas, oversaw the development of Kai Poke, a concept featuring various interpretations of the popular, Hawaiian raw fish beach snack using locally-sourced seafood, including a Baja poke modeled after the California-style fish taco with chipotle aioli, ancho chili powder and sweet corn, and the Spicy Seoul with Öra salmon, kimchi, spicy pickled cucumbers and sesame seeds.
Chef Ayesha Curry developed International Smoke, which serves global-inspired barbecue dishes, while chef Ken Tominaga, executive chef of Mina’s Pabu in San Francisco, serves Tokyo-style ramen at The Ramen Bar noodle stand.
At Little Lafa, diners can snack on housemade lafa bread, which Schwartz explains looks like a pita but tastes more like naan with various toppings, while Mindful Greens serves up salads and other healthy eats.
There’s also a tiki bar (The Myna Bird); a brewery (Beer – serving local brews); a juice/kombucha bar (Indie Girl); a boutique chocolate shop with Hawaiian chocolates, and a coffee shop serving Los Angeles-based Lamill Coffee, savory toasts, housemade doughnuts and inventive slushies, which all supplement the breakfast-lunch-dinner service offered at The Street.
Michelle Karr-Ueoka, pastry chef and co-owner of MW Restaurant and Artizen by MW has developed a dessert bar > offering Aloha Ice, an elevated take on the popular Hawaiian shaved ice dish with flavors like li-hing strawberry, Tokachi-azuki beans and more, along with her cookies, which have earned cult-like status.
“[The Street] is very much inspired by the local community and the idea of bringing people together through the universal language of great food, great people and fun times,” Mina has said.
“The idea to be able to bring together so many great chefs and different concepts under one roof is something I think is truly amazing”
With a location directly on the busy Kuhio Avenue and on the ground floor of the 12,000 sq ft International Market Place in the heart of the beachfront neighborhood Waikiki, The Street easily draws swarms of hungry visitors each day.
“One entrance faces the street and the other entrance flows into the International Market Place, so there is a lot of traffic from both sides of the corner,” says Schwartz.
The design concept for The Street was inspired by Mina’s successful Local Market, another market-like concept with many prepared foods in the Sundial Plaza of St Petersburg, Florida.
“That was the catalyst for what evolved into The Street, which is more of a true food hall with different, individual restaurant concepts,” Schwartz says.
Going the food hall route was a natural next step for Mina, who spotted a growing trend and jumped in on the game while it was still in its early stages.
“Part of what makes The Street so successful is you have these different vignettes with very different menus but all the food is super high-quality, curated dishes by Michael and his team that anyone would be hard-pressed to get anywhere unless you dined in one of his restaurants,” says Schwartz. “Here, you can walk in with no reservations and sample food from different places in a matter of 35 to 40 minutes and then go right back to shopping.”
Though there is plenty of diversity among the different concepts, the space was designed to resemble a cohesive urban or outdoor market, like something you would find abroad, says Schwartz.
In the center, a communal dining space offers seating for 175. A mix of two, four and six-top tables can be separated or pushed together for more group seating options.
Schwartz’s task was to specify the right equipment to match the very different needs of each concept, while also building in some room for flexibility should menus and concepts change.
“Most of the vignettes have live cooking or cooking support so everything can be prepared and served fresh in front of the customer,” says Schwartz, who likens his job on this concept as to designing a handful of small, high-end, independent restaurants, all under one roof.
Supporting the individual station cooking is a full back of the house with receiving, cold storage, dry storage, large-scale prep and production kitchens as well as warewashing.
The poke bar has its own separate fish processing room where staff can safely clean, cut and process whole, fresh fish coming in daily. The majority of the food prep happens out in front of the guest, Schwartz says.
When it comes to working on these type of celebrity chef projects as with the Mina Group, “you have to think outside just the kitchen and figure out how to create that ‘wow’ factor,” says Schwartz. “We have to design as much for the client as we do the guest,” with all the glitz and glamour in terms of cutting-edge food, ambiance and experience.
Flexibility in the kitchen design and equipment is also important. “For some restaurants, the menu remains fairly static, but often, the restaurants will want the option to make changes down the line.”
Diners moving through The Street can order a full meal with a beverage and pay at each station just as if they truly are visiting different restaurants. “This allows for the ability to get the order out faster, but if customers want to move to another station to order something else, it’s pretty seamless,” Schwartz says.
As far as the hood system is concerned, Schwartz specified a couple of different systems that could be connected together. “We chose this system because the Market Place requires the air to be scrubbed before it leaves the building since it is adjacent to other businesses,” he says.
As with any high-level project, there are multiple challenges, but The Street in > particular posed most of those challenges around systems, flow and collaboration with a large chef and design team bringing so many different concepts and visions together in one space.
Uber-fast timetables and tight budgets, despite grand ideas, always present some challenges for Schwartz and others in his position. “Time is of the essence,” says Schwartz, who had to work quickly and efficiently with the entire team through the entire project timeline, from concept development to construction, installation and final run-throughs. Often, there are weekly phone calls and plenty of emails in between. But Schwartz is not complaining; he’s being modest, with one of his key strengths being able to work collaboratively and the ability to truly share in his chef/restaurateurs’ visions.
Less than a year old, The Street has already proven a major success; the Mina Group plans to open a second instalment of The Street as part of the $500m renovation of the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. That project will likely span to about 21,000 sq ft with a target opening of next year, Schwartz says.
Tabuman Centers, which oversaw the redevelopment of the International Market Place, is behind this project as well. Early reports indicate that The Street will take over the eighth floor of the building and showcase some of the same concepts at the Honolulu location, including Kai Poke, International Smoke, The Noodle Bar and Lamill Coffee.
Until then, we’ll be in Honolulu enjoying our poke and lafa.