TRADE Food Hall in Irvine Opens, Already Impressing with Fried Chicken and MORE

In January of last year, OC Weekly was the first to give detailed information regarding TRADE Marketplace Food Hall. Last June, we provided a comprehensive update, FAQs and knew the opening date would be a moving target. Fast forward 10 months to today, when we lined up with every other Irvine office worker to finally check out some options. Now, while anchor Ootoro Sushi opened back in August, nobody else was even close to ready until now. As promised last year, we’re back to give you a look at what’s now open. (Note: All new restaurants will be in “soft opening” mode until they officially announce otherwise. What does this mean to you? Expect longer-than-expected wait times as they all find their stride.). First up, KRISP!

KRISP Fresh Living
Closing their Newport location to focus on this larger space, KRISP’s expanded menu includes a few breakfast, lunch and grab & go options. Because we planned to hit Two Birds next, we leaned more towards the beverage choices. Illy espresso drinks, smoothies and house creations gave us too much to think about. So we opted for a super food bowl instead. Available in 16 and 32-ounce portions, acai, fresh fruits and coconut shavings were in abundance. Our choice: the Pink Himalayan. Filled with organic acai, bananas, strawberries and organic coconut water, we preferred this over similar versions found elsewhere. Their choice of toppings is what stood out the most: granola, pink Himalayan salt, coconut shavings, hemp and chia seeds. It wasn’t a mushy meal— we had lots of texture to keep things interesting. And yeah, the salt gave it that extra layer of complexity. No complaints here. You can find them on the far left side of TRADE; the opposite end of Ootoro.

Center Hub
While they don’t serve food, you can mosey up to this bar with your lunch or dinner for a cool beverage. Stocked with the essentials of wine, booze and brews, Center’s beer list included the likes of Golden Road’s Wolf Pup Session IPA, Barley Forge’s Coconut Rye Stout and Bootlegger’s Palomino Pale Ale. The bar’s open air location gave it an informal and approachable vibe. You’ll spot it on your right when entering the main food hall portion of TRADE.

Two Birds
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s no surprise to find both in the same neighborhood, since Andrew Gruel’s new joint is literally down the street from John Wayne Airport. As their menu board states, this is all farm fresh Jidori chicken. You get to choose between grilled or crispy (a.k.a. the duo of birds). Once you’ve made up your mind, choose how many pieces you’d like bagged up. If it’s a sandwich you crave, look no further than a Bird in the Hand, seen in the intro above. SoCal Restaurant Show host Andy Harris gave a single-word response when asked how his chicken and slaw smothered in tiger sauce was—”Delicious!”

One look through an exterior window (emblazoned with their chicken logo), and we spotted Gruel handling orders along with his team. The growing line of hungry consumers was split between returning concept Gyro King and the new next door neighbor. While there’s a salad on the menu, we didn’t see anybody walk by with one. Our table took turns ordering shareable sides, like their housemade pickled veggies and salt & vinegar slaw. A two-piece bag-o-chicken will run you $7; three pieces are $10 and four cluckers are $12. Their mac and cheese had a top layer of crunchy chips, but our lunch bunch kept commenting on a tiger sauce. Tastier than an herbaceous dill version, the garlicky sriracha went well with whatever we dunked in it. Two Birds is around the corner from Center Hub; just follow your nose.

More restaurant updates will be posted as we head back over to TRADE this week. TRADE food hall is located at 2222 Michelson Dr, Irvine;

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