One retail center, two business partners and three restaurants opening — all within about four months.
It would sound like a crazy plan to most, but for restaurateurs Noah Blom and Leonard Chan, it was opportunity calling.
The three restaurants — a waffle sandwich and brew house, oyster bar, and a cocktail and classic American dishes eatery — are moving into the SouthCoast Collection shopping center on Hyland Avenue in Costa Mesa.
"This is more about the center, and more about a collective effort of trying to create a culinary center in Orange County," Blom said. "New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco — all are known for their food scene. I don't see why there can't be a comparable food scene here. We have the space, the palates, so let's make it happen."
Their partnership is something like a Venn diagram, with each heading up his own vastly different restaurant and joining together to open the third.
On April 24, Chan opened the Iron Press, featuring waffle sandwiches and 30 California craft beers, in a 1,900-square-foot space with wood countertops, an open kitchen and industrial decor.
Waffle sandwich combinations include a fried buttermilk chicken and jalapeño maple syrup, prosciutto and Gruyère, and ham and smoked Gouda. Sandwiches are $8; beer is $6.
Blom will open Arc Restaurant — featuring 1920s-style cocktails and wood-fired classic dishes from locally sourced ingredients — sometime around August in the OC Mart Mix, which is in the SoCo center.
Menu items include chicken casserole; duck with lemon, jam and honey; and steak with potato, citrus and cream.
Together, Chen and Blom will open what they agree is the one thing Orange County foodies need most: a great oyster bar.
"Good oysters are the hardest thing to find in Orange County," Chan said.
Shuck Oyster Bar is set to open in the beginning of June, also in the OC Mart Mix.
Chen and Blom are working with 45 different family-owned oyster farms to create a rotating menu that changes with the shipments that come into the restaurant that day.
Once all three are up and running, the duo hope for a synergy between the different food concepts.
Ideally, people would start at Shuck for oysters, head to Iron Press to sample the beers and share a sandwich, and finish at Arc for cocktails and dinner, Chan said.
"With Iron Press, Shuck and Arc anchoring either end of the center, I think we're going to see some great traffic coming through here," Chan said.