DOWNTOWN — Aside from the upscale and critically-acclaimed restaurants at the new Santa Monica Place will be an old favorite that was popular with budget-minded shoppers and local workers before the resurrection of the mall.
Macerich Co. announced this week the lineup of nine fast-food eateries that will occupy the enclosed food court on the mall’s rooftop dining deck, featuring new names like Sarku Japan and Chick n’ Ribs and the return of familiar faces like Charlie Kabob and Manchu Wok.
They join five sit-down restaurants that will line the perimeter of the top level, including XINO Restaurant + Lounge, Ozumo, Zengo, La Sandia and Pizza Antica, creating a dedicated space where shoppers can dine in the open air with an ocean view.
The new fast-food tenants include Pinches Tacos, Sushi Itto, Stefano’s Pizza, Wetzel’s Pretzels and Fatburger, the latter three of which also have restaurants on the Third Street Promenade. A tenth tenant specializing in fresh-made sandwiches and salads could also be added later.
Michael Guerin, the assistance vice president of leasing for Macerich, said the goal was to bring some diversity in the dining offerings to shoppers.
“We want to give a full experience when you’re looking at it from a food perspective,” he said.
Santa Monica Place will be the second location for Pinches Taco, which opened its flagship restaurant in 2008 on Sunset Boulevard near the Chateau Marmont Hotel.
George Anaya, who owns the restaurant with his two brothers, said they hope success at Santa Monica Place will help lure potential investors as they look to expand their business nationwide, making it as big as Baja Fresh.
The restaurant offers traditional Mexican food with what Anaya describes as a healthier twist with fresh ingredients.
“It’s traditional but not with the normal heavy mess with lard and grease,” he said.
Anaya said the restaurant uses family recipes going back more than a century. His great uncle was a cook for Francisco “Pancho” Villa.
He also has ties in Santa Monica where his cousin owns the popular Cha Cha Chicken on Ocean Avenue.
Among the returning business owners is John Mahdavi, who opened Charlie Kabob in the old Santa Monica Place in 1982.
The aerospace engineer from Iran started the business with his wife, who earned her psychology degree in the United States, hoping to introduce Persian and Mediterranean food, taking over the lease for an old churro shop.
While business was slow at first, interest started picking up after several years.
He expanded in 2002 by opening Charlie Burger in the same food court.
“We went to too many places where the burger they were serving was not as good as it should be,” he said. “All the time they were frozen or there was something wrong inside.”
He won’t be serving any burgers when Santa Monica Place reopens on Aug. 6, 2010. Mahdavi said he decided to stick with Charlie Kabob because the rent was doubling.
Guerin could not comment on specifics for the rent but said that it was competitive with the market as a whole.
But Mahdavi, who also owns Charlie Kabob restaurants in Irvine, Downtown Los Angeles and Westside Pavilion, said he anticipates business will do well at the new mall thanks to the new open-air design.
“It’s worth it,” he said. “It’s Santa Monica and it deserves to have such a mall.”