Top Chef alum Mike Isabella December 11 begins redefining mall dining with the partial arrival of Isabella Eatery, the multi-concept food hall now serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner — as well as pork-packed desserts — on the top floor of Tysons Galleria.
The three outposts coming online first include a modified version of his flagship Italian restaurant, Graffiato; a new all-day cafe called Nonfiction Coffee; and Isabella’s debut sweets shop.
“The ice cream is definitely the most stressful because I haven’t done it before,” he tells Eater of his detour into frozen dairy. Which is not to say the inaugural ice cream parlor — which is expected to feature 18 rotating flavors ranging from basics (bittersweet chocolate, strawberry) to gourmet scoops (toasted marshmallow, dulce de leche) — is totally uncharted territory. “I used to work at Carvel when I was a kid,” Isabella says.
Read on for updates on all the other facets of the new hospitality hub.
Taha Ismail, beverage director at Mike Isabella Concepts, says Nonfiction Coffee will feature two types of specialty beans for pour-over service, a “bolder, full-bodied” selection from Kenya and a “fruitier, floral” pick from Costa Rica, to start.
Other caffeinenated options include cold brew (one plain, one nitro-infused) and Arabica blend drip coffee. Ismail says to also expect whiskey-fueled Irish coffee, cold brew-based cocktails, mimosas, and bloody marys.
Isabella says the food options at Nonfiction Coffee will include parfaits, assorted baked goods, savory toasts, salads, frittatas, and familiar treats (think: rock candy lollipops, chocolate-covered pretzels) that will also adorn orders coming out of Retro Creamery.
Because there are no wood-fired ovens at the Galleria, Isabella says he changed the dough at the new Graffiato to a thick-crust, focaccia-style base.
“The pizza is totally different here,” Isabella tells Eater. The toppings, however, honor classics such as four cheese, as well as chile-spiked meatball.
Greatest hits include crispy Brussels sprouts and Romesco cauliflower dishes Isabella says appeared on the opening menu at his flagship Chinatown location.
New dishes range from roast half-chicken with salsa verde to cheesy, broccoli rabe-stuffed roll-ups bolstered by garlic. “It’s like monkey bread,” Isabella says of the pull-apart snack.
The soft serve machines at Retro Creamery are starting out loaded with chocolate and vanilla. But once things get cranking, Isabella wants to fill them with something special.
“My favorite is the foie gras,” he says of an experimental flavor he envisions pairing with a hazelnut-chocolate offering for a super fancy swirl.
He’s also fine-tuning future floats, including a Mexican Coca-cola and espresso ice cream number Isabella is excited to share with customers.
In the meantime, he’s hoping dessert fans will dig into the Miss Piggy sundae — a complex creation featuring roasted pork-flavored ice cream, “a touch of bacon,” salted caramel, and fried and caramelized chicharron cracker Jacks.
Ismail says the “Prohibition-style” bar planted in the middle of Tysons Galleria is expected to feature about 50 classic cocktails including Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and a handful of martinis.
As it stands now, carry out-centric Kapnos Marketa is tentatively scheduled to open Friday, December 15. Octagon bar is projected to follow on Tuesday, December 19. Isabella said Arroz should come online “before Christmas.” Yona, Pepita, and Requin raw bar are now slated to debut after Christmas but before the end of the year. The final puzzle piece that is the main dining hall is now expected to open in January 2018.
Nonfiction Coffee is projected to operate from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Graffiato is projected to operate from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Retro Creamery is projected to operate to operate from noon till TBD.
Status: Certified open. 2001 International Drive, McLean, Va.; website.