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Food Courts In SoCal Are Getting Fancy

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Fig & Olive's truffle risotto, not your typical mall food.( Photo courtesy of Fig & Olive)
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The days of fast food-fueled shopping sprees might be numbered. Mall food courts — which were the center of virtually all 80s social activity and movie, for that matter — are getting a makeover, and Hot Dog on a Stick and Sbarro are going to be getting some gussied up competition. New high-end eateries are moving into the shopping centers, providing shoppers with a more refined alternative.

Restaurant investors from all over the globe — from London to New York to Taiwan — have noticed the potential in these SoCal shopping centers, and are willing to pay a pretty penny to get in.

In November Fig & Olive, a New York-based Mediterranean eatery that already has a location in West Hollywood, will open in a 12,000-square-foot space at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. The competition for the space was tough; they beat out out 50 others for the prime spot away from the main shopping plaza. Not that money is an issue for them of course. They've spent $15,000 on olive trees alone to adorn the expansive space.

F&O is not alone. The ever-expanding Umami Burger will be opening up inside the Irvine Spectrum after their remodel is done, as will Cucina Enoteca, Wood Ranch and Tender Greens.

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A bit closer to home is the upcoming opening of Din Tai Fung. Food folks will no longer have to drive out to Arcadia for their crave-worthy soup dumplings since they'll be holding court over at Glendale's Americana at Brand alongside Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak, which will be ready by the end of the year.

All of this expansion is no mistake.

Says The Times:

Industry statistics show that restaurants at malls are outperforming those centers' fast-food outlets. Sales at mall restaurants grew 4.3% in the year that ended in May, while mall fast food purveyors posted a 0.3% decline, according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers. "The presence of food and beverage as a fresher, more upscale experience is only going to get bigger," said architect Tim Magill, a partner at 5+ Design in Hollywood. "The ratio is tilting more in that direction than retail, especially as shopping centers have to offer something more that people can't get online."

And as much as we'd love to have our DTF soup dumplings delivered to our door, that's just not a reality. Yet. So, to the mall we go.