The Mall in Columbia took another step toward transforming its west wing into a bustling open-air plaza Monday when ShopHouse, an Asian-style restaurant, opened in the plaza.
The 2,438-square-foot restaurant is the second-to-last tenant and final restaurant to open in the 70,000 square-foot expansion, which began in January 2013 with the razing of a 30,000 square-foot L.L. Bean store. The final tenant, jewelry and clothing boutique lou lou, is expected to open in the fall.
The wing consists of a variety of retailers, including four restaurants, clothing stores and specialty shops, and is fashioned in the style of an outdoor plaza with individual storefronts, benches, art and other features.
The expansion has enhanced the existing dining and entertainment promenade, which begins at the Broken Land Parkway entrance and includes an AMC Theatre and eight restaurants -- four of them new.
ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, which is owned and operated by Chipotle Mexican Grill, offers Asian-style dishes in the customizable, buffet-style format made popular by the booming chain.
Tim Wildin, brand director for ShopHouse, said the restaurant follows the same model as Chipotle in both preparation and quality – both use locally-sourced produce when available and meats raised without antibiotics or product hormones – and he added that one of the restaurant's biggest assets is access.
"It's access to a cuisine that most people find very foreign and might be intimidated to go in try. The way we break it out into our service format, it really allows you to pick and choose and customize your meal any way you want in a really familiar way," he said.
ShopHouse opened its first location in Washington in 2011, and the Columbia location is its eighth and second in a non-major city -- with Bethesda being the other location.
ShopHouse is one of four restaurants to open in the space.
Earlier this month, Seasons 52, a table service restaurant that has a rotating menu based on the seasons offerings, opened at the plaza's entrance. Across from Seasons 52 is Maggiano's, an Italian table service restaurant that opened earlier this summer. Also in the plaza is Zoes Kitchen, a fast casual Mediterranean restaurant that opened in earlier this year.
Ashley Venable, the mall's senior general manager, said ShopHouse complements the existing restaurants.
“ShopHouse brings a fast-casual concept to the plaza, which creates a great mix here,” she said. “It brings really a unique palette opportunity that we don't have here, so we are really excited about the opportunity it brings to, not only the plaza, but the Mall in Columbia.”