By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter
With the hopes of creating a cohesive identity, the restaurants on the North end of India Street in Mission Hills have begun branding themselves as International Restaurant Row (IRR). Banners and signage are coming soon for the newly minted restaurant district.
The rebranding effort dates back to 2005 with a designation from former City Councilmember Michael Zucchet. Zucchet left office shortly after the district was designated, and the Mission Hills Business Improvement District (BID) decided not to move forward with the IRR as it did not have an executive director at the time.
Selina Stockley of Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe said someone recently brought up the IRR during a Mission Hills BID meeting to discuss parking. “Everyone jumped up and down in their seat. That’s how we wanted to be [and] how we wanted to brand ourselves,” Stockley said.
Su-Mei Yu, owner of Thai restaurant Saffron, said she is excited about the IRR and the cuisine on India Street North is cosmopolitan, which is why the international moniker is a fitting brand.
“It will be wonderful for people to be able to come here and have a little flavor of each [country],” Yu said, adding she envisions taking the restaurant row concept one step further to create a patio food court concept with a street-food vibe.
“It’s absolutely time,” she said. “We can do something creative [and] really exciting: have street dancing and traditional music.”
Gary Kramer, owner of National Comedy Theatre on India Street in Mission Hills said he supports the IRR.
“It’s just a spectacular idea to brand the neighborhood,” he said. Kramer also said he thinks India Street North is eclectic and, to a certain extent, concealed and undiscovered.
“People have called us Mission Hills but we’re not in the hills, we’re at the bottom of the hill,” Kramer said. “That didn’t establish [that] we were, with all our choice dining and entertainment options… a collection of foods in a block and a half. The [new] name sums up what the area is all about.”
Tom Curl, president of the Mission Hills BID, said he agreed that creating the IRR in Mission Hills is the next logical step in promoting the area.
“It is a testament to the variety of menus and the quality of the food served that has resulted in the continued success of India Street North,” he said. “Not many places can you get such a variety of global taste experiences within a few steps of each other.”
Gerrie Trussell, executive director of the Mission Hills BID, said rebranding individual business districts within the Mission Hills area is a challenging task given the geography, therefore branding the district as a whole was a more practical solution.
“Mission Hills has several different little disconnected ‘fingers’ – India Street North, Raynard Way, Washington and West Washington [streets] – so it is not like your typical main street,” Trussell said. “It’s nuanced with different niche groups that do well in different areas.”
Trussell said the groundwork for the new restaurant district is being laid, including banners and new artwork to brand the area. She also said having multiple dining options in one place and the freeway near India Street North greatly helps in marketing the new district. “It’s got great character,” she said. “It’s the best-kept secret.”
Establishing the new district will also involve participating businesses offering valet parking and curbside pickup to address parking availability.
Aaron Rabinowitz of Gelato Vero Coffee said he is most excited about the valet parking. “One of the main impediments to getting people down here is lack of parking,” he said. Adding India Street North is an orphaned block, Rabinowitz said the region would now have an “identity.”
Mary Gluck of The Wine Vault and Bistro said she felt the same way. “It’s a great idea for all the businesses there,” Gluck said. “With valet parking, we can make it very special.”
IRR restaurants include: Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill, 3667 India St.; El Indio, 3695 India St.; Gelato Vero Coffee, 3753 India St.; Saffron, 3731 India St.; Shakespeare’s Pub and Grill, 3701 India St.; Starlite Lounge, 3175 India St.; The Regal Beagle Ale House and Sausage Grill, 3659 India St.; and The Wine Vault and Bistro, 3731-A India St.
For more information, visit ourmissionhills.com