Tysons Galleria’s Urbanspace food hall is back, and a key restaurant from its past hopes to soon follow suit.
More than two years after its initial, truncated opening, Hei Hei Tiger is being revived with a new chef to craft the roasted meat and noodle soup dishes that are the Cantonese restaurant and bar’s specialty.
“The main focus of Hei Hei Tiger is roasted meats, like barbecue meats. That’s the whole premise, so he has a lot of experience with that,” co-owner Nathan Beauchamp said of new chef Andrew Chiou, whose most recent venture was the Chinese takeout kitchen Lucky Danger in Pentagon City.
One of seven eateries that have opened in or are coming to Urbanspace, which officially relaunched on Tuesday (March 22), Hei Hei Tiger will reintroduce itself to Tysons diners by first reopening the food hall’s octagon-shaped bar with drink and snack menus.
The restaurant will then ramp up service for a full launch in June.
“Working with all these other restaurants here, once it’s full, I think it’s going to be great,” Beauchamp said.
Developed by the ownership team behind Tiger Fork in D.C., Hei Hei Tiger originally arrived in Tysons Galleria on Feb. 25, 2020, but it lasted only three weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Virginia to shut down indoor dining at all restaurants.
An attempted comeback during the 2020 winter holiday season faltered, as the decline in lunchtime office workers who previously sustained the food hall left its tenants treading water.
“We weren’t getting enough traction, so we decided just to close it,” Beauchamp told FFXnow last week.
Still, the owners remained committed to their vision of a restaurant for classic Cantonese dishes like char siu pork and roast duck served in a more casual setting than the vibe at Tiger Fork.
A friend of Beauchamp and fellow owner Greg Algie, Chiou came on board after former chef and co-owner Will Fung opted to go in a different direction.
Chiou, who came to the U.S. from Taiwan and now lives in Arlington, says “it just made sense” for him to join the Hei Hei Tiger team, given his familiarity with the cuisine and past professional experience. In addition to Lucky Danger, he ran the Japanese restaurant Momo Yakitori and has worked with the State Department.
He has spent the past few months refining Hei Hei Tiger’s new menu. One item that will definitely be on it is whole roast duck.
“I think the goal is just to help bring a lot more people to this space and then kind of promote another version of Tiger Fork,” Chiou said. “[We want to] take a step up from your standard mall food court food, while still respecting the classics of Hong Kong-style dishes.”
Tysons Galleria visitors can get a taste of West African cuisine this weekend, when the new Ghanaian pop-up Hedzole opens for business.
Expanding on regular appearances at local farmers’ markets, the stall will have a three-hour soft opening tomorrow (Friday) before officially opening on Saturday (March 19), Hedzole founder and owner Candice Mensah told FFXnow.
“There’s been a lot of preparation, me juggling still working and then still doing this, coming in at night,” Mensah said yesterday (Wednesday). “We’re just about done putting the final touches on everything.”
Hedzole’s opening will precede the March 22 relaunch of Tysons Galleria’s Urbanspace food hall, which also recently added Twelve Twenty Coffee, the British eatery London Chippy, and Empanadas De Mendoza.
Those vendors will soon be joined by Makaw Superfoods, a rebranding of the Leesburg-based Makaw Bowl. The açaí bowl and smoothie shop is moving into the space near Andy’s Pizza that was previously filled by the Asian-style sandwich pop-up Laowich.
The Cantonese restaurant and bar Hei Hei Tiger is also working to fully reopen later this year.
The Hedzole pop-up will run for three months through June. The menu features staples like jollof rice and the rice and beans dish waakye that can be topped with various stews, cabbage, plantains, and proteins, such as fish, grilled chicken, and oxtails.
“I’m looking for the opportunities I expressed to you before: to be able to understand how to operate a brick-and-mortar, get more customer feedback, build my following, get people more excited about the food,” Mensah said. “That’s ultimately my goal, and then ultimately, if we can have a space here, that would be amazing too.”
Anyone in the market for some home decor might want to stop by Tysons Galleria next week.
For the new store, Crate & Barrel is relocating its nearly 35,000-square-foot, standalone outlet that originally opened on International Drive near Tysons Corner Center in 2000. It will remain the company’s only site in Fairfax County and one of only three in the D.C. area, joined by stores in Arlington and downtown D.C.
“From finding renewed inspiration through our extensive assortment of kitchen and entertaining products to weaving intentional design throughout the home with our complimentary Design Desk services, we’re thrilled to soon welcome customers into our new space,” Amanda Springer, the senior vice president and head of stores for Crate & Barrel, said in a statement.
The third floor of the subdivided space remains blocked off, but as of last summer, it was expected to be filled by the movie theater CMX CinéBistro.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) This spring will bring a wealth of new dining options to Tysons Galleria.
The mall’s Urbanspace food hall will officially relaunch on March 22 after going into a kind of hibernation mode during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a news release announced yesterday (Thursday).
The celebration will serve as a formal introduction to the space’s four newest vendors:
- Twelve Twenty Coffee, a cafe from former Tysons Urbanspace assistant general manager Victoria Smith that specializes in pour-over coffee
- London Chippy, the first permanent brick-and-mortar location for a British food truck that has operated in the D.C. area since 2016
- Empanadas De Mendoza, another local food truck-turned-restaurant that opened in December
- Hedzole, which offers Ghanaian cuisine and has appeared at the Mosaic District and Springfield Town Center farmers’ markets
All of those tenants have started operations except for Hedzole.
Urbanspace confirmed that the West African eatery will start as a weekend-only pop-up available through June, but owner Candice Mensah told FFXnow that she hopes it could turn into a permanent tenant.
The newcomers will join Andy’s Pizza and Donburi, which have been in the food hall since it first launched in December 2018. The Cantonese restaurant and bar Hei Hei Tiger is also expected to return later this spring after the pandemic cut short its initial soft opening in February 2020.
As reported by Northern Virginia Magazine, Urbanspace anticipates adding another three vendors by June, including the açaí bowl and smoothie outlet Makaw Bowl, which is rebranding as Makaw Superfoods.
A spokesperson said Urbanspace hasn’t confirmed Makaw Bowl’s opening date, so it’s unknown if that will be around in time for the official relaunch.
The vendor lineup was curated with an eye toward diversity, according to Urbanspace Marketing Director Maija Talikka.
“Of our vendor partners, we have three black-owned businesses, three women-owned, and five minority-owned businesses,” Talikka said by email. “They are the most exciting group of people I’ve worked with in a long time and I can’t wait for our community to get a taste — literally and figuratively!”
Urbanspace Tysons is currently following a limited schedule with no morning hours, but it will expand operations on March 14, opening from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
The food hall will add Monday hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting April 11.
Life is starting to return to Urbanspace.
Hastily created in the wake of Isabella Eatery’s collapse, the food hall opened on the third floor of Tysons Galleria in December 2018 with promising reviews and a handful of local restaurants that built up loyal followings — just in time for COVID-19 to grind business to a halt in the spring of 2020.
Some tenants, like Andy’s Pizza and Donburi, have reopened, while others, including Stomping Ground and Hei Hei Tiger, shuttered either permanently or temporarily, leaving much of the 41,000-square-foot space empty and darkened.
That is expected to change soon, according to Candice Mensah, founder and owner of the Ghanaian food stall Hedzole.
A regular presence at the Springfield Town Center and Mosaic District farmers markets, Hedzole is expanding with a pop-up in Urbanspace that will open in early March, Mensah announced on Feb. 12.
It will join Andy’s Pizza, Donburi, Twelve Twenty Coffee, the British restaurant and bar London Chippy, and the most recent addition, Empanadas De Mendoza, which opened in December. She says there are other vendors on their way as well, either on a permanent basis or as pop-ups.
“The second week of March, that’ll be the official kick-off of Urbanspace being fully open,” Mensah told FFXnow.
Tysons Galleria owner Brookfield Properties and Urbanspace did not return requests for comment by publication time.
Born in D.C. and growing up in Alexandria, Mensah’s journey to Tysons Galleria began in her mother’s kitchen, where she ate and learned to cook traditional Ghanaian dishes like jollof rice, okra stew and waakye.
Mensah’s parents both immigrated to the U.S. about five decades ago from Accra, the capital of Ghana. The word “Hedzole” means “freedom” in Ga, a language spoken by the Ga-Adangbe ethnic group indigenous to that region.
Inspired by the response to her mother’s food at international festivals hosted by the family’s church parish, Mensah dreamed of opening a restaurant, but she didn’t realize she could make it a reality until 2018, when she struck up a conversation with the owner of a Cuban restaurant while visiting a friend in New York.
“I was telling him about my dream of one day wanting to have a restaurant but not having a culinary background, and the words that he said to me was, ‘Just do it,'” she recalled.
Though skeptical that the process would be so simple, Mensah started looking at local farmers markets and eventually introduced Hedzole at the annual Taste of Springfield festival in June 2019.
Described by Mensah as a “contemporary approach to traditional Ghanaian cuisine,” Hedzole utilizes a fast-casual model where customers start with a rice base and add proteins and a soup or sauce. Aside from the protein options, the ingredients are all vegan, and meals come with sides of cabbage and plantains.
The result provides enough variations to appeal to both traditionalists and newcomers. Mensah wants to bring her culture’s food to new audiences, while also pushing back against the perception of African cuisine as hard-to-find or inaccessible.
With one of the largest Black immigrant populations in the country, the D.C. area has a thriving community of African restaurants, particularly around Alexandria, in downtown D.C. and Maryland, though they remain rarer in the Tysons area.
“They’re there, but they’re not always maybe in settings where all of us go to, and that was another thing that was important to me with Hedzole,” Mensah said. “I wanted to be in spaces where all of us are, so all of us can experience Hedzole.”
Conversations about bringing Hedzole to Tysons Galleria began prior to the pandemic, but the past two years gave Mensah time to refine the menu and expand her customer base, thanks to the uptick in popularity of farmers markets as one of the few public activities available in summer 2020.
Depending on how well the Urbanspace pop-up does, Mensah could land a permanent spot in Tysons Galleria, allowing her to focus on Hedzole full time. She currently juggles it with her day job in the health care consulting industry.
“Hedzole has been running during the main farmers market seasons from summer to early winter, and then pretty much goes into hiatus after the winter,” she said. “I wanted the opportunity to see what it would be like in a brick-and-mortar, to get that experience in order to transition into taking this full time.”