Food  |  Travel

Mike Isabella Expands to Los Angeles, Pensacola Airports

The top chef is going big, with new concepts to come for Washington.

Mike Isabella takes to the skies with a growing number of airport restaurants. Photograph by Greg Powers.

Mike Isabella is going big. The Washington-based toque just opened Graffiato Richmond and is poised to debut a fast-casual version of sandwich shop in Newark’s Prudential Center in October. Now he’s taking his brand South and West with a version of Pepita set for Los Angeles International Airport; the Mexican cantina is also slated for Ballston next year, near Kapnos Taverna, due in December. A new concept, The Beach Bar by Mike Isabella, will also debut in the Pensacola, Florida airport.

“My goal is to be the next Wolfgang Puck,” says Isabella. “He has restaurants, catering, equipment, food in the grocery stores. He has everything you could possibly want as a chef.”

News came earlier this week via the Washington Business Journal that Isabella will also open a version of Kapnos at Reagan National, along with other eateries like Richard Sandoval‘s El Centro D.F. and a Cava Grill. While Isabella is unable to confirm the DCA eatery, he says it’s likely Washingtonians will see spinoffs of Kapnos and G in Reagan and Dulles come 2015.

Each Isabella airport eatery will reflect the given city’s cuisine or one of his restaurants located there. For LA, it means tacos and margaritas. Pensacola’s Beach Bar will serve dishes from the Florida Panhandle and bordering states, like crawfish hushpuppies, pimiento cheeseburgers, and crispy oysters with comeback sauce. Isabella says he sees potential in the concept, which he may evolve and eventually bring to Washington. 

“We keep pushing,” says Isabella. “We’re doing restaurants, we’re in stadiums, and now we’re going into airports. Our concepts have been successful, and we’re going to do new ones.” 

Learn more about Isabella’s rise in our October issue, out on newsstands now, which includes a behind-the-scenes photo essay featuring the chef.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.