Hello Kitty is at it again—this time she’s set her sights on Irvine, Calif. The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is the first and only permanent cafe in the United States featuring two immersion spaces. The approximately 600-square-foot Grand Cafe offers diners a casual setting with seating for 12 guests and a wide selection of delicious grab-n-go drinks and treats. The Bow Room, a hidden, private, 700-square-foot space, offers reservation-only tea service during the day. At night, the Bow Room becomes a chic adult cocktail lounge with a modern speakeasy vibe.
Within the Hello Kitty Cafe brand, there are currently four concepts that restaurateur Allan Tea, whose family runs many Capital Seafood Restaurants, helped bring to the U.S. market. Tea is responsible for bringing the Hello Kitty Cafe food truck and Hello Kitty Cafes to California. Besides Hello Kitty ventures, he is also the man behind the popular Paper Lantern dumpling restaurant in Irvine.
In addition to the new Hello Kitty Grand Cafe, there are two Hello Kitty Cafe Trucks that drive across the nation selling food coast-to-coast; a Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container and various Hello Kitty Mini Cafes all offer limited-run food and drink experiences in various U.S. cities.
Currently, the Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container can be found at the Fashion Valley mall in San Diego, Calif., and the pop-up Hello Kitty Mini Cafe is located at Santana Row in San Jose, Calif.
“This is Hello Kitty’s first-ever brick-and-mortar concept that features something as unique as Afternoon Tea and Cocktail service,” Tea says about his latest project. “I’m so excited for people to see this. It’s been a long time coming, and I can’t wait for fans to check it out!”
The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe officially opened on September 14, 2018, but Hello Kitty has a cult following, so fans camped out for hours before the doors opened for the chance to be its first customers.
The Grand Cafe’s experience was designed to be a unique notch above other Hello Kitty dining concepts around the world. Each section of the Cafe is designed with social media photo-ops in mind. Unlike some of the other Hello Kitty cafes, the Grand Cafe has a more sophisticated ambiance. The cafe also has many exclusive items that can only be found at this location, such as the one-of-a-kind artwork created specially for the location.
The Grand Cafe has white marble floors and tables, a photo-ready Hello Kitty statue, and a cabinet of freshly baked Hello Kitty treats on display when you enter the cafe.
Alongside familiar and popular Hello Kitty Cafe menu offerings like the Hello Kitty sugar cookie, pocket pie and macarons, to name a few, the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe features exclusive new items, like made-to-order piping-hot donuts in flavors like cinnamon sugar, matcha, or cookies ‘n’ cream, and a pick-your-own four-piece set of Sanrio character mini cakes. In addition, the Cafe sells exclusive, new Hello Kitty paraphernalia like a gold bow-handle mug, and a sequined, pink and rose gold Chubby Bunny bow.
The best part of the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is the secret entrance to the Bow Room, which is reminiscent of Disneyland’s Club 33. Its unmarked white door with only a bow sign is for reservation-only guests. In speakeasy fashion, guests must knock to be let in. The Bow Room at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe offers high tea service during the day and converts to a cocktail lounge for guests 21 and up after 5 p.m.
The Afternoon Tea Service, which includes an impressive tea selection from special blends to herbal offerings, costs $55 per person and is available Wednesday through Sunday. It includes seasonal fruit, savory tea sandwiches, and Hello Kitty sweets. Not surprisingly, everything is Hello Kitty themed, from the plates, cups and teapots, to the honey, strawberry jam and whipped butter.
At night, the reservation-only cocktail service offers a wide range of adult Hello Kitty themed cocktails. Bartenders are dressed in Hello Kitty aprons and pour tasty drinks. In addition to the specialty cocktails, the Bow Room also offers a Hello Kitty wine list. The drinks are well mixed and not too cloyingly sweet.
The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is a quality concept, and it is evident that the food, drink, and décor were perfected to reflect the Hello Kitty brand. The Cafe offers upscale fun with sophisticated yet playful Hello Kitty touches, and should appeal to Hello Kitty fans and non-fans alike. Case in point: Since it opened its doors, both the tea service and cocktail bar have been fully booked well into October. The cocktail service and tea program are open Wednesday through Sundays, at the time of this article’s writing.
So where is Hello Kitty going next?
“Every time we open something, there’s always something bigger and better coming. So, I’ll just have to say stay on your toes. There’s always something else we have up our sleeves,” teased Tea.
The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe is located inside the Irvine Spectrum Center at 860 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, California, 92618.