There is a new restaurant gracing the street of Pardall. After months of construction, HiWi Fusion is bringing a vibrant and tropical flair to the monotonous wave of pizza and burritos in Isla Vista. This past Saturday was the grand opening for the newcomer to I.V.’s cuisine scene, but with a short pause in business, the restaurant closed its doors for a week to prepare for opening this afternoon. With gorgeous outdoor seating, this place is sure to be a hit if it can get a gaggle of loyal I.V. customers. In order to give you an insight into the minds behind the restaurant, the president of HiWi Fusion, Monica Martinez, is here to answer some preliminary questions.
1. Where does the inspiration for the name of your restaurant come from, and are you aware of the backlash it is receiving due to its historically derogatory usage? (Back in WWII, this term offensively referred to immigrants who joined Nazi forces).
The inspiration of the name of the restaurant comes from an abbreviation of Hawaii since our food is Hawaiian fusion. We were looking for a modern name … WiFi … HiWi. Therefore, our free WiFi log in is “Wifi@HiWi.” We became aware of the historical usage of HiWi only after we trademarked our name, so it was too late to change it. We are not aware of any backlash, as not one person has mentioned this to us until today. Everyone should know we are not using HiWi with any other intention, but solely for a creative modern spin on words for a new restaurant. However, since we are now aware of the historical meaning, we are hoping to make a change so people do not reflect on the original meaning and now use it as a positive word. Most of our customers are university students, and they will naturally evolve our restaurant name into an incontestable symbol.
2. How did you decide on the concept of your restaurant? Do you yourself have connection to the Hawaiian culture and cuisine?
The concept came from a culmination of three individuals with backgrounds in business management, restaurant and catering. One of the owners lived on a tropical island in the South Pacific for several years and acquired a special taste for the islander food. The second owner has owned several restaurants and has experience in cooking and serving food from several tropical regions. The culinary consultant, Cindy Zerah, who has 30 years’ experience in catering and has also owned and operated a fresh and healthy restaurant, has traveled around the world and specifically enjoys Asian-inspired tropical cuisines. It was fairly simple to come up with this type of food, although the menu items and recipes took almost a year to finalize after many test kitchens and research.
3. How do you hope to be received in Isla Vista?
We have been approached by many community members, students and residents to thank us for building a modern, outdoor, lush, tropical dining area and new-concept restaurant in the area. We wanted to create a new style of food and an environment where Isla Vista residents and the surrounding community come together to enjoy a healthier meal in a modern setting.
4. What does your restaurant offer that other Isla Vista restaurants don’t?
There are several aspects of our restaurant that others don’t offer in Isla Vista. We have the largest outdoor-dining-only restaurant in the area. We offer solely organic chicken and beef and wild-caught shrimp in addition to some of our vegetables and fruits. We also serve organic teas and local SB Roasting Company naturally grown coffee. All of our sauces were created by our executive chef and are made in-house. We offer breakfast ALL DAY! No one else has our gluten-free mochi donuts or the HiWi-Frog-I salad dessert, which is a recipe created by the executive chef’s mother, Jessie. One of the most important decisions of our business is to contribute to our environment. We have disposable and compostable plates, utensils and cups. With that being said, we are very proud to be the first business in Isla Vista to partner with the County of Santa Barbara Environmental Services composting program.
5. Where did the decision come to serve breakfast all day?
The decision to serve breakfast all day comes from having four sons who love to eat breakfast foods any time of the day, the philosophy being everything tastes better with an egg on top!
6. Your menu has a wide variety of traditional options and many people are excited about them. Are you planning on adding anything else to its already wide selection?
We have given our chef full creativity to put her spin on traditional dishes such as Loco Moco, mochi donuts and poke. Our chef believes in using the freshest ingredients and sourcing them locally so our menu will be updated with new creations as the seasons change.
8. Any final comments?
We are so grateful to be part of the Isla Vista community and want everyone to enjoy a delicious fresh meal in a modern and tropical setting. We hope you come and enjoy a little bit of paradise in Isla Vista. Thank you for choosing our restaurant for your interview!
Stay tuned for On The Menu’s sampling of HiWi Tropical Fusion’s appetizing menu next week when we will report to you the must-haves that this exciting new business has to offer.