With a stall left empty at Marble City Market following the recent departure of Po’ Richard’s, a Knoxville favorite for Hawaiian eats is returning to set up shop at the food hall — but it won’t last long.
Paul and Ashley Moody, the same people behind the Smash Knoxville stall, are bringing their original Lanai concept to the food hall as a pop-up.
“The new vendor, whoever they are, isn’t coming until June,” Paul told Knox News. “Let’s not have an empty stall. Let’s drive some traffic. Let’s have a little fun.”
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A pop-up prior to a permanent space
While Smash is on “cruise control” and wildly successful, Paul said, Marble City Market initially wanted Lanai as a food hall vendor. The couple, however, had already committed to bringing the concept to the forthcoming food hall at the former Kern’s Bakery site.
Paul told Knox News he recently checked with Kern’s to make sure the Lanai pop-up was OK, and leadership was on board with the idea.
The pop-up starts Wednesday, and it won’t last long. However, a food hall spokesperson told Knox News additional pop-ups could replace Lanai leading up to the new vendor announcement.
Keeping food hall neighbors in mind
The original sous chef for Lanai, which began as a food truck in February 2019, is returning to offer a slightly altered menu.
“We deleted a few items, honestly, not because of competition but because we want to be nice to our neighbors,” Paul said.
The Moodys removed some items similar to what’s offered at Seoul Brothers and, instead of bringing back Portuguese donuts on their own, Dustin Cochran from The Donut Theory and Myrtle’s Bakehouse will make the sweet treats. Lanai then will purchase them wholesale to sell to customers.
“That’s what the food hall is supposed to be,” Paul said. “We’re in competition with each other, no doubt. But at the same time, it’s supposed to be friendly competition.”
A big brand shift as Smash expands
The Moodys know all about food halls. Marble City Market curator Hospitality HQ welcomed Smash to one of its food halls in Omaha and, according to Ashley, the concept is being planned at food halls in other cities.
With the expansion, she said, the business will be rebranded as Smash City to avoid any copyright confusion.
The signs for Smash eventually will be changed at Marble City Market, but Lanai won’t be getting the full food hall branding treatment.
Paysan has moved to Po’ Richard’s spot, leaving its former location vacant for the pop-up. Ashley said a temporary menu will be added to the stall.
Excitement building for menu items
On that menu is a handful of Hawaiian concepts inspired by Paul’s childhood in the Aloha State.
“We’re going to have Hawaiian beverages,” Paul said. “It’s a lot of fusion. It’s all the Polynesian islands, plus the military influence, plus Hawaii, plus Filipino.”
A few standout items include:
- Loco Moco hamburger steak with fried egg and mushroom gravy
- Fish plate with pineapple pico and pickled red onions
- Vegan tofu katsu sandwich with tomato, cabbage and mustard dressing
Lanai also will have specialty bowls that include smaller portions of the lunch plates.
While the Lanai food truck was scrapped and re-wrapped with Smash branding, Paul and Ashley never got rid of the brand’s social media accounts. It still has a following, and anticipation has been bubbling as they have teased a return.
“People are very excited,” Ashley said. “We knew that some people would love it but, just based on the past eight hours of social, I think it could be a big deal.”