Lamb lovers have a new spot to look forward to later this fall in the form of Shaya Grill, a fast casual lamb restaurant coming soon to The Shops at Mission Viejo.
Shaya Grill is aiming for an opening date in the first week of December, said Zack Dafaallah — owner and acting CEO of the restaurant corporation — in a phone interview with What Now Orange County. The restaurant will occupy the Mission Viejo mall’s suite VC07, according to a plan review last updated Wednesday. The company is awaiting approval on that plan review before construction will begin.
Dafaallah is an entrepreneur and lecturer in the management department at California State University, Fullerton, and his fellow colleagues behind Shaya Grill are also “university lecturers and technology geeks,” according to the company website, which is in the process of being updated. The idea for this particular enterprise sprouted around 15 years ago when Dafaallah began reading about a lack of demand for lamb in the United States and corresponding threats to the country’s sheep industry. This motivated the concept for Shaya Grill, a sustainable restaurant fully committed to lamb.
“Bottom line is, everything is lamb,” Dafaallah said. “We do not have beef, we do not have chicken, no seafood, no shrimp — none of that.”
The restaurant’s upcoming menu is backed by years of proof-of-concept testing through community cookouts that took place for around seven years at several universities and around 14 years at the Irvine Global Village Festival. Dafaallah said these cookouts were met with a “phenomenal” community response, and he hopes Shaya Grill is similarly received, especially given its affordability compared to what’s currently on the market.
“Lamb is being served right now, and people eat lamb, but you cannot go to a restaurant and eat lamb and come out without paying $100, $150. It is very expensive,” Dafaallah said. “So we’re actually bringing lamb to the mass market in a very fast-casual format.”