A high-quality, fast casual Wagyu burger concept, Ojai Burger, opened in Old Towne Orange in late July 2022. The menu of burgers, fries, dessert waffles, milkshakes, and local craft beers embodies the spirit of quintessential American classics, while incorporating the flavors of Japanese cuisine and finesse in preparation. The fusion restaurant sits on Orange Plaza’s main street at 238 W Chapman Ave #100, one block from the plaza’s central pedestrian hub. The 1000 square foot counter-service concept will offer an intimate indoor dining space and shared patio space with neighboring Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.
The restaurant is based on Yume Japanese Burger Cafe, a popular Wagyu burger restaurant based in Ojai, California and founded by Takeshi Ozaki. Ozaki is a Japanese tennis coach by trade who conceptualized his passion for cooking into his first restaurant at the urging of his tennis students and friends who enjoyed the various burger creations he made at home. Despite opening during the pandemic in March of 2021, Yume, which translates to “dream” in Japanese, has thrived in the Ojai community.
A few months after opening, longtime friends Michael Wu, Carl Tong, Kasper Hsu, and Peter Yang came across Yume while on vacation in Ojai. They were so impressed by the menu, the founder’s unique talent, and his food philosophy, that they approached him to partner together in the rebrand of Yume to Ojai Burger, with a goal of expanding his concept nationwide. This is not the first restaurant concept for the friends: Michael Wu, Peter Yang, and Kasper Hsu are co-founders of the nation’s leading poke concept Pokeworks, and Carl Tong, a career banker/investor, is the co-founder of Miyabi Uni, a high-end Japanese restaurant based in Torrance, CA.
With a hope to combine the tastes of the American palate with the modality of Japanese cuisine and Ojai’s culture, Ojai Burger will serve to expand Ozaki’s dream of presenting Western diners with a refined, yet casual Japanese-American dining experience. In addition to the fusion menu, the melding of cultures is also evident in the restaurant’s branding with the logo as a hallmark of the business which incorporates the burger with the Japanese flag and Topatopa and Chief Peak mountains native to the Ojai region.
“The idea to create Ojai Burger was inspired during a visit my partners and I made to Ojai,” said Tong. “We weren’t familiar with the area so we turned to Yelp for options and stumbled upon a 5-star burger concept, which is pretty rare to see. Right away, we fell in love with Yume Japanese Burger Cafe and were incredibly impressed by Takeshi’s talent in transforming the burger – which is fairly uniform across the board – into something truly memorable for all of us with his Japanese flair. We approached Takeshi that same day to discuss his inspiration behind Yume Burger, and that’s when we came up with the idea to take Yume’s menu and Takeshi’s vision and bring Ojai Burger to Orange County.”
Rooted in Yume Burger’s menu and preparation of Japanese-American eats, Ojai Burger’s offerings will include Wagyu Burgers featuring patties prepared in a rich and savory marinade for 24 hours served on a brioche bun. The burgers will be able to be customized to include a variety of topping options including sautéed mushrooms and onions, fried eggs, and signature sauces such as Japanese Kewpie mayo and spicy miso sauce made from scratch. Crispy and subtly sweet traditional Japanese Mochi Waffles made with rice flour will also grace the menu in flavors like matcha and ube, also known as purple yam.
“It is very important to us to authentically represent Takeshi’s dream with Ojai Burger, which is why we’re staying true to his philosophy of serving guests with only the highest quality meats at an affordable price,” said Wu. “With the 15 plus years of experience that Peter, Kasper, and I have in the restaurant industry, which includes opening 70 Pokeworks locations across the U.S., as well as Carl’s experience as a banker, investor, and restaurateur, we’re confident that we will be able to expand Takeshi’s vision into Orange County and beyond.”
Ojai Burger will be open seven days a week from 11am – 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11am – 11pm on Friday & Saturday. For more information or to stay in the know about the upcoming Grand Opening, follow Ojai Burger on Instagram at @Eat_Ojai_Burger or visit their website EatOjaiBurger.com.opening