Hapa Sushi

05 Apr 2024

Celebrating a milestone anniversary with a larger location on Pearl Street 

By Kalene McCort  »  Photos by Boheme Fox Photography

When entrepreneur Mark Van Grack moved to Boulder from D.C. in 1995, quality options for dining out were scarce. The then shoe-and-apparel creator decided to pivot from fashion to food in order to fill a void within his new city, thus creating a delicious legacy of Japanese-Hawaiian fusion with Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar. 

On any given night, it isn’t unusual to see hordes of diners, chopsticks in hand, enthusiastically savoring the establishment’s Magic Mushrooms—avocado wrapped in salmon, broiled with Japanese aioli and sweet soy—or delighting in flawlessly-seared ahi. 

With a collective total of four locations in Boulder, Cherry Creek, Greenwood Village and LoDo, Hapa’s reach and popularity continues to evolve. 

“From being in the fashion business, you can see trends in the future,” Van Grack says. “I kind of felt that sushi was at that tipping point where it was going to be here as a mainstay, just like Chinese or Italian or other types of ethnic foods.”

After almost exactly 24 years to its opening day in ’99, Hapa moved from its flagship locale—on the mall, at 1117 Pearl Street—in December 2023. The new, just over 5,600-square-foot location, at 1048 Pearl Street, offers Boulder diners even more room to enjoy the mouthwatering cuisine comfortably. Thoughtful design elements, such as implementing soundproofing throughout, makes for a more enjoyable experience overall. 

“It was a thrilling moment, but you know it’s also a sad one as well,” Van Grack says of the move. “I mean, we love our first home, but we moved to a bigger and nicer home. I think our architect did a great job in the design. We’ve heard from people how much they like the space and that it feels really good.”

A spacious outdoor patio, that seats 72 guests, is the ideal location to enjoy one of the eatery’s signature drinks, such as the famous G-Spot, an inspired concoction of raspberry-infused sake, raspberry vodka and ginger ale. Happy Hour delivers discounted eats and cocktails every day from 2:30–5:30pm.

Over the years, Hapa has been embraced by those who savor raw yellowtail with thin slices of jalapeño to folks who long for udon noodles in a simmering broth or seasonal vegetables fried to golden perfection in light tempura. An assortment of vegetarian options go beyond simple avocado and cucumber rolls. 

“Our goal when we opened was to be a place where if you didn’t eat sushi, you would still be able to come and find something on our menu that you would like,” Van Grack says. “My daughter is actually celiac. We realized early on how important it was to have gluten-free offerings, and we have one of the biggest gluten-free menus of probably any restaurant.” 

While Hapa has consistently lured in regulars with a variety of food options—including over 50 unique sushi rolls—Van Grack credits the restaurant’s staying power and success to something deeper. 

“We live by this policy, we treat our staff the way we want to be treated, and we treat our guests the way we expect to be treated,” Van Grack says. “Many staff have been here since the day we opened.”

The restaurateur has also founded Motomaki—an order-at-the-counter casual spot providing flavorful and inventive sushi burritos, rice bowls and salads with a location on 28th Street in Boulder and one in Lakewood. 

Van Grack has never been hesitant about straying from tradition or taking risks.

In Hapa’s early stages, ads featuring a skinny sumo wrestler caught the eye of future diners, and in 2009, the eatery debuted an ad campaign that featured a map that marked the Hapa locations and those of local marijuana dispensaries in the area—a playful nod to Colorado’s Green Rush and the munchies. 

In addition to providing quality fare, Hapa created a platform for local DJs for nights of head-nodding sets and are continuing to do so at the new location on Friday-Saturday, from 10pm to midnight.

“The business gives you immediate gratification, meaning when our guests walk out the door and say, ‘That was great, thank you,’ there’s nothing better than that,” Van Grack says. “It’s rewarding to meet someone and know you gave them a good experience, you don’t get that in a lot of businesses.”

With the new location, staff is working hard to roll out new menu items that diners can discover among many longstanding, craveable favorites. 

“One of the hard parts about moving to a new place was that so many first dates, engagements weddings, birthdays and anniversaries all occurred at the old Hapa location, but I look forward to those same things occurring at the new one,” Van Grack says.

For more info, log onto hapasushi.com and follow along on Instagram @hapasushi. 

1048 Pearl Street, Suite 105
Boulder, CO

Prev Post Modern Motherhood
Next Post Fresh Air & Fine Fare 
Browns Shoe Fit
Wild Animal Sanctuary