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Rebranding can be difficult for the most seasoned of restaurants, and Skool’s recent emergence in Sacramento would make that move seem almost unnecessary. When the restaurant originally opened in February of 2016, it gained a loyal following but didn’t grab the attention of Sacramento’s dining scene as much as owner Andy Mirabell had hoped. As he and his staff looked at what was working for Skool and what needed to change, they made the bold decision to rebrand the restaurant entirely, reintroducing it as Skool Japanese Gastropub.

We caught up with Andy to chat about the transition and how the restaurant is tapping into its Japanese roots.

What made you decide to rebrand Skool as a gastropub?

We felt that creating a more casual menu and atmosphere would fit our area and demographic better than holding on to the same format as our San Francisco location. This time around, we embraced the Japanese influence far more than before! A gastropub is meant to be a place where folks can enjoy quality comfort dishes paired with straight-forward cocktails or sakes.  

Has it been difficult finding your groove in a new city?

In short, yes. We thought we had modified our menu and decor style to fit the market in Sac, and although we gained loyal regulars, we weren’t reaching or speaking to the larger Sacramento population.

We had altered our menu, but after almost two years of watching and listening to locals, we decided it was time for a bigger rebranding of Skool, which is why we launched the gastropub.

What does this change mean for Skool?

Well, we are still a family-run restaurant with the same signature dishes. As for changes, our goals are to create a more casual, light-hearted atmosphere and a more affordable menu with greater variety. The addition of classic Japanese comfort food is key for this concept change—with takoyaki, karaage chicken, kushiage skewers, donburis, udon, and “okos” (okonomiyakis) to name a few. Our new drink menu also leans heavily toward chu-hi Tokyo-style cocktails—fresh fruit cocktails with shōchū—and we’ve added great new sakes as well!

Additionally, we have new promotions and are offering a Japanese-style weekend brunch.

What are the new must-try items that people should order on their first visit?

Our new menu must-trys are BBQ Oyster with Seaweed Butter and Soy, Kakuni Braised Pork Belly, Skewered Kurobuta Pork Sausage, Salmon Namero Mini-Don, Inaniwa Udon, and Hiroko’s Hojicha Panna Cotta. For brunch, we also have Karaage Fried Chicken and Waffles, Breakfast Seafood Oko, and Breakfast Udon.

What about your regulars—will they still find their favorites on the menu?

We have fantastic regulars and wouldn’t be here without them! That said, almost all of them love the new menu and understand why we’ve made changes. Their core favorites are still available on the menu, while others can be recreated upon request. Of course, there are always items that will be missed, but we are a team who wants to keep things fresh. Too many restaurants hinge on a menu that rarely changes—that’s not for us.

Please tell us you’re keeping the oyster special.

Absolutely! Fifty percent off all oysters during Happy Hour (3–6pm daily), all night Tuesday, and during 10am–3pm weekend brunch. And, we’ve even added new oyster options to the menu.

What are your hopes for the rebranding?

Our hope is that we’ve successfully taken feedback from our community and turned Skool into a brand that fits our neighborhood, and Sacramento as a whole. We want to be here, and stay here, so this move was for Sacramento.

We don’t know about you, but we’re sold.

To learn more about Skool Japanese Gastropub, visit their website or find them on K Street.