This post originally appeared on November 16, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
This week, I just want to call out a cool story, one I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Yong Zhao, the owner of the relatively new fast-casual Chinese chain Junzi Kitchen, is going to tap into an investment fund to buy up old Chinese-American takeout spots. His idea is to offer the owners a way to retire while keeping their restaurants alive. Junzi will maintain the menus and identities while modernizing everything else about the operation and (I presume) using the network of restaurants to create scale.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but I love a novel approach to the difficult business of restaurants, and especially one with an eye toward preservation of culture. Considering he’s specifically focusing on super-casual takeout spots — versus high-end or highly specialized concepts — it seems achievable. I also love that he’s starting a $5 million (and not a $50 million) fund for this enterprise and for Junzi as a whole, given the current climate of eight-figure investment rounds and wild valuations for anyone doing something scalable and novel in the food space.
He and culinary director (and Eater Young Gun) Lucas Sin have said they plan to have 50 Junzi locations across the United States in the next few years.
- Intel: A giant Milk Bar flagship store — complete with build-your-own ice cream, cookie, and cake stations — opens today in New York’s ACE Hotel; chef Reem Assil will open the second location of lauded bakery Reem’s in SF’s former Mission Pie space; the first Pizzeria Bianco outside of Arizona will open in LA’s Row development in a few weeks; Portland’s delightful Russian restaurant Kachka now has a deli and grocer called Lavka; Curtis Stone will open a drop-dead gorgeous restaurant in Dallas next week called Georgie; a former Maketto chef took over a beloved beer bar space in D.C. and is turning it into a destination for Malaysian cuisine; LA street food favorite Tacos 1986 has a second brick-and-mortar spot in the works; New York’s Frankies 570 is now Anton’s; McDonald’s was hit with a sexual harassment class action lawsuit; Instacart eliminated bonuses for five star reviews two days after workers started striking; Anheuser-Busch now owns one of Portland’s oldest breweries; Dominique Crenn will no longer serve meat in her restaurants; holiday-themed bars are back in Atlanta, Detroit, and Nashville; activists on both coasts are protesting police crackdowns on people eating and selling food in the subways; and cities in California are phasing gas stoves out of new buildings.
- Everything you need to know about the 35,000 square-foot Starbucks that just opened in Chicago and was filled to capacity within 20 minutes of opening.
- Waco didn’t used to be a dining destination. Then Chip and Joanna Gaines decided to make it one. Here’s the full run-down on visiting their empire.
- How to be a great host or guest this Thanksgiving.
- This week in holiday shopping: restaurant-favorite luxury candles, the best cookbooks for beginners, host gifts that go a step above wine, gifts from Vegas; and if you, like our restaurant editor, love Target, here’s how to just do all your shopping there.
- Does America want a Trader Vic’s comeback?
- Watch: Daniel Geneen investigates how meatless burger Impossible is made and why people are so obsessed with it.
- Eater is now on Roku! Please check out our shows streaming there and stay tuned for our launches on AppleTV, Fire TV, and Android TV next year.
- I would like to buy the wallpaper and the chairs now being deployed at new Charleston restaurant Jackrabbit Filly.
This Week on the Podcast
We talk about why people stan for certain grocery chains, from H-E-B to Trader Joe’s to Publix. Then we get into the biggest stories of the week.
- 101 ways to be a more sustainable citizen. [Curbed]
- What it’s like to eat a meal replacement shake twice a day for two years. [Vox.com]
- Why we should think twice before using the word ‘badass’ to describe women (in food and otherwise). [The Salt]
- What dinner will look like in 2029. [Grub Street]
- I love the framing of major New York development Essex Crossing as the anti-Hudson Yards due to the massive amount of local input, diversity of food tenants, and perks built in for real New Yorkers. [NYT]
- Noted wine expert Alice Feiring on her inclusion in the New York Times expose of Anthony Cailan. [The Feiring Line]
- Fun Q&As with three Times Square bouncers. [Punch]