A local restaurant startup that has won the hearts of Yale students plans to expand its concept of Chinese food to New York City.
The owners of Junzi Kitchen, which opened its first restaurant on Broadway in the fall of 2015, plan to open another location near Columbia University’s campus by the beginning of Feb. 2017. Founded by former Yale students Yong Zhao FES ’08 Ph.D. ’15, Wanting Zhang FES ’11 and Ming Bai ART ’13, Junzi Kitchen serves bings, noodles and other Chinese food in a fast casual restaurant style.
“From the beginning, we knew we wanted to get to New York,” Junzi Kitchen Marketing Director Reed Immer said. “We knew that New Haven would be an awesome starting point.”
After months of searching and negotiations, Junzi Kitchen managed to secure a storefront several weeks ago on Broadway Ave. between 112th and 113th Streets in Manhattan, Immer said. Now, he said, the owners are completing the architecture design for the restaurant and plan to start construction by the end of October.
The restaurant was initially funded through a $15,000 grant from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
With its initial focus on college campuses, Junzi Kitchen is targeting its food to consumers who are most likely to purchase it, according to the startup’s YEI fellowship advisor Richard Hunt SOM ’81. He complimented Junzi’s strategic selection of a location near Columbia so they can replicate the success they have had so far in New Haven.
In the long term, Junzi Kitchen’s owners seek to continue serving college students but want to diversify the restaurant’s customer base by setting up shop in locations without nearby universities.
Currently, America already has its idea of what constitutes Chinese food, said Zhao. He added that the business’s goal is to share Chinese culture with its customers and “hopefully” to promote a broader understanding than the current American interpretation. The menu, according to an interview with Zhao last year, draws from the Chinese dish chun bing, or spring pancake, which is not typically a dish at Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
“They didn’t get into this to start one restaurant, they got into this to transform the way America views Chinese food,” Hunt said. “Believe me that New Haven is just the beginning.”
Junzi Kitchen is located at 21 Broadway.
Correction, Oct. 6: Due to a transcription error, a previous version of this article misquoted Richard Hunt SOM ’81. The article has been updated to reflect the change.
Correction, Oct. 10: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article excluded Ming Bai ART ’13 as a co-founder and misstated menu offerings.