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Entrepreneurship Food Trends Pop-Ups Restaurants

This ‘Secret’ Restaurant Unites Italian and Japanese Cuisine

Pop-up restaurants are not new, and neither are speakeasies. However, I recently had a dining experience that was a bit of both mixed with a bit of “Fight Club.”

Pasta Ramen is a Wafu-Italian omakase, revealing an intricate multi-course exploration of the Wafu pasta concept that originated in the 1950s at Tokyo’s Kabenoana (meaning “hole in the wall”). Launched in Montclair, New Jersey and later setting up shop in nearby Jersey City, a chef who asks not to be identified (you remember the first rule of Fight Club) and their team presents in secret, continuously changing settings to create an unforgettable dining experience.

Noodles are the centerpiece of the aforementioned concept that brings together only the best Japanese and Italian ingredients, flavors, textures, and techniques. Cooked in an open kitchen, each course is presented by the chef as they explain the origins of the dishes, highlight ingredients, and answer questions. 

The night I attended, the menu started with Chutoro L’Acqua Pazza – prawn head brodo, lemongrass, ginger prawn, tuna belly, tuna “Owan” soup; an essential meal starter in both Italian and Japanese cultures. Other highlights included the Cacio e Pepe Gyoza, a deep-fried, hand-pinched dumpling filled with a rich cacio e pepe sauce; and the duo of A5 Dry-Aged Tsukune Yakitori, A5 wagyu, aged tsukune, shiso, dry-aged fat, enoki, aceto balsamico and yakatori.

Throughout the meal, a sake sommelier pours a selection of pairings chosen specifically for the menu. A ceramic artisan was even commissioned to create a custom set of dishes which are brought to each location. 

Upcoming Pasta Ramen locations will include New York, Miami, Philadelphia, and more. To find out more follow them on social media. Just remember, “It’s a secret society/all they ask is trust.”

Categories
Entrepreneurship Features Restaurants Sweets

Loaded Waffle Sticks Are A Childhood Dream Fulfilled For This Entrepreneur

For Francisco Lara of Oxnard, California, the dream of opening up his own sweets shop started when he was a kid looking up to his aunt who was known for serving her own desserts to Mexican celebrities. The complexities that came with life during the pandemic last year found Lara pivoting from finding a job in a tough market to actually taking the steps to make his childhood dream come true.

After finding a unique waffle maker online, Lara then started creating his sweet waffle creations at home and testing them with friends and family. Positive feedback then became word of mouth and social media buzz, which helped Lara create Don Waffly from his home.

What guests are treated to at Don Waffly are fluffy waffles adorned with a host of sweet drizzles, dips, and toppings — all making for a one of a kind dessert experience.

Beyond the sweet waffle sticks, Don Waffly also sells some of the best breakfast sandwiches you can sink your teeth into. It’s a downright proper way to start your morning, as each sandwich features soft-scrambled eggs and pillowy brioche buns that accompany different proteins and a Sriracha mayo. Truly these breakfast sandwiches stand up to the industry’s best.

Get your Don Waffly fix at The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard, California and experience a concept that’s literally Francisco Lara’s childhood dream fulfilled.

Categories
Cravings Entrepreneurship Fast Food Features Restaurants

How Danny Boy’s Pizza Unlocked the Secret to Finally Bringing Authentic NYC-Style Pies to LA

“A piece of the puzzle is the water temperature. New York City water temp 365 days a year comes out of the faucet at 41 degrees. And water temperature is really important for the dough’s quality development.”

And with that, acclaimed chef Daniel Holzman matter of factly solved the conundrum of an authentic New York-style slice finally breaking through in the Los Angeles dining scene. There’s been many who have claimed the NYC-style, but none have come close until Holzman’s Danny Boy’s Famous Original in Downtown Los Angeles.

“Yeast is a living organism, it’s a bacteria, and the hotter it is, the faster it goes. It beats out all the other bacteria and wants the food. If you slow the yeast down, the other bacteria have the opportunity to flourish and you get more flavor development. If you start with 41 degree water, you cool down the dough and you can extend your fermentation process. So you get more flavorful dough with a certain quality to it.”

Of course there’s more to the water temperature, though. You need the best, freshest New York-style ingredients, to ensure the overall quality of the pie. And you need the size to be on point — whether it be 18 or 20 inches remains up for debate still among NYC pizza purists. Also, that pie’s got to hold up, stability is king here. Get that droopy shit out of here as I shake my fist in New Yorker.

I get it, though. You got a lauded chef, with a fine dining pedigree, who knows his New York slices, rocks an iced out pizza chain that would make any rapper look twice, and exudes the bravado and sincerity of all the Five Boroughs — and boom, damn good pizza all up in my tastebuds.

Situated inside Halo, a new dining and retail destination in the heart of DTLA, Danny Boy’s is slinging pies that save me a flight into JFK International Airport. You’ve got the usual suspects here — Cheese, Pepperoni, Meatball — amongst others, all done incredibly and with the gusto and say-it-with-your-chest flavor and quality that any tried and true New Yorker will respect.

How else is a slice of Danny Boy’s worthy of repping the Five Boroughs? It all comes down to how you hold it.

“The thing that makes a New York pizza a New York pizza is that you hold it with three fingers, one with the middle on top, the thumb and the ‘fuck you’ finger on the bottom. And you make a slight fold, then the thing should hold straight and not be flaccid on the tip. Then if you fold it further, it cracks on the bottom but doesn’t break in half.”

After trying a couple slices for myself (and making sure I saved some to take home and maraud later), I have no problem admitting that Danny Boy’s is the best NYC-style pizza in Los Angeles. The crust is crisp, crunching effortlessly without being arid, the ingredients are fresh and flavorful, and the whole experience in helping myself to each slice was simply comforting.

Congrats Daniel Holzman, you’ve cracked the Da Vinci code to bringing authentic New York ‘za into the City of Angels. You’ve dropped all the gems, it’s now on Angelenos to taste the most official, the truly legit on the left coast.

Categories
Celebrity Grub Entrepreneurship Fast Food News

Rap Legend Bun B Set To Launch Houston Smashburger Concept

Photo Credit: Julie Nong

Trill Burgers, a new smashburger concept from rapper Bun B, Andy Nguyen of Afters Ice Cream fame, and siblings Patsy and Benson Vivares of Sticky’s Chicken, is launching in Houston, Texas.

The burger joint will feature a simple menu of thin, crispy-edged smashburgers, a concept that has been a hit trend in California for the past couple of years, but has yet to hit the mainstream in Houston.

This is the first restaurant venture for Bun B, the Houston native who made a name for himself in music as one-half of the legendary rap duo, UGK. The venture pairs him with Nguyen, who has developed successful restaurant concepts in California like Afters Ice Cream.

“For years I’ve been fascinated with the culinary scene, trying to find the best entry point for me,” Bun B said on Instagram. “Today I can say I’ve found it. Join me in welcoming @trillburgers to the world! Follow us for more info on our next pop ups and watch as we take you on the burger ride of your life! Brick and mortar coming soon! @andythenguyen @bensonjohn @simplypatsy @nickscurfield let’s go!”

Photo: Trish Badger)

Nguyen is also a partner in The Vivares’ Sticky’s Chicken, a popular Houston food truck that opened a brick-and-mortar location in 2019. Bun B is a longtime supporter of Sticky’s, whose fans also include NFL star DeAndre Hopkins, NBA champion PJ Tucker and model/actress Karreuche Tran. The Vivares siblings will lead culinary operations for Trill Burgers.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we were brainstorming ghost kitchen and pop-up ideas with Andy, and he kept coming back to the concept of smashed burgers,” Patsy Vivares said. “Through our publicist and friend Nick Scurfield, we set up a meeting with Bun, and we all decided to partner together on this venture. I can’t believe it’s really happening!”

Trill Burgers will launch with pop-ups at Sticky’s Chicken and will be coming to Houston soon as a brick and mortar restaurant.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Restaurants Technology

New Food App Allows Diners to Make Decisions By Exploring Visual Menus At Local Restaurants

We’ve all been there. You don’t know what you want to eat and you’re looking for a recommendation. The next time that happens, turn to LooksYummy.

Created by African-American tech developers Kenrick Brown and Solomon Morgan, this meal-sharing app allows users to eat with their eyes. It aims to assist restaurant owners in jumpstarting their sales while recovering from the pandemic by allowing food seekers, travelers, and tourists to make decisions by exploring visual menus at nearby restaurants while discovering unique culinary dishes made by local eateries across the world. 

With millions of food photos shared every day through multiple social platforms, LooksYummy streamlines the food sharing experience. Research shows that consumers are 45% more likely to purchase a menu item with a photo of the actual dish over menu listings without photos. 

“We have created a community that can help cultivate great dining experiences,” said Kenrick Brown, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LooksYummy. “LooksYummy is a niche application to display food from various restaurants. From a user standpoint, food is an art. People eat with their eyes, then taste. From a business standpoint, LooksYummy allows restaurants to provide visual images of meals on their menu at their restaurant, and now users can see before they order and get good visuals of what the actual meal is.”

Via the app, restaurants can advertise their top menu choices and display visual menus while users can add compelling content, decide where to dine, and discover dishes they will love. The app also allows users to post new meals, tag a dish to a restaurant, browse meal offerings, and follow their favorite food blogger’s food journey.

The app also offers community users many perks like earning points at nearby restaurants, discounts, and more through weekly and monthly contests and promotions. 

“We are joining restaurants and customers together on one platform,” said Solomon Morgan, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of LooksYummy. “Most of the time, the foods I order are the ones that have a picture. As an Army Veteran, LooksYummy would have been helpful because I was always dining out while serving.”

LooksYummy is now available for free download for iPhone and Android users.

Categories
Deals Entrepreneurship Food Waste Restaurants Sustainability Technology

Groundbreaking App Lets You Rescue $15+ Worth Of Food For Just 6 Bucks

Photo: Les Kaner // Too Good To Go

Food waste has persisted as a global problem that many companies are trying to find solutions for. Upcycled foods and waste reduction are two industries that have formed to combat excess food waste, but 1.4 billion tons still gets tossed every year, the majority of which is at home or at restaurants.

On the restaurant end, there’s a large network of connected local restaurants called Too Good To Go that’s striving to make a massive impact on rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste.

Photo courtesy of Too Good To Go

Consumers can tap into this network via the Too Good To Go app, which allows them to reserve “Surprise Bags” from spots around them that are in the system for $5-$6. What you get in return is approximately $15 worth of food that the restaurant would have otherwise thrown out.

Overall, the restaurant wins by making a little extra money off of food they would’ve lost, you get to score on a massive discount for some food, and Too Good To Go profits slightly off of the cost of the bag. Pretty much, everybody benefits, including the planet, as food waste is cut and helps lower waste and resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s not just restaurants that you can get food from, however, as Too Good To Go partners with restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, and hotels. Currently, they’re linked with 75,000 different spots worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go, founded in 2016, is currently in the midst of a massive push to expand globally. They’ve recently made a debut in San Francisco, and can also be seen in New York City, Chicago, Austin, and other metropolises worldwide.

It’s one of the biggest ways to fight against food waste, and it pretty much works the same for a customer as a food delivery app would. Sure, there’s a lot more we can do at home to combat food waste too, but this is a pretty convenient way to get started.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Fast Food Health Plant-Based

nomoo | New American Burgers: From Sacrifice to Success

Housed in the original Johnny Rockets on Melrose Ave, you’ll find nomoo | New American Burgers, the latest plant-based burger joint to hit Los Angeles. Retaining a nostalgic American diner element, as you enter you’re transported to a bygone era complete with eye-catching neon signs, vibrant interior colors and the unmistakable smell of classic deliciousness. Wrapped in the vintage aesthetic is a menu specially curated from passion and patience. 

Having been open only for a year, nomoo is the brainchild of owner George Montagu Brown. Brown was an unlikely burger joint owner. He originally ran a successful internet business in Costa Rica, which while very lucrative, failed to fill him with a sense of purpose. In thinking back on his previous business, he says, “One of the things I learned from early financial success was that money isn’t everything. The reward comes not from the profit numbers but seeing a team I built grow and work together, from guest interactions and when people love the food we created.”

As a vegan, Brown had a strong connection to the plight of farm animals. His dream had always been to raise awareness about the harrowing conditions of factory farming. Believing vegan food can (and does) change people’s perspective, he initially considered pursuing the avenue of education as a way to raise awareness. The burning question he longed to answer was, “Do we need animal products in fast food at all?” 

Ultimately deciding that experience, rather than education, was a better pathway forward, prompting Brown to create nomoo. To fulfill this mission, his idea was to offer the experience of “combining a restaurant with an ‘all day party’ vibe with plant-based products.” Brown set his mind to pursuing what he felt deeply to be his purpose and took a leap of faith. Knowing that success requires sacrifice, he shuttered his online business and invested his own money to make his dreams a reality. 

Pursuing his dream had its challenges. Without investors, he chose to move from Costa Rica, hoping to launch nomoo in Los Angeles. To further complicate the transition, he opened right before last year’s pandemic hit, forcing him to close the doors only seven days following. When nomoo finally reopened in June, it faced supply delays. Vegan products were often unavailable. Despite the setbacks, Brown managed to push through and now shares his vision with hungry Angelenos looking for post-pandemic grub.

Prepped entirely by hand, considerable emphasis is placed on quality. The nomoo burger is the house staple. Ingredients consist of the Impossible patty complimented by an in-house nomoo sauce, American cheeze, house pickles, and a tomato resting atop a bed of butter lettuce that’s secured by a freshly made brioche bun. Additional menu items include plant-based takes on American diner classics like The Hot Chik’in sandwich, handspun gourmet shakes, fries and an assortment of tasty sauces. I had the opportunity to try their most recent offering, the BBQ Facon Burger, and I can say it too delivers on all mouthwatering fronts. Additionally, the food is made fresh daily and 10% of proceeds are donated to Mercy For Animals.

Fueled by purpose, Brown can often be found at nomoo | New American Burgers on Melrose Ave. working “twice as hard for much less pay.”

Categories
Cravings Culture Entrepreneurship Restaurants

Chef David Myers Launched His Burger Bar In 30 Days During The Pandemic

“Why not 30 days?”

Chef David Myers delivered this rhetorical with the gusto and affirmation of Babe Ruth calling his home run shot. For the celebrity chef and successful restaurateur, this declaration was all at once decisive and serene, intention clothed in confidence.

As a chef that counts a Michelin star and multiple restaurants around the globe as some of his many accolades, the challenge of opening one in the span of 30 days is another glistening win that means so much more given the strenuous circumstances the pandemic has wrought on everyone, especially the restaurant industry.

“There was nothing to do, people were out of work, spaces were going empty, people were unhappy. This was a moment where I can maybe make a difference. Maybe we can put some smiles on people’s faces, get them jobs, put some money in their pockets, and do a little bit of good — so let’s just do it!”

Though Chef Myers is a decorated and expert restaurateur, establishing restaurants in Toyko, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Sydney, even the ambition of opening one in 30 days presented itself as a mountainous undertaking.

“For us to open a restaurant in general, it takes us 9 months, A to Z. And that’s at a good pace with no major hiccups, everything hitting at the target time frame of being completed. This was a complete unknown and it was a complete unknown because it’s a pandemic, it’s a new concept, and it’s in an area we never opened before,” acknowledged Myers. However, momentum swung fortuitously in his direction once a target was established. “Let’s focus on what the end result is, which is let’s get people jobs, let’s get a place open for business, and let’s provide some happiness for some people. Once we got focused on that goal, people really got on board and it helped clear away all the nonsense that’s usually involved.”

This general spirit of making things happen, along with equal parts community-driven enthusiasm, resulted in Adrift Burger Bar opening in November of 2020. And with that came the return of one of Los Angeles’ most iconic burgers. Myers achieved critical acclaim for the burger served at his West Hollywood restaurant, Comme Ça, almost a decade ago and reclaims that with a whole focus on it at Adrift.

“It is a burger-focused restaurant that starts with the burger that really put me on the map as a chef — which is the DM Burger.”

A masked Myers described the DM Burger to me with a reverent joy in his eyes. Under it, I was sure he was grinning with satisfaction. “It was based on a 1940’s-style burger recipe that my mom learned how to make. We jazzed it up a little by changing the normal American cheese to an aged Vermont cheddar cheese, and we put it on a brioche bun versus a simple classic bun, and we changed up the meat a little bit to just amp up the fat. It’s really juicy and the flavor is off the charts incredible. What you get is the simplest burger you will ever have and is magical when you eat it.”

And magical it really was. My own assessments confirmed such sorcery: melty to the point of irresistible viscosity, juicy on the side of thirst-quenching, and balance on the level of zen. Trust, this delicious energy translates to the rest of Adrift Burger Bar’s menu.

When I asked Chef Myers if 30 was the new restaurant, he still wasn’t ready to assure that with every future opening. Though he did reply with a smirk, ““If we do this again, I want to be open in seven days.”