Archive for 'Shophouse'

Shophouse is the Best Asian Fast Food Concept Ever Launched by a Major Corporation (Sorry Panda Express!)


Even though the myth of Momofuku has made its way from New York to the west coast, did you know that Ssam Bar, the second and arguably most popular restaurant in David Chang’s empire, was originally a burrito joint? In 2006, following the runaway success of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Chang went the fast casual route- opening Ssam Bar as a Chipotle style burrito cafeteria in the East Village.  There were flour tortillas and rice, but instead of carnitas there was pork belly. Roasted veggies were replaced by kimchi, and the “salsa” was Korean red bean paste.  Keep in mind this was a full 2 years before Roy Choi started stuffing tacos with short ribs and quesadillas with kimchi.   In other words, it was genius.  Sadly I might have been the only one who thought so, and Ssam Bar was quickly converted into the restaurant it is today.

But those Asian burritos left a mark on me, and I hoped one day that Chang would avenge his detractors by relaunching his only failed concept. A concept I believe in with all my fat encased heart.  Of course that is probably never going to happen, but when Chipotle first announced a few years ago that they’d be launching their own Asian concept called Shophouse, I found myself getting a little bit excited.

Midtown Lunch’s relationship with Chipotle has been quite the roller coaster ride.  Their burritos go against everything I believe a great burrito should be, and we won’t even talk about quesarito-gate.  But their work with Jamie Oliver and commitment to using sustainable and well sourced ingredients made me into a reluctant cheerleader.  But could Shophouse turn me into a true fan? Could this be the lunchtime, Asian burrito I had been hoping for?!

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