North Texas Daily

New Asian restaurants bring in college crowd

New Asian restaurants bring in college crowd

New Asian restaurants bring in college crowd
September 16
00:11 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

On West Hickory Street by UNT sits a building of five conjoined retail spaces. At the corner of Welch is an empty storefront, filled inside with power tools and climbing equipment. However, to the right, a sushi restaurant is bustling with servers sending out plate after plate, and only two spots over is a Vietnamese favorite, hosting more than 40 customers at lunchtime’s peak.

Retail strip owner Chai Tamprateep, who also owns Mr. Chopsticks on Scripture Street, is the man behind this enterprise. After holding onto the lot for several years, Tamprateep decided to turn it into a lucrative investment.

“It’s a pretty simple reason: it’s business,” Tamprateep said. “I own the land, and to make the land have income, that’s one way of doing it.”

The strip is the new home of Japanese restaurant Sushi Café and authentic Vietnamese eatery Viet Bites, both of which transferred from their respective locations on Oak Street and Elm Street. Another Asian restaurant, Seoul Wings and Beer, is expected to open within the following week while a convenience store, C-101, will begin construction next week. The last of these spaces remains available for lease.

Sushi Café

Moving no more than two blocks away from its old spot near Voertman’s bookstore, Sushi Café has no problem maintaining its already-established customer base of college students and sushi lovers in Denton. The owners had only chosen to relocate due to the deteriorating condition of the former building.

“Tear down was eventual, so they just decided to move here,” Sushi Café server Deanna Llorente said. “It’s definitely busier because we have a lot of new specialties.”

While Sushi Café is still known for its happy hour specials, the addition of a sake bar has proved a good choice for owner and chef Max Kim. Other changes include a vegetarian menu that lists affordable sushi rolls and appetizers.

“The goal is to have a nice sushi restaurant that’s still in the price range for college students,” Llorente said.

Viet Bites

Formerly situated at the intersection of Elm and Maple streets, Viet Bites is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant that expanded to better serve the college community. While most customers now include students and faculty members at UNT, Viet Bites’ primary patrons at the first location were businesspeople and families.

Viet Bites owner Victoria Nguyen, who runs the business with her husband, James Trinh, said that although the menu did not undergo major changes, their Elm Street restaurant differs in atmosphere, which she considered more formal and intimate.

“This is our fast-casual concept,” Nguyen said. “We want something where the students and essentially the university can drop by and have something that’s pretty quick in between classes.”

Their most popular dishes include banh mi sandwiches and pho, which forced Viet Bites to close early when it had sold out Friday – not even a week after the restaurant made its grand opening on Hickory.

The restaurant has existed exclusively in Denton for almost two years, but its owners hope to expand to more college towns in the near future, replicating the experience that has made Viet Bites a Denton classic.

“We’ve been thinking about this concept for a long time,” Nguyen said. “We want to bring Vietnamese food to the nation and in an environment that is fun and casual, and that’s what we’re doing.”

New developments

Although these new and upcoming restaurants hold similarities to Mr. Chopsticks in menu options and theme, Tamprateep remains confident that his eight-year streak as owner of Denton Record-Chronicle’s Best Asian Dining in Denton will work in his favor.

“I don’t think there will be any competition,” he said. “We are different concepts, so there won’t be anything like that.”

Tamprateep added that while one storefront remains unoccupied, he is doubtful that another restaurant will fill up the empty spot. This is due to parking accessibility standards in the city, which limit the number of restaurants allowed in certain retail spaces to minimize traffic congestion.

“That thing is still up in the air right now,” he said. “Most of the people who come in to enjoy the food are walking customers, so parking at this moment is not an issue at all.”

Tamprateep’s suggestions for the fifth store include hair or nail salons, which he believes can add to the service experience near UNT. Despite this recommendation, Tamprateep is open to the variety of business possibilities.

“A lot of things can come, but we have to wait and see,” he said.

Featured Image: Chef Max Kim puts the finishing touches on a customer’s meal at the new Sushi Café location. The restaurant has recently moved to West Hickory Street. Photo by Harris Buchanan – Intern Photographer

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