Overseas-based chains are continuing to make inroads in the U.S. market. They’re among our latest round of must-watch new concepts. Here’s the full list of what should be on your radar now.
1. U.K.-based noodle chain continues U.S. expansion
Wagamama, a full-service chain from the United Kingdom that specializes in Japanese noodles, curries and ramen, opened its second New York City unit. The space includes individual as well as communal tables, along with an open kitchen. Wagamama now has five U.S. units—two in New York and three in Boston.
2. New food hall, with a cashless twist
The pace of new food hall openings around the country is staggering, and it’s rare to find one that’s doing much by way of innovation. But Chicago’s latest food hall, Forum 55, is shaking up the format with kiosk-based ordering and cashless operation. After choosing a meal from one of the hall’s 10 vendors, diners receive a receipt with a number. The number appears on the screen, or via phone as a text notification, when the order’s ready. The food hall also promises to devote one station to a rotating concept run by women or people of color.
3. Tao Group launches a mammoth seafood outpost
The latest from Tao Group, the multi-clubstaurant operator that often tops Restaurant Business’ list of Top 100 Independent operators, just opened a seafood concept at the Moxy Times Square hotel. Legasea is a 145-seat “seafood brasserie” focused on sustainable fish and seafood, with a raw bar as well as a 20-seat private dining room.
4. Korean braised chicken chain lands in U.S.
BongChu, with some 173 units worldwide, opened its first U.S. unit in Los Angeles. The brand is known for soy sauce-braised chicken, in varying spice levels, as well as rice, glass noodles and kimchi. Food is served in large portions meant for sharing.
5. Creole comfort food from growing restaurant group
Blue plate specials like Bacon-Wrapped Hamburger Steak and White Beans and Catfish, as well as po’boys and fried chicken salad, make up the menu at The Mason Jar, a new family-dining restaurant in New Orleans from the Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts group. The group operates nearly 20 concepts, from upscale to casual.
6. New tavern blends cereal + dessert + alcohol + games
Operators continue to find ways to play up cereal’s nostalgia factor outside of breakfast. Such is the theme of Milk Tavern Dessert Lounge, a 3,000-square-foot bar in Los Angeles that menus 18 types of cereal along with boozy ice creams, cereal soft serve and beer floats. Diners can enjoy their Instagrammable treats while playing pingpong, video games or bean bag toss.