A new Korean fried chicken restaurant is moving into the heart of Dinkytown this summer, taking over the previous location of Vescio’s Italian Restaurant.
Bonchon is an international Korean fried chicken and Asian fusion restaurant that is opening two stores in Minneapolis in late summer: one in Dinkytown and another in Uptown.
Marshall Nguyen is the real estate adviser for Sam Zheng, owner of the Dinkytown Bonchon and several other restaurants in the region. Nguyen helped Zheng secure the deal for the new Dinkytown spot.
“There hasn’t been a Korean fried chicken concept yet in Minnesota,” Nguyen said. “So this would be the first one, and I think the best locations to kick it off are Uptown and Dinkytown.”
Nguyen said the Dinkytown Bonchon will feature quick service, dine-in and beer. He said Bonchon’s concept is like “comfort food but on a better scale”; the chicken is fried twice to make it “extra crispy.”
Randal Gast, president of the Dinkytown Business Alliance, expressed concerns about another Asian restaurant opening in Dinkytown.
The market has become “a little bit heavily skewed,” he said, as many of the neighborhood’s new businesses have been Asian restaurants.
“The concern I would have is that any particular industry that gets too large in a particular area may start cannibalizing itself, but everybody eats,” Gast said.
Camdi Phan is the owner of Camdi Restaurant, a Dinkytown Chinese and Vietnamese business of more than 35 years. She said the influx of Asian cuisine into the neighborhood will foster good competition.
“It’s okay because even though another Asian [restaurant] will be here, [there are] many students,” Phan said.
As a University of Minnesota graduate, Nguyen is familiar with Dinkytown’s competitive nature, but he said he isn’t concerned for the international franchise’s success.
Opportunities to move into Dinkytown are rare, Nguyen said. The new business’s proximity to the University and the growing Asian community near campus should help it succeed, he said.
“I think every business, if you know how to operate well, will be successful there,” he said. “In order to survive, we have to have good concepts that [are] going to attract students.”
Nguyen said Minnesota’s food culture is growing, and that people aren’t “just sticking with hamburgers or Italian food.”
“[Bonchon is] unique, it’s fun … the community is really excited about it,” he said.
According to Bonchon’s website, the franchise opened its first American location in 2006 in New Jersey on the heels of a successful South Korea store. As of July 2017, the restaurant had more than 236 stores spread over nine different countries, 63 of which were in the United States.
Nguyen said the company hopes to find success with the flagship Minneapolis locations before expanding to the suburbs.