Japanese Fast-Food Spot Kobeyaki to Open Upper East Side Restaurant

By Lindsay Armstrong on July 3, 2014 7:08am 

UPPER EAST SIDE — A Japanese-style fast-food restaurant that serves up healthy teriyaki bowls, burgers and sushi rolls is coming to the Upper East Side.

Kobeyaki, which already has outposts in Chelsea and Midtown West, will open its new location at 215 E. 86th St. in August, its owner said. The 1,800-square-foot space will have about 50 seats.

“Eighty-Sixth Street is a main thoroughfare. It’s densely populated and has good seven-day-a-week business,” co-owner Brian Konopka said. “Shake Shack is there and doing phenomenal, and we have a similar target customer.”

Konopka said that the concept was inspired by the growing trend of fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, plus his own love of Japanese food.

He fell for the cuisine when he worked in a Japanese restaurant and ate sushi twice a day for about three years.

“It was the one kind of food I could eat every day and not get sick of it or feel guilty,” Konopka said. “I felt high energy, clear minded, and I looked great.”

He said Japanese food is often too expensive to eat regularly.

“We wanted to do something like Chipotle did, where for $10 you’re getting something healthy and made with a little more artistry,” Konopka said.

The restaurant’s menu is built around four food categories: rolls, bowls, buns and burgers. The bowls let customers mix-and-match ingredients like udon noodles or salad with grilled shrimp and fresh vegetables. The restaurant will have a range of sushi rolls — including cooked options like shrimp tempura — as well as pork and crab buns.

On the less traditional side, Kobeyaki serves up four kinds of burgers, including spicy tuna and chicken teriyaki versions. Almost all of the items come in under $10.

Kobeyaki was designed with sustainability in mind. The restaurant sources meat from humane, family farms that don’t use antibiotics or hormones, Konopka said. In addition, they use recycled packaging and compost discarded food.

To help Kobeyaki gain appeal beyond lunchtime, the restaurant plans to serve beer, wine and sake, an approach that has worked well at the Chelsea location.  

“That’s what’s cool about these types of places,” Konopka said. “You can hang out for two hours or be in and out in 10 minutes.”

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