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Popular Elmhurst Banh Mi Shop Expands with JoJu Bowl Restaurant

By Katie Honan | December 27, 2016 6:19pm
 The owners' favorite, the JoJu, features two kinds of meat.
The owners' favorite, the JoJu, features two kinds of meat.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

​ELMHURST — The beloved JoJu restaurant, known for its modern take on Vietnamese sandwiches​, is opening a second restaurant focusing on rice bowls underneath its Broadway shop.

JoJu Bowl will open Wednesday, Dec. 28, down a set of stairs at 83-25 Broadway, serving the classic fusion of meats and toppings — without the bread.

The rice bowl concept is something owners Julie Wong and Scott Wong have discussed since opening their sandwich shop five years ago.

They often made it as a staff meal after employees wanted a change from the crusty baguettes on which they serve their long list of sandwiches.

So when the basement space — which formerly housed a church — opened up, they jumped at the chance to expand, they said.

"For us, we're kind of playing with what we have," Scott Wong, 45, said. 

"We try to put a modern twist on the sandwiches, trying to bring different Asian cultures to the menu," Julie Wong, 31, added. 

One of their sauces, which is popular on the sandwiches, is a traditional Peruvian green sauce — another nod to their Queens upbringing.

"We're merging the cultures — that's how Queens is."

They're now applying that style to the rice bowl concept, offering the same proteins — pork belly, vegetarian ginger beef, lemongrass chicken, beef bulgogi and the owners' favorite, caramel and barbecue pork — with a variety of rice. 

Diners can add spicy sauces, spring rolls an an Onsen Tamago egg, a Japanese style of cooking that creates a perfectly poached egg, they said.

"Everyone's had Vietnamese rice before," Scott said. "We wanted to modernize it."

Julie noted that it looks similar to the Korean bibimbap, but the flavors are very unique. 

Adding their separate rice bowl restaurant is one way to expand for their customers, which have been loyal since they opened the restaurant.

Scott and Julie, who are in-laws, both found their way to the restaurant business after trying other careers.

Scott worked in IT before attending the French Culinary Institute, making wedding cakes for the Sheraton Hotel in Flushing after graduation. Julie graduated with a masters degree in education but soon joined with her husband, sister and Scott to open the restaurant five years ago. 

The name JoJu comes from the combination of Julie's name and Scott's wife (Julie's sister), Joanna's name. 

It's become synonymous with quality ingredients and inventive dishes, like their long list of riffs on a traditional banh mi, kimchi fries and more.

The two restaurants will allow them to remain focused on quality without cramming a kitchen with too many items, Julie said. 

"We like simplicity," Scott added. 

The new spot will be open the same hours as the upstairs JoJu, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day.