After three years as a walk-up stand in Deep Ellum, Monkey King Noodle Company is ready for its second act, reopening in a larger space with seating, a patio, and an expanded menu.
The restaurant is prepping for an imminent move to a sweet brick building that was once an auto-body shop at the corner of Main and North Walton streets, across from Allgood Cafe. The move is being plotted for the first week of July.
"We're still keeping with the street-food idea, but it's basically a bigger space all around," says founder Andrew Chen. "There'll be an indoor dining room with about 30 seats, a patio with another 35 seats, and big overhead garage doors that we can open when the weather's nice. We'll remain fast-casual, where your name is called when your order is ready. We'll also have beer and wine."
With its select menu of noodles, soups, and dumplings, Monkey King has served as an exemplar of the artisanal trend at its finest. They make their noodles by hand, which you can watch through an exhibition window while you wait for your order. Everything is served in to-go containers, with limited seating available at a table on the sidewalk or in an impromptu area in the back.
They plan to keep the space at 3014 Main St. and turn it into a dessert spot called Monkey King Banana Stand, where they'll serve ice cream, sundaes, and Asian pastries such as egg tarts and Japanese cheesecake.
A bigger kitchen at their new location will not only give them freedom to be more creative, it will accommodate cooking equipment such as a fryer, griddle, and wok.
"We'll have a wok for more stir-fries, and we'll also do seasonal Asian vegetables," he says. "Texas is good for growing Chinese vegetables like long beans and bok choy, which are personal favorites, but they're all very seasonal. Long beans don't come out until early autumn."
And, of course, there will be noodles.
"There are endless kinds of noodles," he says. "Hand-pulled is one aspect, and it's a very visually appealing aspect. But you have certain noodles for certain dishes, like Italian pasta, where you have spaghetti for one kind of dish and angel hair for another. It's the same way with Chinese food."
Sharing some of the complexities of Chinese food is part of Monkey King's mission.
"Chinese food often gets lumped into one generic cuisine," he says. "People think it's just family-style portions of fried rice and egg rolls. But it has a big, diverse food culture that's been evolving for thousands of years, and we want to try and capture just a sliver of that diversity and depart from your typical Chinese restaurant experience. It's the whole reason we do this."