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Asian Box Brings Credible Street Stall Food to Union Square

Coconut curry and garlic and soy glazed beef. Photo courtesy of Sonya Yu.

This month, Asian Box, the growing, casual chain with fresh and sustainable offerings, is coming to Union Square--a migratory move given that the other two Bay Area locations are in the 650. Chefs Chad Newton and Grace Nguyen and partner Frank Klein are setting up shop in the food court space that housed a Wolfgang Puck. Newton and Nguyen are married and call the Peninsula home. 7x7 caught up with the couple to find out what it’s like to open in SF, as well as future plans.

This is your first Asian Box in San Francisco. Will there be anything different for SF?

Well, there will be a very cool wine, beer, and cider bar, which excites us. The cider program will roll out soon after our opening and include Sunnyvale Red Branch. There will eventually be a small plates menu for the bar as well. Our menu is stable though, with limited time offers that are seasonal. We will roll out Gracie’s Porridge for instance, this winter.

You plan for Asian Box eateries to open outside of the Bay Area. Where?

We are working on opening in the Los Angeles and Manhattan markets. Los Angeles will be first, within the next few months.

What is it like going into a Macy’s? Is the city of San Francisco easy to work with?

It’s a homecoming for Gracie. She helped open the original Wolfgang Puck Café that was in the space prior, so that's cool. Macy’s has been a great partner in getting the space open and easy to work with. The City of SF is what it is, you expect certain things and then there are no surprises.  

The menu is gluten-free and still has items to get excited about. Describe how the menu works for the uninitiated.

We have a “no sacrifices” kitchen. The only thing we altered to be gluten-free was to use a pure, high quality soy sauce. Nothing else. Asian food is naturally gluten-free in many forms so no biggie. Our menu is authentic street stall food broken down into ordering components, which gives customers great variety each time they visit. You are able to pick your base, your protein, a ton of fresh vegetables, and house-made sauces.

What is your philosophy for creating a strong cider program? 

We seek out local ciders and pick a balanced selection that has more fruity ones and more earthy textured ones. The ciders really balance our flavors with acids like the tamarind sauce, curry, and earthier marinades.

You live in the Peninsula. What will your routine look like with the new SF spot?

Frank, our CEO lives in Palo Alto and our corporate offices are there as well, so we start our days down south frequently. The commute is easy. Plenty of trains going up and down all day. And we can get some work done on the train.

There are Asian Box eateries in Mountain View, Palo Alto, and now 170 O’Farrell St, within Macy’s.