Ninja City plans to reopen indoor food service in Cleveland, with expansion to Columbus underway

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The light at the end of the pandemic tunnel shines for Bac Nguyen and Dylan Fallon. The business partners have scheduled the reopening of the indoor service at Ninja Town in the Gordon Square neighborhood of Cleveland. They thrive in a huge ghost kitchen setup in Columbus. And they are increasing the distribution of their line of condiment sauces.

Ninja City has been open since July with service via a heated patio only, but food service is expected to resume on Tuesday, May 4.

“We were able to use it all winter,” Nguyen said of the patio. “He stayed surprisingly warm in there.”

Hours will remain a bit limited compared to pre-pandemic levels. Previously the restaurant was open

seven days a week for lunch, dinner and late night service. The owners have reduced lunch hours on weekends only and are open at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday.

Nguyen and Fallon stayed busy. The restaurant will be part of next week’s NFL Draft Fan Experience, although they’re not sure what to expect.

“We’re going to arrive locked and loaded and hopefully sell a lot of good food,” Nguyen said.

Meanwhile, the distribution of the Ninja City pair of condiments – Ginger Ketchup and Wasabi Honey Mustard – continues to grow. They added 50 Kroger stores around Columbus, adding to the local footprint in Northeast Ohio.

But the big news from the expansion is the move of the Ghost Kitchen to Columbus.

Ninja City will be part of CloudKitchens, a business Nguyen said contacted their business, which was opened about a year ago. He said he hopes Ninja City Kitchen opens in June.

The timing looked good for the low-risk option, said Nguyen, who added that Columbus had always been deep in their minds as a possible expansion.

“Ironically, with the pandemic, we have become a very gourmet take-out restaurant,” he said. “We are very lucky to be able to pivot.

Nguyen said that a “much smaller initial commitment” makes the CloudKitchen space attractive.

The company, he said, took the ghost kitchen model and built a bunch of kitchens under one roof. The operators therefore have locations of 10 feet by 20 feet. CloudKitchens provides the infrastructure – power, sinks, hospitality and more – while operators bring their equipment.

CloudKitchen staff take orders in a centralized hall, where food delivery services can enter, pick up food, and take off.

“It’s a pretty interesting model,” Nguyen said. “It’s avant-garde.”

It attracts novice operators who want to test a market with a specific culinary approach as well as chains like Swensons and Wingstop, based in Northeast Ohio.

He said Ninja City Kitchen’s menu aims for a “very fun, relaxed menu of mostly finger foods and small bites.” Great for late night meals or snacks.

The menu:

• Edamame

• a shiitake mushroom soup

• Togarashi or toddler fries

• Crispy spring rolls (pork, chicken or vegetables)

• Chicken Wings (six flavors including Ginger Buffalo and Sweet and Spicy Gochujang)

• Steamed Buns (eight flavors including Korean Fried Chicken, BBQ Pulled Pork, and Lemongrass Shrimp)

Items will be sold individually or in groups of three or four. And sealed and portioned cups of sauces will be available, Nguyen said.

The Ghost Kitchen Space is located near the Ohio State Campus and a shopping district. It anchors the university district.

“The location is really attractive, being close to OSU and close to downtown businesses,” he said. “I think we are much more risk averse than in the past. For us, this is good.

Associated coverage: Ghost kitchens are helping Cleveland restaurants weather the pandemic

I am on cleveland.comlife and culture team and cover topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am on Thursday mornings. And tune in at 7:05 am Wednesdays for “Beer with Bona and Much, Much More” with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @ mbona30.

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