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Zen Yai to Open Ghost Kitchen in Sunnyside as Owners Continue Search for Restaurant Space in Neighborhood

Pho and other menu items from Zen Yai (Zen Yai via Instagram)

Feb. 14, 2022 By Allie Griffin

A Vietnamese and Thai noodle shop is opening a takeout and delivery spot in Sunnyside roughly four years after a massive fire burned its original Queens Boulevard location to the ground.

Zen Yai will open at 40-05 Skillman Ave. inside Sunnyside Eats, a facility that provides commercial kitchen spaces for restaurant businesses that can serve their customers through delivery and takeout only.

The facility, which houses multiple eateries, opened in October and residents can go online and place orders through the Sunnyside Eats website—or via restaurant delivery apps.

Zen Yai co-owner Bryan Chunton said he aims to be operating out of Sunnyside Eats in about two weeks and residents will then be able to order.

Sunnyside Eats is a CloudKitchens company, which is run by Uber founder Travis Kalanick. It aims to provide entrepreneurs with a more affordable option to sell their food than opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“Pay only for space you need…and get cooking in weeks, not months,” the company website states. “We make it easy to get your own kitchen up and running, whether you’re launching one from scratch, or expanding.”

The Sunnyside Eats building houses ghost kitchens for more than 15 other restaurants such as BKC Coffee, Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens, Oconomi, VegansBeast, Little Meatball and Vezzon Thin Crust Pizza as well.

The Zen Yai ghost kitchen in Sunnyside Eats will offer much of the original menu items that made the eatery a local favorite, including varieties of pho, stir-fry noodle dishes, rice bowls and curry.

Sunnyside Eats opened at 40-05 Skillman Ave. and 22 different eateries operate out of the space (Photo via Instagram @oconomi_nyc)

Chunton, meanwhile, is actively searching for a full brick-and-mortar location in the neighborhood where patrons can dine in. He hopes to find a 2,000-square-foot or larger location on or close to Queens Boulevard, where he said the foot traffic is best.

He has made a point of reopening Zen Yai in Sunnyside after the five-alarm fire in 2018 destroyed his Queens Boulevard restaurant.

Chunton opened a new location in Williamsburg about a year after the fire. He revamped it in 2021 and it is now a seafood restaurant called Tiger Prawn.

Chunton, however, wants to reestablish Zen Yai– and in Sunnyside

“I’m a Queens guy. I feel like it’s home,” said Chunton, who attended junior high in Sunnyside and now lives in Jackson Heights. “I felt like when I did Zen Yai in Sunnyside, there was a lot of love.”

The Sunnyside community rallied around Zen Yai and several other businesses affected by the 2018 fire. Residents raised about $165,000 as part of the fire relief efforts, which were distributed among the employees of the various businesses.

Chunton, overcome by the neighborhood’s generosity, had vowed to come back to Sunnyside.

“That’s what makes me want to go back,” he told the Queens Post in 2019.

Nearly three years later, Chunton is making good on his promise. Sunnysiders will soon be able to sip a warm bowl of pho or munch on a banh mi from Zen Yai once again.

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Best of luck to the restaurants there, though I don’t trust any operation run by Travis Kalanick so they might want to be cautious

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