Asian-inspired street food slinger Fat Panda Food Truck is going brick-and-mortar. Chef and food truck empire builder Omar Anani (Twisted Mitten, Vicecream, Grill Billies) and business partner, chef Brian Psenski, plan to abandon the rolling restaurant in favor of a weekday-only takeout restaurant northeast of the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood at 7650 Gratiot Ave.
“There’s potential in every Detroit neighborhood for something to be great,” Anani tells Eater. “It’s such a highly trafficked street, we thought it would be the perfect location.” Anani has owned the former O’Quin BBQ & Shrimp building on Gratiot for sometime now, having transformed the kitchen into a large commissary for his food truck ventures.
The menu will showcase the former food truck’s Asian-influenced dishes with a Detroit twist. Diners can expect items like “Detroit-style egg rolls” (a riff on Asian corned beef, filled with things like smoked beef brisket and macaroni & cheese). The restaurant will also serve chef-driven daily specials like build-your-own ramen, pho, and lamb ribs. Like Anani’s other ventures, the dishes at Fat Panda will be halal. The partners also plan to host ticketed events out of the space.
Diners can also look forward to a series of housemade soda’s dubbed “zero-proof.” Fat Panda’s owners plan to collaborate occasionally with local bars and breweries on flavors with proceeds going to local non-profits. Anani’s goal is to make the food accessible to the neighborhood where the restaurant is located. “Our average ticket is probably be closer to around $10,” he says.
The chef is also hopeful that the carryout restaurant will also offer a more consistent work schedule throughout the year for his food truck employees, many of whom are “returning citizens” (individuals with a criminal record that makes it difficult to find work). While a restaurant alone can’t help improve the quality of life for all Detroiters, providing opportunities to learn skills is “what’s going to fix the neighborhoods,” Anani says.
Anani and Psenski have enlisted graffiti artist Zak Warmann to repaint parts of the restaurant in the same style as the food truck and down the road may explore the possibility of adding dine-in space and a patio. Fat Panda’s takeout restaurant is expected to have a soft launch next month.
As for the truck, it will be retired and sold to an as-of-yet unnamed operator. “It will be on the road again very soon,” he teases.
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