A Fun Tongue-in-Cheek Restaurant Explores What American Chinese Cuisine Really Means in Austin (2024)

A new casual American Chinese restaurant is opening in an also-new neighborhood bar from the team behind beloved dives like Barfly, Bender Bar, and Violet Crown. Restaurant Yellow Ranger and bar the Golden Horn can be found underneath Barfly’s at 5420 Airport Boulevard in North Loop starting on Thursday, April 25.

Through Yellow Ranger, chef Jeremy Young and the team are distilling what American Chinese food in the country truly is right now. It’s a casual counter-service restaurant within the bar that serves lunch and dinner. The American Chinese bar food menu will include noodles, fried dumplings, green beans, and egg rolls for dine-in and takeout. And then there will be daily dine-in specials, of which they’re really excited about. Young teases future items such as chicken laimen (Chinese ramen), bao stuffed with mapo tofu, pork-and-shrimp dumplings, a kimchi hot dog wrapped in croissant dough, smoked eggplant wok dish, and oysters with oolong kombucha. These will be shared via an in-person board and its Instagram account.

Young originally wanted to hone in on his Chinese heritage for the restaurant. But as he explored his family’s history, translating Mandarin recipe cards and looking back at his childhood, he realized that the idea wasn’t true to who he was. “I didn’t immigrate here from China with their culinary traditions in hand,” he writes over email. It felt wrong focusing on centuries-old family culinary traditions for this venture, or as he puts it, “It would be hollow and false to tell that story as if it were my own.”

To readjust, Young turned to his food memories. That meant joyful moments at strip mall buffet restaurants where he’d build trays of every possible type of dish from pizza to fries to lo mein to egg rolls. That was more aligned with the cuisines he knew. “I’m more interested in being myself, in exploring this bizarre cultural fusion in which I feel so, so comfortable,” he writes.

Thus, Yellow Ranger’s American Chinese culinary focus. “At this point, American Chinese food deserves to be celebrated in its own right, separate from ‘authentic’ or ‘traditional’ Chinese cuisine,” Young writes. His great-grandfather Tom Jai Chong invest in and also worked at Chicago Chinese restaurant King Joy Lo, which was revolutionary for serving American Chinese and general American food at the same time in the early 1900s.

The restaurant’s name is obvious to people who grew up in the 1990s. “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were everything,” Young writes. Since the menu’s culinary cues came from his childhood, “it only made sense that the name would too.”

Young recounts playing with his friends when he wanted to act as the Red Ranger, but he was told, “‘no, man, you have to be the Yellow Ranger ‘cause you’re the Asian one.’” He adds, “Kids weren’t the most racially sensitive creatures back then.” He named the restaurant after this character he was told he had to be as a way of “owning that identity now,” he writes. “What once made me different, an ‘other,’ an outcast, is now my guiding light.”

Young grew up in Los Angeles, where he began cooking as a teenager. When he went to San Francisco for college, he worked at fine dining restaurants, which made him decide to make a career out of it. That’s when he moved to Austin, where he ended up at Japanese restaurant Ramen Tatsu-ya. Through his seven years at the company, he worked his way from a line cook to eventually becoming the director of culinary operations for the entire company. Young left in late 2019, joined New American restaurant Emmer & Rye for a year, and then moved to Nashville at the beginning of the pandemic with his wife Megan Valigura. That’s where the couple, with chef-partner Drew Dunston, opened their own restaurant Tootsie Lou’s Tacos. They ran that for a bit but eventually moved back to Austin, where he started thinking about his next project.

Back in Texas, Young was talking with his friend, Pete Adamski, who was the general manager of Austin bar Violet Crown Social Club. He connected the chef to Marcos Canchola, who owns several dive bars around town, including Violet, Barfly’s, Bender Bar, Pour House Pub, now-closed Mugshots, and Pour House Pints and Pies. Young was already well acquainted with one of them, the Hideout Pub, because that was his go-to bar where he met his wife. Canchola was working on opening the Golden Horn, and was looking for a food component. “The connection was immediate and the partnership seemed fated,” Young writes.

Much like its siblings, the Golden Horn is a neighborhood dive bar. It’ll serve draft beers, draft co*cktails, frozen drinks, wines, spirits, and nonalcoholic options. The physical space is warm and inviting, with lots of wood, leather, signage that’s hand-painted or for vintage beers. There are darts and pool tables too. It took over what was long-time restaurant Burger Tex, which opened in 1973 and closed in 2020, found on the ground floor of the building. (Adamski is now its general manager.)

The rest of the Yellow Ranger team includes also-former Tatsu-ya people. There are chefs Zane Frisch and Kyle Harris, who had worked at many other Austin places including New Texan restaurant Lenoir, now-closed wine restaurant Apothecary, and New American spot Launderette. The general manager is Epiphany Kidwell. Matt Thompson worked on the design branding. Abraham Mong fabricated the menu board, Kim Raynes Smith fashioned the noren curtains separating the space. And then YiMay Yang is the photographer. Ahead of fully opening Yellow Ranger, the restaurant held pop-ups since January.

Yellow Ranger’s initial hours will be from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and then from noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The goal is to eventually expand hours with daily services. Golden Horn’s hours are from noon to 2 a.m. daily.

Yellow Ranger

5420 Airport Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78751 Visit Website

The Golden Horn

5420 Airport Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78751 Visit Website

A Fun Tongue-in-Cheek Restaurant Explores What American Chinese Cuisine Really Means in Austin (2024)


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