The anticipation of waiting for an entire condo complex to be built before you can open your restaurant must be maddening for a restaurateur, but the wait is nearly over for Tommy Lee, owner of Uncle and Hop Alley. His second location of Uncle is scheduled to open on Tuesday, July 16, at 95 South Pennsylvania Street.
Lee first announced the project in August 2017, but the buildout of the restaurant didn't begin until more than a year later. The result, though, should be worth the wait, as Lee says about 60 percent of the menu will be different from the one at his LoHi ramen bar.
The new Uncle takes up twice as much square footage as its older sibling, which opened at 2215 West 32nd Avenue in 2012. "We're still very ramen-focused, but we'll have a bigger selection of plated entrees," the restaurateur explains, adding that customer favorites such as the pork buns and spicy chicken ramen will make the jump across town. But with a kitchen more than twice the size of the first restaurant, added equipment and space will allow for a wider range of dishes.
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Along with the familiar open kitchen with counter seating (about a dozen here), there will also be an actual bar with five seats, allowing for an expanded drinks menu. And while there isn't room for a patio on the sidewalks of Pennsylvania Street or Bayaud Avenue, the windows of the corner eatery will accordion open for an indoor/outdoor feel.
The interior, designed by architect Kevin Nguyen, combines elements of Uncle and Hop Alley, Lee notes. So while the jam-packed shoebox experience of the first Uncle won't be replicated, he promises that it will still have a ramen-bar ambience.
With liquor license and certificate of occupancy already in hand, Lee is now in the process of training new staff, and he doesn't expect any major delays. The opening date isn't set in stone, but you're probably safe marking your calendars for some east-side noodles that week.