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Thursday, May 30, 2024

‘Fun’ in the Junction: Asian restaurant to take over former Breadsmith bakery

Fun Bowl will open at 5226 S. College Road, Suite 7B — formerly Breadsmith — located in the Cape Fear Seafood shopping center. (Port City Daily/Ginny Smith)

WILMINGTON — A local boba, poke, and ramen restaurant is opening another location in Monkey Junction in coming months.

READ MORE: 3 stories of eclectic flavors, summer drinks, ocean views coming to CB

Fun Bowl just opened its second location in Landfall Center in October, but by mid-summer the doors of Monkey Junction’s Fun Bowl are expected to open. Located at 5226 S. College Road, Suite 7B — formerly Breadsmith — the new restaurant is located in the Cape Fear Seafood shopping center.

Resaurateur Johnny Chen has been on the scene for 21 years and has owned or co-owned upward of a dozen restaurants. He is locally known for operating Nikki’s Sushi Bar and Nikki’s Hibachi Steakhouse before starting Fun Bowl downtown in 2019.

Monkey Junction’s location will be 3500 square feet and according to site plan documents will seat up to 65 people. Fun Bowl will open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

“This location has more space for families, a bigger office space, and a larger walk-in cooler,” Chen explained. 

Chen detailed the new location’s aesthetics will be similar to the style of the Front Street location. 

In order to accommodate the homestyle cooking Chen incorporates into Fun Bowl’s menu options, an entire kitchen facility is being constructed from scratch, installing numerous new appliances and a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is a cornerstone item in Chen’s kitchen, crucial for the creation of authentic ramen broth. 

Various kinds of ramen, such as spicy miso, spicy kimchi, and chicken Paitan — known as “white soup” where fat gets emulsified into the broth — to name a few, boast homemade noodles and broth derived from meticulously pressure-cooked meat. 

Poke bowls and boba tea, menu items that are currently exclusive to Fun Bowl’s Eastwood Road location, will be integrated into the Monkey Junction’s menu. A BBQ chicken bowl, shrimp bowl, and Alaskan bowl are some of the various poke options. 

Fun Bowl also offers milk, slush, green, and black boba tea base options with a variety of fruity flavors and add-ons. Add-ons include boba pearls, jellies, and popping balls.

The restaurant industry is a family affair for Chen. He still owns Nikki’s Sushi in Carolina Beach but the downtown operation has been sold to his nephew and his niece now owns Nikki Hibachi Steakhouse.

“First they work for me, and then I tend to let them run [the restaurant],” Chen described, adding opening Fun Bowl has been “a dream.”

He also operates a product distribution center for Japanese food products to be shipped to locations throughout the Carolinas.

The opening of Monkey Junction’s Fun Bowl will further Chen’s goals of expanding Asian restaurants operating throughout the region. He plans to continue to scope out potential properties for more region-wide locations but was unclear where Fun Bowl will go next. 

He’s hoping to open the Monkey Junction location by mid-June to early July.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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