JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s been eight years since Stir Fry closed in Johnson City, but the community hasn’t forgotten the pad thai or spicy noodles.
Rafael Zabala, restaurant owner and operating partner with Stir Fry Group, said the question is posed to him every week: “When are you going to open another Stir Fry?”
The way things are looking, it could be by the end of the year. Well, sort of.
Stir Fry Group’s newest endeavor, Juan Siao, will bring back the most popular Stir Fry menu items to downtown Johnson City- the pad thai, drunken noodles and spicy noodles are of note, Zabala says.
While not a Stir Fry replica, he said the community’s insistence played a part while he was deciding what should occupy the vacant lot at 104 Tipton St.
“It’s weekly that people are asking us, ‘Are you going to put another Stir Fry in the area?'” Zabala said. “So we want to get people back the drunken noodles and the spicy noodles and all those Stir Fry dishes that they love.”
What looks like a small footprint for a restaurant will be transformed into a two-story dining space with lots of natural light and a patio on the second story.
Zabala said he’s throwing some Latin and Mexican food into the mix for the coming restaurant to cap off a new dining experience in Johnson City.
“When you walk in, it’ll be an open kitchen and a downstairs, what I call a garden area, it’s going to be a fully-enclosed glass dining area,” Zabala said.
“It’s going to be a very unique space.”
The name, in part, is a tribute to Zabala’s late business partner and mentor, Kenny Siao. The pair opened Stir Fry in Johnson City in 2004 and Siao passed away shortly after the restaurant opened its doors.
Juan Siao will be just a few doors down from Label, a restaurant already on the roster for Stir Fry group. Juan Siao will be the third restaurant from the chain in Johnson City.
Zabala said adding Juan Siao to the restaurant boom in Johnson City just gives people another reason to come downtown.
“It gives people the option when (…) they come down to visit downtown Johnson City,” he said. “We have Label that gives them the sushi, burgers and steak option, and now with Juan Siao, they’re going to have a Latin and core Stir Fry option, Asian food.”
He said he expects construction to begin on the $1 million investment sometime this month, with a completed building expected by the end of the year.
Next up on Stir Fry Group’s plate is opening Southern Craft in downtown Bristol, which Zabala said should begin business sometime in March.