Known for using fresh quality Korean ingredients in their made to order restaurant, KuKu Canteen has become the place to get Asian fare in Greenwich Village. We spoke with Jackie, the owner of KuKu Canteen, to find out what goes on behind the scenes.
Jackie started working as a waitress at KuKu Canteen a few years ago when it was still named Guava Canteen. Then, when the owner decided to leave, she took the opportunity to take over. As a new owner, she quickly learned that running a restaurant is extremely difficult. Suddenly, she had to do dozens of new jobs, everywhere from being an accountant to an air conditioning repairwoman. Yet Jackie told Fiestah that what motivates her to keep running KuKu Canteen are the customers.
“Being located in the middle of Greenwich Village, we get people from all walks of life in KuKu Canteen. We have an extremely loyal customer base. About 80% of our customers come here multiple times a week,” Jackie said.
To keep the customers coming, she makes sure she puts a lot of creativity and thought into the menu.
“My main concern in designing my menu is to make sure all of my food is made from natural healthy ingredients and that there is tons of variety. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I just use natural ingredients like vegetables and rice, but I get the best vegetables and rice that I can. I also think it is very important to allow people to know exactly what they are eating. I have great food for people who are gluten-free, vegan, or anything else.”
Thanks to her creativity, there are some special dishes that are a hit with the customers.
“Something very simple that everybody loves is our ramen noodles. People often think there is some secret flavor but there isn’t. It just tastes so much better than the stuff from the box because it is made fresh, ” Jackie explained. “Some less common dishes that are also very popular are the bulgogi, kimchi, or bibimbap. People also love the sauces and dressings we make, and we run out every single day. I need sauce with everything I eat so I am always excited to see somebody trying my favorite types.”
Jackie says the second best part of her job is being in the restaurant.
“I am very proud of the food I make and I love representing it. During lunchtime, we get lines going all the way out the door every day, and they are all waiting for the food that I make,” Jackie gushed.
But her main concern is “to keep people happy eating my food.”
Jackie told us how KuKu Canteen has grown with the help of Fiestah by helping her “locate new markets for [sic] catering and allow[ing] us to get out of just our neighborhood and cater events all over New York.” Jackie continues to say, ” [Fiestah] also provides us with a sense of security and helps us mechanize our catering process. Fiestah does all the work for us and makes sure we’re never cheated.”
So next time you’re in the Village and you want to taste what out-of-the-box made with fresh ingredients ramen tastes like, go to KuKu Canteen and say hi to Jackie for us, and congratulate her for the exciting grand re-opening!
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