Shuai Wang and his business partner and wife Corrie spent 2017 on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar restaurant space for Short Grain, their food truck that specializes in creative Japanese rice bowls. “We just came off a random year,” he says. “We were all over the place, and we expected it to move a lot faster.”
They searched high and low, looking at spots downtown on Meeting Street and King Street and over in Avondale and up in Park Circle. They talked to developers and investors. They looked hard at the former Lee Lee’s space in the Westside, but ultimately, nothing came together because nothing felt right.
“There were a lot of places we could make work, but we didn’t want to settle. It’s like house-hunting,” says Wang. “When you find the right place, you just know.”
The right place for the Wangs and their Japanese fusion food is about 2,000 to 2,500 square feet with comfortable bar seats along a large bar and a dining room with booths. It should also be downtown. “Our regulars are from every part of Charleston,” says Wang. Downtown’s central location is key, but the options are low. “We’ve looked at everything. It’s hard. There’s not much left,” he says. “King is absurdly expensive. And at the end of the day, you should own it if you’re going to put that much money into it.”
While owning it is important, the Wangs also know from running the food truck that they don’t want a restaurant to be entirely their responsibility. “We wanted a partnership so it’s not all us. That’s the most stressful part,” says Wang. “Serving food is easy. We want to take the stress off our shoulders of running a business.”
Wang is not able to divulge who their partnership is with at this time, but he says they own another local restaurant and are a good fit. He expects they should have a more solid path forward in the coming weeks. In the meantime, he says he and Corrie have to rip the band-aid off and stop running the food truck.
“We need to set a deadline and just do it,” says Wang. If they don’t, he fears that backup food truck business will take their focus away from future plans and goals.
In the meantime, he’ll be doing pop-ups with chef friends around town. In the coming weeks, expect Short Grain to show up at Edmund’s Oast, The Darling and Stems and Skins (where On Jan. 21 they’ll be serving ramen burgers where the noodles are formed to serve as the bun). They’ll also celebrate Chinese New Year with a special event somewhere and team up with Dough Boyz pizza truck, “Mainly so we can put Asian ingredients on pizza,” says Wang. And in March, they’ll be part of the Charleston Wine and Food festival teaching a noodle class and participating in the North Charleston Night Bazaar.
Wang says they still have the food truck scheduled for some February events but only because they haven’t officially canceled them yet. He and Corrie are really, surely going to pull the plug any day now, and they promise to announce the plans for their next project as soon as they can.