MACON, Ga. — A new restaurant in downtown Macon is looking forward to finally seating customers.
Kinjo Kitchen + Cocktails opened back in March, but due to COVID-19, the restaurant never got a chance to offer dine-in services.
Now, the Asian inspired ramen joint has finally announced it's opening its dining room to the public in June.
“It’s not about advertising my products and services as much as it was before,” Chelsea Hughes said. “Now it’s about really staying within the lines of … finding a mindful conscientious and responsive way to move forward and still make it profitable.”
This is Hughes’ first restaurant venture. She is the general manager and one of three owners of Kinjo.
Hughes operates the restaurant and her other two partners are investors in the business. They also have hands other Macon eateries like Circa and Miramar Raw Bar & Tapas.
“I don’t know what it’s like to run a business before a pandemic. This is all that I know,” she said. “A new challenge every single day.”
Hughes is originally from Columbus, but she graduated from Mercer University and considers herself a Macon local.
Hughes says she does not have a background in Asian cuisine, but she enjoys eating ramen and felt like there was a gap in the community market for the dish.
That’s how Kinjo came about.
“I kind of envisioned this being a more modern, upscale, fine dining, fusion of Asian-style cooking and some soul food styles from Georgia and the deep South,” Hughes said.
After nine months of planning and designing the eating space, the restaurant was set to open dine-in services on March 19 and 20 when concerns about coronavirus forced the new business to take orders curbside.
“It wasn’t the grand opening and the popping champagne and all those sorts of stuff that we had anticipated,” she said.
Hughes says the staff had just finished weeks of training for dine-in services when they had to switch gears.
The restaurant was planning to open again the following week, but Hughes decided to keep Kinjo’s dining area closed indefinitely.
“It just made the most sense for us to just go ahead and shut down,” she said.
It remained closed for about two months.
“We never really got to open at all,” Hughes said.
Now, the owners have announced are opening the dining area to the public on June 2. Folks can only dine-in by making reservations beforehand by phone.
“People are really excited about the cuisine and they’re really excited about the space and we want them to experience it, but obviously nothing is more important right now than honoring and abiding by all of the guidelines that have been set in place to preserve the safety of our community,” Hughes said. “We felt like just opening the doors and letting people in would be a foolish way to introduce ourselves to the community.”
Hughes says opening a new business during a global pandemic has caused a whirlwind of mixed emotions.
“It’s disappointing and it’s terrifying, but at the same time this is reality now,” she said. “The challenges are going to lead to just as great a feeling of reward.”
Hughes says people should try any of the ramen bowls and the Bao, which is steamed dumpling filled with pork butt, Korean-style barbecue sauce, radish, pickled red cabbage and cucumber.
As for the cocktails, she says there are nine specialty drinks and all of them are funky twists on bar classics, so everyone can find something they’d like on the menu.
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