Graphics, Metro

New year brings changes to Thayer’s restaurant scene

Kung Fu Tea, managed by Den Den leadership, to replace SnoTea Caffè in early March

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Over the past month, Thayer Street eateries SnoTea Caffè and Skewers have closed, with SnoTea closed permanently. The Herald could not confirm that Skewers will not reopen, though the restaurant’s windows remain shrouded in brown paper. Neither restaurant has announced the reasons behind its decision.

“We apologize to our loyal customers, but our establishment at this location is CLOSED,” SnoTea wrote on its Facebook page Jan. 5. “We are grateful to all your patronage in the past year and hope to serve you once again in the future.”

To many students, SnoTea’s closing came as a disappointment. “It was one of my favorite places on campus to lounge around at, whether it was to hang out with friends and play board games or to power through writing papers,” said Jonathon Schlafer ’17.

In contrast, Skewers could be seen empty most nights towards the end of last semester. While the restaurant maintained an average rating of 4.5 on TripAdvisor, its reviews on Yelp were mixed. On the other hand, SnoTea, which served a variety of shaved ice creams and bubble teas, received consistently high reviews.

Min Cheung, owner of Den Den Café Asiana, wrote in an email to The Herald that his cafe has taken over SnoTea’s space and is currently renovating it. “We are bringing in a national franchise named ‘Kung Fu Tea,’” Cheung wrote. It “will be owned and operated by Den Den management, and its targeted opening date is (the) first week of March.”

Cheung acknowledged the difficulties of owning his small business on Benefit Street in the Providence area. Formerly a general manager at a restaurant in California, he said that he and his team focus on trying to create an environment that is open to all clients — both students and local residents. Den Den started with a 90 percent student clientele, but after almost two years of business, it is now evenly split between students and local residents, he said.

While Thayer may have lost one of its several Mediterranean eateries in Skewers, others like local favorite East Side Pockets remain up and running. “East Side Pockets is convenient for a quick bite as it’s not too far from campus,” said Filip Montgomery ’18. “But Skewers and East Side Pockets served very similar food, so I guess it oversaturated the market.”

Paul Boutros, who manages East Side Pockets with his family, explained the ups and downs of managing a business on Thayer. “Since we opened (the restaurant) 19 years ago, a lot of places have left Thayer Street, and a lot of new places have opened up,” Boutros said. “Last winter was tough for a lot of people. It was a long winter, the economy was bad, and there was a parking ban in the area. Also, they were doing a lot of construction around Brown … (and) business dropped almost 25 to 30 percent.”

Despite challenges, Boutros said that “anything we face now, we’ve been there before.” His main concern is trying to keep up East Side Pockets’ sterling reputation while continuing to cater to many Brown, Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson and Wales University students, he said. “That’s the hardest part, to keep it the way it’s been — the recipe, the service, the cleanliness,” Boutros said.

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Min Cheung, owner of Den Den, as female. In fact, Min Cheung is male. The Herald regrets the error.