Beloved spicy hand-pulled noodle chain Xi’an Famous Foods is on the brink of a major expansion — including more ubiquity here and serious moves to other cities. The team behind the restaurant that started as a tiny stall in Flushing just bought a massive, 20,000-square-foot space in Woodside to act as central kitchen for its growing roster of noodle restaurants — the 12th of which will open in Midtown at 37 West 54th St. next month.
It may seem like a wonky add, but the newest buy is what will help bring cold skin noodles in your neighborhood, or near your office, or even in Boston and DC. It means more menu items will be added. And it means frozen Xi’an food, like dumplings could soon show up in grocery stores across the country, too. "That’s always been a dream of my father's," says CEO Jason Wang, whose father opened the original outpost, of frozen products. "Now, we finally have the capacity to pursue these kinds of things."
The restaurant’s already been expanding like crazy. But the East Williamsburg kitchen where restaurant prep happens — from pulling the noodles to filling the dumplings — is too small to handle a lot more growth. Offices are now being used as storage; prep area has been cut to accommodate a walk-in freezer. The additional kitchen space frees Xi’an to expand to more busy New York "hot spots," like the Financial District and the Flatiron, Wang says. A lease is already being drafted for a space near Madison Square Park. Currently, most restaurants are not in office-heavy areas. Xi’an only opened high capacity Midtown locations in the last couple of years.
He’s also talked about opening new locations outside of New York for a while, but things haven’t panned out. The new kitchen will help make the regional expansion more of a reality, he says. Boston residents can expect access to spicy, tingly lamb noodles in the next two years, with certain items shipped overnight from the new central kitchen to maintain consistency in the food. "It’s not just to serve other cities," Wang says of the new kitchen. "It also acts as a template for us to create other hubs. If it works out, we’ll know how to open a central kitchen in California for example, to supply the west coast."
For new food, Wang and his team are looking to add more dishes from the Xi’an region, including desserts. And his father’s dream of frozen products won’t include the chain’s famous noodles — "It just does not keep," Wang explains — though dumplings and sauces will definitely be on the roster.
Xi’an Famous Foods funds all of its growth from money it’s already making, and Wang has wanted to be cautious about expanding. Building out the new kitchen will take at least six months, but once it’s done, Wang’s ambitious plans for noodle domination will really get going. "We’re in a very strong position," he says. "In terms of timeline, a year or two, you should see some interesting things happen."