Chinatown mainstay and big tray chicken/hand-pulled noodle experts Spicy Village now has a way for fans to declare their everlasting love for the restaurant: t-shirts. It didn’t start with the restaurant looking to make a buck, but a cultish fan-base that led to the t-shirt launch.
Local designers Alberto Chapa and Riley Metcalf fell in love with Spicy Village so much so that they call it a “little institution” for them and their circle of friends, according to Bedford and Bowery. They decided to pay homage with a t-shirt line, with the design input of husband-wife owners Wendy Lian and Ren Fu Li.
They launched the tees with a party this past weekend, including both white and pink versions with the restaurant’s name, phone number, and address on the front. A small portion of the limited edition run are still available for sale at the 68b Forsyth restaurant, with white ones costing $25 and pink ones costing $35.
The affordable restaurant has been quietly known for its spicy and garlicky big tray of chicken dish, chewy flour-based wide noodles, and low-key atmosphere ever since it opened in 2010, originally under the name He Nan Flavor. Over time, word of mouth traveled to Chowhound, Serious Eats, and Village Voice, and then eventually a feature in the Times. It is also a member of the Eater 38.
Lian tells Eater in Mandarin that when Chapa and Metcalf approached them about the project, the regular diners said they planned to pay for the materials and make the shirts, so she agreed. The restaurant receives a portion of the profits, under a 50/50 split between the designers and the owners.
The party on Saturday turned the restaurant into “a tiny disco,” Chapa tells Eater in an email. That aspect slightly puzzled Lian and her husband, she says. “My English isn’t so good. I still didn’t quite understand,” she says with a laugh. “My husband said, ‘so this party is to sell t-shirts?’ It’s a party for us?”
But it ultimately seemed to turn out well. A lot of people showed up, and even Monday morning, a few people stopped in to buy some of the remaining shirts, she says.
Chapa told Bedford and Bowery that he’s considering adding items like hats and hoodies, or a t-shirt with a photo of Lian, who’s always working in the dining room.
Lian also says that if they seem to sell well, she eventually wants to work with the designers to produce different colors and designs — like one with the restaurant’s trademark dish, the big tray of spicy chicken. She’s particularly eager to see more red. “Us Chinese people like red,” she says. “It is good luck.”