Patience and tenacity is key for opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic — but it also helps if the signature menu item is built for devouring on the go.
At Crop Circle, a casual new Greenwich Village restaurant located at 126 Macdougal Street, between Bleecker Street and W. 3rd Street, the speciality is guokui, a popular street snack with roots in Northern China’s Shanxi province. The restaurant’s guokui — made in a style commonly found in Jingzhou, a southern city in Hubei — is a stuffed dough, sprinkled with sesame seeds and stretched thin to bake until crispy. It’s served straight out of a cylindrical tandoor-style oven that the restaurant imported from China.
The toasty flatbread comes out large — it’s “very big, like bigger than your face,” restaurant spokesperson Ying Ye says — and ready for sidewalk eating. Diners can choose to stuff their guokui with a variety of sweet and savory fillings, including shrimp, pork, chicken, spicy beef, or brown sugar. All are priced at under $8 apiece.
Aside from guokui, the new counter-service restaurant also serves beef and shrimp rice noodle rolls, steamed dumplings, hot and cold soups, and small side salads. The name of the place, Crop Circle, is a nod to the mysterious patterns that can show up in grain fields, and is similar to how each serving of guokui has its own unique shape and size.
The opening marks the first NYC restaurant to specialize in serving this style of guokui, Ye says, and she’s proud to be a part of the group introducing the street food to the city. The restaurant is run collectively by Otta Management, made up of Ye and six other young Chinese entrepreneurs who banded together last year with plans to start opening new restaurants in NYC.
Crop Circle — their first venture — was originally slated to open in March or April of this year, leaving them time to work out any kinks before summer hit, but timelines were pushed due to the pandemic. Now, Ye says, the group is just happy to finally have the place open. “We’re trying to bring something new and refreshing to New York,” she says.
Crop Circle is opens on Saturday, August 8. The restaurant will be open for takeout from Tuesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m, and delivery is available on Uber Eats. Outdoor dining options are coming soon.