Lhasa Fast Food, the cult-favorite Tibetan restaurant, will not be reopening its original Jackson Heights location anytime soon. The momo shop, famously located behind a cell phone repair shop, was “completely destroyed” earlier this month after a four-alarm fire tore through a row of commercial buildings on 37th Road and 74th Street on March 5, according to chef-owner Sang Jien Ben.
“Lhasa Fast Food on 74th Street survived relatively well with takeout and special orders in the heart of Jackson Heights,” Ben wrote in a GoFundMe campaign, which launched on March 30. “While the rate of vaccination against COVID-19 and spring brought a new hope to the city, March 5th fire dashed Lhasa Fast Food’s hope.”
The shop is unlikely to reopen at its current location on 74th Street, says Sangyi Tashi, a friend of Ben who helped start the GoFundMe. Instead, funds from the campaign will be used to reopen Lhasa Fast Food elsewhere. “The whole building has to be rebuilt,” according to Tashi. “None of the business owners in the building believe they can reopen this year, or even next. This place is completely gone for now.”
Due to high levels of asbestos and structural damage to the space following the fire, owners in the building have not been able to safely access their businesses since the March 5 fire. “We don’t know the total damage,” Tashi says, making it impossible to file a claim with insurance in the short term.
Ben is looking to reopen Lhasa Fast Food at a new location in the neighborhood and reportedly has his eye on two to three vacant restaurant spaces. The campaign, which has close to $1,000 in donations at the time of writing, hopes to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of starting over. “With your help, we can re-establish a main kitchen location in this home community and make a comeback,” according to the campaign.
Lhasa Fast Food started as a food counter in the back of a commercial arcade in 2012. Over the last decade, the Tibetan restaurant has garnered a cult-following among food writers, including Anthony Bourdain, for its succulent momos and comforting bowls of thenthuk. Ben expanded with a second location of Lhasa in Elmhurst in October 2018 and opened a third outpost in the East Village in August 2020.