Japantown Business Association

Japantown News

News from our neighborhood

Historic San Jose building will soon house a new restaurant

By LINDA ZAVORAL | lzavoral@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
> original article

Call it a win for both history buffs and food lovers.

Prominent South Bay restaurateur Jordan Trigg has leased one of the oldest buildings in San Jose’s Japantown and plans to reopen it as JTown Pizza, the district’s first such restaurant.

“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Trigg, whose Dipsomania Inc. already owns properties in Japantown (7 Bamboo, Jack’s) as well as in downtown Campbell (Boiler Maker, Spread) and Willow Glen (20Twenty).

“I’m excited to be going into the oldest building in Japantown.”

For building owners Carol Chen and Max Soloviev, who spent $2 million renovating the North Sixth Street landmark as Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More, it’s the answer to their quandary.

The first-time entrepreneurs — he’s a computer engineer, she’s in real estate — found that running a restaurant was challenging for their family, so they had been searching since early this year for an operator who could offer both restaurant savvy and an appreciation for the building’s historic significance.

“Our restaurant was originally part of Chinatown, which is now more known as Japantown,” Chen told Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro in January, “and we feel that if someone could take it to the next level, e.g. upscale fusion cuisine style, he or she would have high chances to make the business grow and help us maintain this beautiful landmark.”

Soloviev said the couple was pleased that Trigg will keep the remodeling to a minimum.

“They did a great job on the renovation,” Trigg said. “We don’t see changing the look of the exterior” — except for the name on the neon sign.

He added:  “About the only thing we’re going to do inside is add beer taps.”

The architectural gem, estimated to have been built between 1890 and 1905, served as a boardinghouse for Japanese workers before being transformed into a chop suey restaurant. The eatery, Ken Ying Low, thrived for decades in what was then part of Heinlenville, San Jose’s Chinatown. In later years, the building became a Filipino restaurant and then a Cuban one.

While the new menu won’t be the one that Chen had been initially hoping for — she wanted to preserve the focus on Chinese cuisine — the building is no stranger to cultural evolution.

Besides plenty of Japanese restaurants, diners can find Chinese, Korean, Mexican and Hawaiian cuisine along with American fast food and barbecue in Japantown. However, there’s no pizza within walking distance, Trigg said. He’s planning to focus on thin-crust New York style pies.

An autumn opening is envisioned.

Tamiko Rast