Article by Matthew Payne Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — Fong’s Pizza may be a Des Moines-born restaurant but the Cedar Rapids location will have some New Bohemian flair.
Co-owner Gwen Page gave The Gazette a preview Thursday of the pizza joint and tiki bar, 1006 Third St. SE, which is scheduled to open May 7.
The restaurant’s Asian-inspired decor — Chinese lanterns, a vestibule designed like a pagoda and waving cat figurines — is reminiscent of its Des Moines roots. But there are also pieces of the Corridor — recreations of Chinese prints purchased from the Chadimas, a family of NewBo district advocates; tiles from a former Cedar Rapids Chinese restaurant; a dragon-adorned sign made by CR Signs; and beer taps for brews from Big Grove Brewery, Lion Bridge Brewing and Backpocket Brewing, among others.
Page said she and her co-owners eventually want to turn an apartment above Fong’s into an Airbnb listing.
The NewBo location will have 10 bar stools and 18 tables, with occupancy for 84. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Here’s more from an interview with Page:
Q: For those that don’t know what Fong’s is, what are you bringing to NewBo?
A: Fong’s specializes in Asian-inspired pizzas. That concept was born in Des Moines when we took over the space of Des Moines’ oldest Chinese restaurant. We specialize in Asian-inspired pizzas, traditional pizzas, and we even put that twist on our appetizers, too, so Chinese cheese sticks, (which is) a cheese stick that we wrap in an eggroll wrapper.
We have sandwiches, salads and desserts and then we feature all Iowa beer on drafts and a Tiki bar.
Q: You are known for your Crab Rangoon pizza, but are there other items on the menu people should know about?
A: By far the Crab Rangoon pizza is our crown jewel. … We were recently featured on “Man v. Food” with Casey Webb (on the Travel Channel), the new host, and he really enjoyed the General Tso’s chicken.
The Fongolian Beef is really tasty as well. You really can’t go wrong with any of the Asian-inspired ones because it’s just going to surprise your taste buds.
Q: Why did you pick Cedar Rapids for a location?
A: We really loved the community here. We recognized that the city was investing a lot of effort into this district after the flood.
The whole vibe and energy of this district really speaks to our concept, just the Bohemian vibe, the artisans that are around this area and the locally-owned shops. It’s just a great area for us to be a part of.
Q: You took over a site from a former restaurant. What did you have to do to get this space ready?
A: What we needed to do primarily was enlarge the kitchen. That was probably the biggest part construction-wise. … Also, you can see that we’ve opened the dining room, we tore down the wall that was kind of the bar area and really opened up the space.
It’s such a beautiful building that we wanted to try and retain as much as we can because of the historic element.
Q: Are there any plans or thoughts of bringing more Fong’s to Eastern Iowa?
A: Anything is possible, but my partners and I really do see the beauty of going to communities that are experiencing some development. That’s where my partners found a lot of success … .
I’m hungry to go to some bigger markets, too, but there’s a real beauty in coming to these smaller communities. I feel I’ve had a nice time connecting to the other local business owners and people tend to appreciate you more.
When you do go to a bigger city, you can get lost in the shuffle a bit more.
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