Xi’an Famous Foods

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Founded: 2005
Employees: 30
Wait time for midtown lunch: 30 minutes.
Lesson: Flushing has a lot to teach Manhattan.

It was one winter break from college when Jason Wang, 25, first saw the crossover appeal of the spicy northwestern-Chinese street food served in his father, David Shi’s Flushing-basement food-court stall. “The lines went out the hall, up the stairs, and down the street,” Wang remembers. He was studying business at Washington University (he’d later take a job at Target’s HQ), and put together a website to advertise his father’s noodles, now served at six New York locations.

The whole direction that food is going in America, and maybe the world, is that people are starting to try new things. Which works out for us.

The spice mixture is still made in secret by my father. Now we have a central kitchen, so he’ll go there at night and do a bunch of buckets of chili oil. We use these huge cauldrons for it.

With it being a family business, we never had five-year plans. My dad and I will go for lunch, talk for ten minutes, and then go our separate ways. We don’t usually put things on paper—it’s a Chinese thing, you’ve got to go by action, not paper, because things can change really quickly.

But there’s definitely a conflict—and it is sort of the old world versus the new world. My dad’s very ambitious—he wants to show people what he knows how to do and that there’s more to Xi’an food than noodles. For me, it’s more about the business, the efficiencies, and being able to focus. That’s the argument we have. When I went back to China for a couple weeks, he took the liberty to make a “tasting menu” to introduce a bunch of random dishes. Only he misspelled it. Instead of ‘tasting’ he put ‘teating.’ ” —Co-owner Jason Wang

Xi’an Famous Foods