Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Fifth Ave for double-fried kimchi fries at JoJu.


In 2011, two Queens couples opened an unassuming sandwich spot in Elmhurst called JoJu, named after sisters and co-owners Joanna and Julie. The place, set back a bit from the sidewalk, risked getting lost amid the visual clamor of shops and restaurants on this piece of Broadway, but their excellent "modern" take on traditional Vietnamese sandwiches—and, in true Queens style, their decision to fold other culinary traditions into the mix—instead gave them a hit with both locals and food tourists alike.

Last Thursday JoJu widened its reach considerably with a slick new offshoot in prime Midtown lunchtime territory, featuring a full menu of their acclaimed sandwiches, rice bowls, and double-fried fries. There's seating for about 35 total in the slender, bi-level space, but the operation is geared up mostly to be a fast-moving counter-service spot, complete with a pair of touchscreen ordering systems. Thoughtfully, they've also provided a few places to perch while you wait for takeout, which, given the efficiency I witnessed on two visits since the opening, shouldn't be long.

There's Instagram bait of the typographical variety scattered throughout the room, like the "Oh Darling Darling Stand Banh Mi" set inside a neat little arched alcove, and a neon sign that reads, "Do What You Love Eat What You Love." None of that, thankfully, has distracted the team from their primary purpose, which is making very good, reasonably-priced food which you could eat a couple of times a week and not get bored.


The menu at the Midtown JoJu is almost entirely build-your-own dishes, so be prepared to feel a bit flustered while you try to make a bunch of decisions as a line forms behind you. Don't overthink it: everything is solid here, so you can't really mess up. Whatever you order, though, also order the Double-Fried Fries, which are among the very best in NYC, nailing that crisp/fluffy ideal. The Kimchi Fries are my favorite, covered in a mild, more-tart-than-spicy version of the Korean staple, but the "banh mi-inspired" JoJu Fries are pretty great too.

At the heart of the JoJu menu are the sandwiches, rice bowls, and salads, all of which can be based on about a half-dozen different proteins, including two vegetarian options. They call their version of a banh mi "The Sweet," and it's stuffed with thickly sliced Vietnamese ham, a good livery pâté, minced and saucy caramel pork, and, like seemingly everything here, a pickled daikon-carrot salad. This is a great sandwich, as is the Lemongrass Chicken option, packed with chunks of juicy, marinated thigh meat. The housemade Spicy Mayo goes well with the former, the Spicy Green Sauce (a la Peruvian aji verde) with the latter.

And the Beef Bulgogi brown rice bowl was first-rate as well, the meat a tender shredded ribeye in a kicky marinade, attractively arranged atop the chewy grains with vegetables in complementary flavors and textures. It's a large and satisfying amount of food for twelve bucks. The only other menu category is the Spring Rolls. I tried the meaty Crunchy Monster ones, a mess of ground pork rolled up and fried-to-greasy in a wheat wrapping, which was fun to eat and a good excuse to try the Fish Sauce, but I think the bite-sized versions, tossed atop one of the bowls, might be the better way to go here.


JuJo is an excellent new lunchtime option in a part of Manhattan that can never have too many of those, and it also works well as a quick early dinner spot on your way to the rest of your night. Put it on your list.

The Midtown Manhattan JoJu is located at 555 Fifth Avenue, with the entrance just east on 46th Street, and is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. (332-204-2278; jojuny.com)