After announcing the closures of We Suki Suki and neighboring food stall market the Global Grub Collective in East Atlanta Village, restaurateur Quynh “Q” Trinh transforms her bánh mì and pho shop into a weekly pop-up incubator in January, with Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen taking over most of the Collective space.
Called Qommunity, Trinh is partnering with Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen owners Ken Yu and Seven Chan in the new food venture, which will also feature more indoor seating than the Collective and a bar and chef’s counter up front. Trinh will use the front space during the day as a coffee, boba tea, and noodle bar and serve sake cocktails in the evenings, including saketinis and sakeritas using her new house sake brand SaQe. On weekends, the bar becomes a chef’s counter hosting pop-ups, like MaPa’s Matzoh Ball Soup. Trinh’s dinner and a movie business, Eatavision, takes over a portion of the dining room for events every other Saturday as part of the Qommunity food experience.
The last day of service for We Suki Suki and Collective stalls Mushi Ni and M&M Comfort is December 18. Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen (closing as Collective stalls on December 31) and Trinh’s pop-up incubator should debut January 4, 2022, with a grand opening planned for February 2.
Cramped quarters at the Collective made reopening the dining room during the pandemic more difficult. Stalls at the market were essentially operating as ghost kitchens and competing for sales. Trinh says the lack of dine-in service and recent threats by customers and food delivery drivers unwilling to wear masks ultimately led to the decision to move up the closure of her bánh mì shop and the Collective food stalls by a year.
“We have to get back out into the world and let the world back into our lives. That’s what I’m doing with my spaces,” Trinh tells Eater of reopening for dine-in service again. “I need customers back into the space. They’re the joy behind why I’m in this business.
The kiosks for Poke Burri (blue) and Lifting Noodles Ramen (red) face each other in the back of Qommunity and share seating (yellow) in the dining room with the weekly pop-ups at the incubator (what is currently We Suki Suki). All told, the dining room seats 50 people between communal tables, three bar tables, and two four-top tables.
As for We Suki Suki, both Eatavision and the pop-up incubator share the kitchen and prep space there. Plans call for a separate chef’s counter, too. Transforming the bánh mì shop into a restaurant incubator affords Trinh the opportunity to seamlessly shift into the next phase of her culinary career, that of teacher and mentor for fledging food business entrepreneurs.
“I’m moving out of day-to-day operations to a perpetual pop-up platform or InQbator where I get to teach and run Eatavision studios,” says Trinh. “Eatavision will play movies every other Saturday, but I’m not the main attraction there, that’s the pop-ups and Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles.”
Expect pop-ups at the incubator to rotate weekly. Featured theme days, like vegan Fridays or farmers market Saturdays, could offer a variety of pop-ups on a given day. One of the first pop-ups slated for the incubator in January is DDDelicious Island Cuisine, which finished up its run at the Collective right after Thanksgiving. Trinh’s not opposed to the idea of her bánh mì and pho shop popping up on occasion.
Trinh sees this new project and the transformation of We Suki Suki and Global Grub Collective as bringing her culinary career full circle. After quitting her job traveling for Tiger Beer over a decade ago to be home with her children, she sold most of what she owned and started the bánh mì business with $99, two Foreman grills, a coffee maker, and a toaster oven.
We Suki Suki opened in 2012, selling bánh mì, then pho based on her mother’s recipe from the tiny counter-service shop on Flat Shoals Avenue. Trinh expanded three years later to open the Global Grub Collective, giving many immigrants like herself a chance to create and run their own businesses. Trinh considered vendors at the Collective partners, only asking each to become an LLC with liability insurance to operate at the food stall market. Monthly rates for stalls averaged $80 per square foot and included utilities, permitting, and licenses.
Most of the restaurant stalls at the Collective eventually outgrew the East Atlanta Village space and expanded to other locations throughout Atlanta. Mushi Ni now serves its popular baos and Tokyo fries from S.O.S Tiki Bar in Decatur and Little Trouble at Westside Provisions District. Chan and Yu franchised Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen. Other vendors do pop-ups at restaurants around town.
“I look at all of my businesses and the businesses at the Collective as my children. I’ve taught them what I know and given them opportunities to grow. They’re ready to go on to what’s next,” Trinh says. “Now I get to focus full time on teaching and dreaming up new ideas and invest in myself again.”