Eat Like an Insider: Jimmy Shen of Yakitori Boy

If you’re a fan of Chinatown’s Yakitori Boy, chances are you already know Jimmy Shen, its vivacious owner and founder. Originally from Guangzhou, China, Shen has been living in Philly for the past 28 years and worked his way up from kitchen helper to successful entrepreneur.

“Because of the language barrier in America, it was hard to find a job,” he says. “So I took a job at a Japanese fast food restaurant. Wanting to provide for my family is what got me into the food industry.”

The 52-year-old gives us the lowdown on where to eat ramen alone (and not be judged), the best beef brisket noodle soup in town and where we can nosh on bacon quail egg skewers.

Best hidden foodie gem?
Bok Bar (1901 S. Ninth St.). Possibly because it is still relatively new, but this rooftop bar is certainly a gem waiting to be discovered. It’s a low key place where you can grab a beer, a banh mi (or any other Asian fusion snacks) and sit back to enjoy the beautiful skyline of the Philadelphia.

Best meal under $10?
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House (1022 Race St.). You really can’t leave out Chinatown when you’re talking about cheap eats. Nobody says you need to pay a fortune to have a tasty meal. Nan Zhou’s beef brisket noodle soup is hearty and delicious. I personally like to put in extra pickled cabbage to add that extra crunch and flavor to the soup.

Best late night meal?
Yakitori Boy (211 N. 11th St.). Other than the fact that I work there, I like to have options for my late night cravings. At Yakitori Boy, I can sit with my friends and order anything from a big sushi platter to a light bite, like our yakitori skewers. If you’re into something light, but fun and delicious, I would suggest our bacon quail egg skewer.

Best place to dine alone?
The ramen bar at Terakawa (204 N. Ninth St.). Traditionally in Japan, ramen is a quick meal down the street. It’s where locals go, order their favorite ramen, enjoy the meal by themselves and leave. No one will bother you and no one will judge you because you’re alone. Terakawa’s ramen bar does just that. My go-to ramen would be their Signature Terakawa Ramen. When their broth takes almost two days to make, it’s really hard to describe its deliciousness in a few words.

Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Revolution House (200 Market St.). After eating a great pie like the classic margherita pizza on their rooftop — open all year long by the way — you can take your out-of-town friends around to enjoy the fun yet historical Old City area.

Go-to date spot hands down?
Brick and Mortar (315 N. 12th St.). With its ever-changing food and drink menu, Brick and Mortar never gets old. Every day feels like a new adventure. It’s cozy and intimate. Everything on the menu is a good pick.

Best place to catch up with friends?
Bud & Marilyn’s (1234 Locust St.). Great drinks, great food, great atmosphere. Start off the night with their pu pu platter — a combination of appetizers that includes tamarind-peanut ribs and skirt steak teriyaki skewers. It really makes it easy to share and try different things amongst friends.

For more information on Yakitori Boy, visit:

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