At first, General Tso’Boy’s concept of combining two popular fast food staples – Americanized Chinese and New Orleans-style po’boy sandwiches – seemed far-fetched, off-the-wall and strange to me. Battered sweet and savory chicken on top of a French roll?
But married owners Jessica and Gary Wu – first-generation Chinese-Americans who grew up eating both traditional Chinese cuisine and the Americanized version – may be on to something here. Somehow the concept works, both from a taste perspective and by offering the convenience of fast, on-the-go meals that Americans have become accustomed to.
The couple opened their first brick-and-mortar location to the public in Austin on June 21, but they are no strangers to the hospitality and foodservice industries. Jessica studied hospitality management at Cornell University and also worked in the industry, while Gary’s family ran an American-Chinese restaurant in upstate New York. The duo devised the concept in New York City in 2014, where it first appeared as a flea market pop-up.
So why choose Austin – and specifically The Domain Northside’s Rock Rose district development – for the restaurant’s first established, physical presence?
“Austin is a fun city with an upcoming food scene, and the people here are energetic, curious and open to new ideas,” said Jessica. “Our restaurant is fast casual, so we were looking for a ‘second downtown’ that offered organic foot traffic at lunchtime. Our commercial broker suggested Rock Rose, and we fell in love with it.”
The owners are hoping that the Domain’s residents, shoppers, hotel guests and office workers will, too. General Tso’Boy offers sandwiches filled with battered chicken thigh with sweet and savory sauce; shredded black pepper Angus beef served with pepper sauce; shredded pork with Chinese-style barbecue sauce; honey battered wild caught Texas Gulf shrimp with candied walnuts; and battered tofu steak with spicy chili sauce and Szechuan peppercorns. For those watching their carb intake, each sandwich can also be served as a salad.
Sides include plain or spicy Szechuan crinkle cut fries, wok-seared seasonal vegetables with garlic, Chinese salad and cheeseburger spring rolls. Natural Maine Root Sodas and draft/bottled beers are the drink choices, and those looking for a sweet ending can order soft serve ice cream (flavors rotate weekly). Socially and health-conscious consumers will be pleased that beef and pork are antibiotic free, chicken is all natural, shrimp is caught wild from the Texas Gulf, and the restaurant uses local, sustainably sourced ingredients when possible.
At the VIP party held just before the public grand opening, my personal faves were the General Tso’s chicken sandwich and the honey walnut shrimp sandwich. I was less excited about the black pepper beef sandwich and the spicy Szechuan crinkle cut fries, which made my mouth feel tingly (and not in a good way).
General Tso’Boy joins a host of businesses in Rock Rose, many of them Austin-based, that opened earlier this year. Outside the restaurant, it was hard for me to distinguish the hip, lively environment from Rainey Street or downtown’s Sixth Street. Across the street from General Tso’Boy, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits created a sultry mood at Jack and Ginger’s Irish Pub while cool mist sprayers kept diners comfortable on its outdoor patio. All along Rock Rose street, a temporary outdoor art exhibit contributed to the modern, funky vibe.
General Tso’Boy is located at 11501 Rock Rose, Suite 152, in the Rock Rose District of The Domain in Austin, Texas.