By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | March 18, 2021
When John Banquil took over the Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill brand, he wanted to see it evolve.
One step is the Asian fusion offshoot Ling’s Wok Shop, which is slated to open at Hayden Peak Crossing at Thompson Peak Parkway and Hayden Road in the spring, early summer. It will combine the ease and speed of a fast-casual restaurant with a full-service dining establishment.
“Ling & Louie’s is known for creating flavorful dishes using traditional Asian cooking techniques and ingredients in nontraditional ways,” says Banquil, the company’s president and CEO.
“At Ling’s Wok Shop, diners will enjoy our most popular menu items, plus a host of bold new flavors from across Asia.”
Among these will be Ling’s seafood hot pot, which features scallops, salmon and jumbo shrimp simmered in a green curry-coconut broth. The menu also will include clean, light and healthy wok-fired creations accentuated with the restaurant’s 15 signature sauces.
Banquil says operating Ling & Louie’s through the pandemic made him and his team look at their operations. The restaurants were just as busy as they were before the pandemic.
“We had lower operating costs, and we’re more profitable,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why not make this the model going forward?’ That’s where this direction has taken us. We’ve been looking to expand Ling & Louie’s since I took over the brand in the beginning of 2019.”
The restaurant will join Pure Sushi, Tavern Americana, Juan Jaime’s Tacos and Tequila, Nékter Juice Bar and Starbucks at the 145,000-square-foot center. The fully occupied center boasts a mix of local and national tenants and is anchored by a 75,000-square-foot Fry’s Signature Supermarket.
Banquil calls the Grayhawk location “the perfect spot” and says it was time to “pull the trigger on this.”
“The style of service is going to change,” he says. “During lunch, it’s going to be a fast-casual restaurant with counter service. Guests will place their order and we’ll bring it out to you.
“Around happy hour and segueing into dinner, we’ll convert to a full-service space. I keep looking at the demographics of the area, with the businesses popping up and all the construction. We feel a majority of the guests will come in for lunch — get in, get out and get back to work or the kids. We want to make it easy and approachable.”
Rooftops are also plentiful in the area, so Banquil says he feels having a full-service Asian restaurant there is “super beneficial.”
“It’s really lacking in that area,” he says. “We’re going to take a lot of our familiar favorites at Ling & Louie’s, where we have 40 sauces we make in-house with proprietary recipes.
“We’re going to use those familiar flavors but present them in a healthier, cleaner and a bit more modern way than we do at Ling & Louie’s. Guests will say, ‘This is orange chicken, but it feels cleaner, healthier and it tastes fresher. You’re full but you don’t have to take a nap.”
Banquil worked for the original owner for 10 1/2 years before he approached him about taking over the company as a whole. He treated Ling & Louie’s as his “baby,” and the adventure has not only been satisfying but super exciting, he adds.
“Working through the pandemic as a second-year business owner was super stressful,” he says. “It was such an educational experience. It reignited everything and gave us the passion to move forward and know, even though we were in the most adverse condition, we’re a really strong brand. We think we can grow and take this to the next level.”
In late February, Banquil was preparing to submit the construction plans for Ling’s Wok Shop to the city of Scottsdale. His wife, Mariam Malak, is designing the interior.
“She’s helping with the overall look and feel,” he says “We’re getting all that squared away. In doing this, she not only gets more exposure to the restaurant world, which is where we met, but I’m getting exposure to her world.”
Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill
Ling’s Wok Shop
Instagram and Facebook: @lingswokshop