It’s Go Big or Go Home for Starry Kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday

Nguyen and Thi Tran, whose restaurant’s future hangs in the balance, end their $500,000 Kickstarter campaign with a big party

I’m not one to use sports analogies in my writing. Phrases like “they’re in four-down territory” soar off my keyboard as gracefully as I can toss a football, which is to say not well. But the end of Starry Kitchen’s much publicized #SaveOurBalls Kickstarter campaign coincides with Super Bowl Sunday, so it’s appropriate to drop some football cliches as we wait to see whether Nguyen and Thi Tran can raise enough money. Will the Trans be able to fund a permanent home for their roving restaurant famous for its pan-Asian cuisine and crispy tofu balls? We’ll know the score soon.

Nguyen and Thi Tran hope Sunday isn't Starry Kitchen's last stand.
Nguyen and Thi Tran hope Sunday isn’t Starry Kitchen’s last stand.

Photograph courtesy Starry Kitchen

Go big or go home!
There’s a lot at stake for the restaurateurs as they scramble toward the $500,000 goal line, the amount they feel is necessary to open the next iteration of Starry Kitchen. As of Wednesday afternoon, their fundraising campaign has garnered more than $100,000, about 20 percent of their goal with just a few days left.

Hail Mary pass
Nguyen Tran is well aware that he is asking for over twice the amount typically aimed for by other restaurant Kickstarters. This is why, on his Kickstarter page, he’s broken down by dollar amount where all the expenditures would go. Further, any entrepreneur attempting to make it in the big leagues knows that unexpected costs and fees happen regularly, particularly in the restaurant industry. Finally, there’s the cost of raising money on Kickstarter (5 percent of the total plus processing fees), and the cost of fulfilling the incentives those who donate receive. “We want to start the restaurant after it’s funded, not have to raise more money,” Nguyen says.

We didn’t come here to disappoint our fans.
You never ask an NFL player what happens if their team loses, and you don’t ask Nguyen Tran what his plan B is. “There is no plan B,” he exclaims emphatically. “That’s the point. We either do it or we move on. And I don’t know what that is because I’m doing all I can to make this happen.”

Starry Kitchen is in four-down territory
The Trans know it. Their fans know it. Their current backers know it. Appropriately enough, this Super Bowl Sunday when the Seahawks go head-to-head with the Patriots, Starry Kitchen will be mano a mano with the Kickstarter clock, which has their campaign ending at exactly 3:05 p.m. So before Super Bowl XLIX’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff, Starry Kitchen will know if they’re kickstarting their next phase.

We’ve had a good run.
When you’ve got your back up against the wall, what else is left to do? Throw a Super Bowl party, naturally. Starry Kitchen will host a fundraiser-ending/Super Bowl/Starry Kitchen fifth anniversary party to celebrate or commiserate at Chinatown’s Far East Plaza from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. There will be free food and drinks, depending on what’s “left from Saturday night’s service.” Guests are encouraged to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, but it’s not required. Full details are at the event’s Facebook page.

Whatever the outcome of Starry Kitchen’s Kickstarter campaign, this writer believes Nguyen and Thi Tran’s food, style, and unique brand of doing business has had a positive influence on L.A.’s food culture that is beyond any dollar amount. And I, for one, hope they stay in the game, even if there is no plan B.

redarrow Starry Kitchen’s End of #SaveOurBalls (Succeed or Fail) Kickstarter + Super Bowl Watching + SK 5 Year Legit Anniversary Party at Far East Plaza, 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown