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Downtown SF museum thinks inside the box with new affordable Asian eatery

Organic curry, chicken curry and spring rolls are among the offerings at Asian Box, the new flagship eatery at the Asian Art Museum. | Courtesy Asian Art Museum

Maybe Downtown San Francisco isn’t so dead after all. The Asian Art Museum welcomes its new flagship eatery, Asian Box, on March 31. Helmed by chef Grace Nguyễn, the fast-casual cafe will serve “farm-to-box” interpretations of traditional Asian recipes. 

Formerly the chef de cuisine at the hugely influential modern Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door, Nguyễn told The Standard that she derives many of her recipes from her elders.

“My favorite dish is The Miss Jones because it’s the closest representation to the grilled pork and noodle dishes that my grandmother used to make,” Nguyễn said. “I have memories of my grandmother sending my mom outside to grill pork on a small coal fire hibachi while I was prepping the eggrolls for the dish.”

Chef Grace Nguyễn prepares an entrée at one of Asian Box's locations. | Courtesy Asian Art Museum

The museum’s announcement comes several months after the institution’s former cafe, Sunday at the Museum, permanently shuttered in July 2022. Chef Deuki Hong told SFGATE that his team, the Sunday Family Hospitality Group, decided not to renew its contract with the museum so it could devote more time to other projects.

Sunday Bakeshop in North Oakland is the only brick-and-mortar business within Hong’s hospitality group that’s currently open in the Bay Area. According to the company’s Instagram, Sunday Social, a bakery inside the American Industrial Center in Dogpatch, has plans to reopen this month.

Asian Box is a local chain with locations in the Marina, Burlingame, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell, San Carlos, San Jose and at SFO.

As the restaurant’s name suggests, diners will choose from a selection of locally sourced meal boxes, which offer a range of protein options, including tofu, salmon and shrimp. Typical to many Asian culinary traditions, all boxes come gluten-free. Asian Box will be open for business during the museum’s working hours—10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Asian Box