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Hell’s Kitchen’s rich culinary landscape has gained a hotly-anticipated new Indonesian spot as Warkop NYC brings the best of the country’s coffee and comfort food to homesick expats and visitors alike.
Warkop NYC soft-launched on March 3 at W52nd Street, sandwiched between Lucky’s Burger and the original Totto Ramen (now called Toribro Ramen) just east of 9th Avenue. It specializes in the popular instant noodle dish known as Indomie, available with customizable noodle flavorings and toppings. In addition to its signature dish, the restaurant offers sides and snacks like corn fritters, fried tempeh, and grilled banana spring rolls as well as coffees, sodas and teas in popular Indonesian flavor combinations.
W42ST spoke with co-owner Omar Joenoes about the decision to settle in Midtown West. “We wanted to open in the melting pot of New York,” said Omar, who befriended the owners at neighboring Toribro Ramen and observed the flow of foot traffic before choosing to move in next door. “Asian food in New York is everywhere. We want to establish ourselves here to get more exposure from local New Yorkers, and introduce our Indonesian culture to NYC.”
Omar and co-owner Tegus Chandra hope to replicate the charm and convenience of a traditional Indonesian café. “In Indonesia, warkop means coffee shop. We serve all kinds of coffee, as well as noodles because in Indonesia, warkop also means ‘every day for everyone’,” explained Omar, adding that warkop style restaurants are somewhat of a combination between coffee shop, ramen bar, and convenience store. Showing off the Indonesian packaged goods imported and stacked on shelves, he said: “We’ll try to combine retail with our menu, the way you’ll see a cross between the two at a 7-11 in Tokyo.”
Warkop fills a gap in nearby Indonesian cuisine after the only other neighborhood spot (the much-loved Bali Nusa on 9th Avenue and W45th Street) closed several years ago. Omar said that while there are many Indonesian restaurants in Queens, the cuisine is notably rarer in Manhattan. “In Elmhurst in Queens, there are almost 10,000 people of Indonesian descent. So there’s many Indonesian markets and restaurants, but here in Manhattan there are not many — only Wayan, which is a high-end place downtown.”
One Hell’s Kitchen resident happy to have a closer option is fashion designer Jasmine Chong. “I’ve been in New York for 10 years, and in Hell’s Kitchen for eight or nine of those years,” said Jasmine, a Malaysian-Indonesian designer and Parsons grad known for appearing on Making the Cut with Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and Naomi Campbell.
Jasmine hasn’t been able to visit Indonesia since December 2018 due to the pandemic.
“I’m really homesick, so it’s nice to have something that reminds me of home nearby,” she said.
Omar agrees, noting that while Indonesians living in the city can certainly make their own Indomie “It’s in our genes,” it’s nice to have the option of going out to get your favorite comfort foods. Jasmine loves the restaurant’s soda gembira, which is “like an egg cream. I love egg creams and my mom, who is Indonesian, loves egg creams, and I think it’s because it tastes like a childhood drink.”
Warkop’s dishes also feature proprietary Indonesian ingredients that can be hard to find, even among NYC’s many international markets. Said Jasmine, “They have the sweet soy sauce, the ABC brand, which is usually hard to get in the supermarket.”
Despite opening during a challenging period for many NYC restaurants, he remains optimistic about Warkop’s prospects. “It’s the right time. Everybody’s restarting now. Everybody has the same target — to get from zero again.”
If Warkop’s online presence is any indication, they are off to a great start. Their Instagram account already has over 14,000 followers, which Omar notes are organically acquired fans, media outlets, and brands from Indonesia who are rooting for the outpost to succeed. The restaurant is also filled with Post-It note well-wishes from their first customers who, according to Omar, regularly exclaim: “Ah, finally an Indonesian place in Manhattan! And not far away from our offices!”
Jasmine agrees: “I think there’s something to be said about bringing Indonesian comfort food to Hell’s Kitchen, and also bringing that comfort to local Indonesians here who can make their own, but would rather have an Indonesian person cooking for them.”