Gu’s Bistro on Buford Highway closed last Friday faster than you could say “hot pot.” The move was sudden for Atlanta’s Sichuan darling—announced via email and on Facebook—and the reaction, not surprisingly, was one of tongue-numbing shock. Yesterday, I met with Yvonne Gu Khan and her husband, Zahed, in front of their new stall at Krog Street Market to ask why we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Zhong-style dumplings and tea-smoked duck. The two stressed that the closing wasn’t a reaction to an emergency and that they’ve been thinking about moving to a new location for a while.
“We knew we would move, but we didn’t know when,” says Yvonne. “But the lease ends this month, so we have to clean up the space and move out.”
Zahed adds that the swift shutdown was something Chef Gu, Yvonne’s father, wanted. “He’s closed many restaurants before and didn’t want to suddenly be twice as busy but with half the staff as many go off to find new jobs.”
The two cited excessive wait times for a table (one to two hours) and a slammed kitchen not designed for heavy volume as reasons for moving. Despite closing for lunch during the week in January, the restaurant has broken sales records every month since October. “It was hard to sustain good quality and service in that small space,” Zahed says. “A lot of people were trying Gu’s for the first time, and we didn’t want them to have a bad experience and not come back.”
Yvonne says they’re still looking for a new location, which will be bigger and most likely in town (Decatur, perhaps). Moving out of a forlorn strip mall on Buford Highway is important to them. They hope to change the perception that all Chinese food is cheap food found in hole-in-the-walls where decor and service are subpar.
When will the new Gu’s open? Depending on lease negotiations and build outs, as early as the end of summer and as late as the end of the year. Yvonne thinks the menu at the new location will be smaller. “It’s too big, and my dad was cooking everything. It was too much for him,” she says. Zahed adds, “It’s easier to teach someone 30 to 50 items rather than 150 items. Inventory was a nightmare.”
In the meantime, the Gu family will focus on their stall at Krog Street Market. Assuming they pass their two inspections today and a final inspection by the health department, they’ll open within a week. My guess is end of March. Chef Gu will help open and initially run the kitchen. “People were saying we closed Gu’s Bistro because we were opening at Krog Street Market. That’s not the case. My parents actually never planned on cooking here,” says Yvonne.