Some Natomas Marketplace Restaurants Close as Others Await Reopening of Regal Movie Theater

Business has been good at the new Mr. Crab Seafood Grill, according to owner Jason Li. / Courtesy Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Wayside Noodles in Natomas has closed permanently and there’s already a new business lined up to take its place.

Ttobongee Chicken, known for its Korean-style deep-fried whole chicken, is slated to open the middle of May, according to a company spokesperson J.P. Kim. Renovations are under way and the new restaurant has started the hiring process for part- and full-time workers.

Work is under way at for the new Ttobongee Korean fried chicken restaurant. / Photo

The closure of Wayside Noodles after a decade in business marks the third restaurant to shutter in the Natomas Marketplace shopping center since the onset of the pandemic.

But the past year has also seen the opening of a new seafood restaurant and plans for a popular fast-food restaurant to join the retail and dining hub.

The first pandemic casualty was On The Border, which closed when statewide stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, and never reopened. In August 2020, plans were submitted to the city to demolish the Mexican food restaurant to make way for a Raising Cane’s which specializes in chicken fingers.

A traffic analysis of the proposed Raising Cane’s drive-thru looked at traffic patterns in and out of the center, as well as the traffic associated with the adjacent In-N-Out, and included recommendations for some design changes.

“Speed is important to our success,” explained Brandon Layman, a development adviser representing Raising Cane’s during a recent meeting of the North Natomas Community Coalition.

According to city staff, Layman and his team were working to address concerns about pedestrian circulation and the project may be reviewed by the Planning and Design Commission later this month or in early June.

Image of exterior of movie theater. No movies are listed because of the pandemic.

Regal Cinema has been closed for more than a year. / Photo

Last summer plans were submitted to the city to completely renovate Natomas Regal Cinemas, but the strain of COVID-19 led the theater chain to close again only a week after it reopened to moviegoers in early October 2020.

“We got all of our business from the movie theater,” said Jacob Pajunen, manager of Machi Frozen Yogurt. “When the movie theater closed, nothing was coming in.”

YoGo Frozen Yogurt underwent a change in ownership and branding just before the pandemic, Pajunen said. The store, which closed in March 2020, reopened at the end of year, but didn’t get enough business without foot traffic from the movie theater to remain open.

Now that the theater is scheduled to reopen this Friday, May 7, they will “try again,” Pajunen said.

About two months ago, the brand-new Mr. Crab Seafood Grill opened in the Natomas Marketplace and has fared well despite lingering restrictions on indoor dining, according to owner Jason Li.

“The restaurant is doing good,” Li said. “I want to thank the community for all the support in the past month; we have many new things to come.”

Sign posted at Wayside Noodles after the closure until work on the Ttbongee Chicken started. / Photo

Shortly after Mr. Crab opened, the Hooters restaurant closed permanently followed by Wayside Noodles. Wayside Noodles had weathered a year of pandemic restrictions with support of its loyal customers, according to the owners.

“We’re lucky to have been part of the Natomas community, and will miss all of our loving customers,” read a post on Instagram by My Le, who operated the restaurant with her husband, Tuan.

Koshi Ramen Bar, another restaurant in the shopping center, was bolstered this past year as a participant in the Great Plates program. The restaurant is among several in the region which prepares healthy meals for seniors as part of the city’s response to the pandemic.

“Our team is energized to know that we are making a difference to the most vulnerable citizens,” said owner Debbie Cun.

Cun added that she and her team were saddened to hear about the Wayside Noodles closure.

“They added to the variety of dining options for customers at Natomas Marketplace and they will be missed,” Cun said. “On a positive note, we are thrilled with the planned reopening of Regal theaters and we look forward to serving our returning moviegoers.”

Wayside Noodles neighbor Machi Frozen Yogurt did not get enough business to stay open without food traffic from the movie theater, according to a manager. / Photo

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