2 restaurants find early success launching during pandemic

During a pandemic might not seem like the best time to open a restaurant. Thousands of restaurants have had to close over the past several months. But in September, two new spots opened just minutes from each other in Fort Lee. They're hoping to make it through the pandemic and beyond.

"Marty and I always wanted to open a burger spot but we didn't have the funds or means to do it," Marty's Burgers co-owner Ryan Speier said.

So when the ramen restaurant that used to be on Center Avenue in Fort Lee moved locations, friends and locals Speier and Marty James jumped at the chance to open up their dream burger spot.

"We spoke with the landlord, he gave us a great deal, considering the circumstances."

"Honestly, for some people it was terrible," Speier said. "But for us, it worked out quite well."

Their burger joint is serving up American comfort food at a time when diners could really use some comfort. The place has been busy, especially with takeout and delivery orders, since opening last month.

"It's really the type of food, we're not doing anything that special, I mean we are, but fine dining restaurants that do a lot of dine-in and have very expensive food are not doing well," Speier said. "We were able to take advantage of the situation and do this."

All of the food at Marty's is made by hand with fresh ingredients. take, for example, the signature fries.

"We peel every single potato and slam it down on our potato press," Speier said. "We blanch them and fry them at the perfect temperature in 100% peanut oil." 

"The fries are my favorite here. A lot of places just use frozen fries," James said. "Ours you can taste a difference. I'm proud to serve quality and fresh food."

The place is becoming well-known in the neighborhood, especially for burgers. The menu features several kinds, including a classic cheeseburger and what's called a jalapeño burger, which is made with pureed pickled spicy peppers, a house sauce, pickles, a 5.5-ounce premium beef patty, pepper jack cheese, bacon, and a big handful of very thinly sliced jalapeños.

"For our clients in this town, there's a lot of Korean people, they love spicy," Speier said. "So that one is really popular."

Just across town, diners are buzzing about another new opening: Kura Sushi's first East Coast location.

"We call it the 'Kura Experience'—there's nothing like it here," assistant manager Karissa Gonzalez said. "It's fun, it's fast, it's efficient, our system that we call Mr. Fresh keeps our food safe, presentable fresh always and it's a great experience."

It is a sushi spot where fresh options come around on a conveyor belt. If it looks good, you can grab it and eat it.

"I think the most phenomenal part about it is the sushi highway, the express belt. It has the food come out straight from the kitchen. The food is fresh, hot, served right to your table."  "Our real crab California roll is nothing like you'll ever taste at any sushi place you'll go to because it's real crabmeat.

There are also made-to-order options: udon soups, noodle dishes, and rice dishes. You order those straight from a tablet at your table.

"We make our broth every morning fresh for our udon and our ramen every morning fresh," Gonzalez said. 

Customers have literally been eating up the concept. Gonzalez said sometimes the wait time is very long.

And while both restaurants have seen other places close due to the pandemic, they're hopeful they can survive.

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