Court Street will be home to a new restaurant named ORYZA Asian Grill at 40 S. Court St. following the completion of construction.
ORYZA Asian Grill is an Asian fusion restaurant that offers make-your-own salad, bowls and wraps with a menu that is primarily gluten free. Price for those items varies depending on protein choice.
The Court Street location will be ORYZA Asian Grill’s fourth location.
The storefront at 40 S. Court St. has been vacant for nearly three years but hosted a Wendy’s chain prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic. When in-person classes resumed at Ohio University in Fall 2021, many students were upset to learn Wendy’s left Court Street, according to a previous Post report.
With ORYZA Asian Grill entering the space, the restaurant will be the third Asian restaurant on Court Street in addition to Ginger Asian Kitchen and Mr Hibachi.
The historic preservation commission involves itself in a potential new business moving into a space on Court Street when providing recommendations on historical and architectural collaboration of new and remodeled buildings in Athens historic district.
Richard Vedder, a member of the historic preservation commission, said the only aspect of ORYZA moving to Athens the members of the historic commission were involved in was handling the architectural and historical dimensions of the place. The commission only had a few minor concerns for the plan the restaurant presented to them, and the restaurant planners were attentive to those matters, Vedder said.
“We would rather see the building occupied than empty, and they seem to be conscious of concerns about not radically changing the appearance of the area or to change the character of Court Street,” Vedder said.
Brian Golde, general manager of ORYZA at West Virginia University and soon to be general manager at the Athens location, said the construction team is going to change the front of the restaurant, similar to how the Chiptole on Court Street is set up.
The space is currently undergoing construction, but the restaurant hopes to come to Athens in the next few months, Golde said. Golde also said things are moving rather fast with construction, and their construction team is on track or ahead of schedule as of now.
“We were told they're going to go full steam ahead, and they hope possibly to have it open before the end of Spring Semester,” Vedder said. “They definitely want to have it open certainly before next fall.”
Alex Sexton, a senior studying wildlife biology, said she is a big fan of Asian cuisine, however, she doesn’t understand why another restaurant similar to Ginger Asian Kitchen is coming to Court Street.
Sexton said she is “cautiously optimistic” about ORYZA Asian Grill coming to Athens. She said restaurants on Court Street are notorious for coming and going, and she said she doesn’t want to see this new restaurant affect Ginger’s business.
Similarly, Vedder also questions whether Court Street can afford to add another Asian restaurant. Vedder said he can think of only a handful of restaurants that have stayed on Court Street for more than five to 10 years, too.
“It's hard to get just a plain ordinary hamburger on Court Street these days,” Vedder said. “You can either get Mexican food and you get various Asian foods and so on, but what about just a plain old hamburger?”
However, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson is in favor of adding another restaurant to Court Street, regardless if it is more Asian cuisine.
“I am always in favor of more commerce on Court Street, especially if it's food and not alcohol because I think we have plenty of that,” Patterson said.
Golde said college towns are ORYZA's brand. Due to its grab-and-go set up, inexpensiveness, healthy options and variety, Golde said ORYZA fits well in the college town atmosphere.
“(Athens) seemed liked a really good high-traffic spot and in a popular college town and we thought it would be a good next location,” Golde said.