PHOTO: Chris Kittavong, an associate at T-OP Cold Grill Ice Cream & Tea in Franklin, shows off the finished rolled ice cream product inside the restaurant on Monday, July 30, 2018. / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
After receiving a building permit almost exactly a year ago, the first Asian eatery in recent memory has opened just off Main Street in downtown Franklin.
T-OP Cold Grill Ice Cream & Tea, located at 111 5th Ave. North, celebrated their grand opening last week.
Customers are primarily drawn in by the rolled ice cream; a base is poured onto a freezing grill, as fresh fruit or cookies are chopped up and mixed in.
— Franklin Home Page (@franklinhomepg) July 30, 2018
“People want to watch their food or their ice cream being rolled,” general manager Qinchen Chen explained. “So we tried to bring something new to Tennessee.”
The restaurant also serves customizable poke bowls, which customers can watch being made on the hibachi grill.
The word poke, associate Chris Kittavong explained, means “to cut or slice,” in Hawaii, where the traditionally raw seafood bowls originated.
Bubble tea, another trend on the coasts, is a Taiwanese tea-based drink that’s lightly sweetened with chewy tapioca balls. They also serve non-dairy, vegan-friendly options.
Walls inside the shop are painted sunshine yellow, with ample seating in booths and at tables.
Chen said a Parks Realty agent helped them find their first location in Murfreesboro, then their new Franklin spot.
T-OP’s location in Murfreesboro blew up quickly with little advertising, Chen said. “It’s like, ‘boom.’”
The two locations are owned by Sheng Chen, a New York businessman who owns hibachi and sushi restaurants in Tennessee. Chen said Sheng Chen plans to expand the franchise further in the Nashville area.
Chen, originally from Brooklyn, said she loves the Franklin location, where she now lives.
“We like, this, the view,” she said, gesturing out the window to the cars driving down Fifth Avenue.
Where: 111 5th Ave. North, Franklin
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.