Woon: A Family Built Pop-Up Turned Restaurant

Keegan Fong built and designed a restaurant that reflects his family and his heritage.
Woon: A Family Built Pop-Up Turned Restaurant
Dining area with plants, cool lighting, warm wood tables, benches with cushions

Woon: A Family Built Pop-Up Turned Restaurant

06 11 21

A conversation with Woon founder, Keegan Fong.

Can you tell me how Woon came about?

Woon was a passion project / pop up concept that started in 2014 born out of a desire to share my mom’s (Mama Fong’s) food. I’d come home from my day job and just feel like I needed to work on my own thing, so I decided to build a business plan for a theoretical noodle shop.

One day, my cousin presented us with an opportunity to be a food vendor at Parachute Market - a Los Angeles-based craft fair which was being hosted at my Uncle’s antique showroom, JF Chen Antiques. I rallied my family together, and we built a pop up business - from logo conception, apron design, menu, food cart build – within 30 days.

It was pretty unbelievable now that I think about it. We sold out of food both days of the event and from then on we just became a noodle cart pop up, jumping around different bars/venues in Los Angeles. Our main spot was an alleyway behind our friends’ studio in Koreatown called Pico Studio. It was pretty much always a BYOB party with our friends DJing and us providing the food.

In 2018, I decided to quit my job, raise some money and find a location to make Woon a permanent restaurant concept which opened its doors in March of 2019.

Retro style Floyd outdoor dining table, bench and chairs


While we were at the space you pointed out a lot of furniture pieces that were gifted to you by family members—can you tell us how your family has been involved in the restaurant and design of the space?

My family and friends built this entire place….literally and figuratively. I had taught my brother-in-law, Philipp, how to use a wok during the pop up days, so he was literally cooking all the noodles along with my mom and I every single pop up. When I first opened, he managed the kitchen for a few months so I could focus on running the business.

My sister, Andrea, and cousin, Bianca, helped me with all the merchandising and front of house training when we first opened. My mom trained the entire kitchen on her recipes after her radiation appointments because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer the week after I signed the lease on this place.

In terms of the design of the space…the Chinese cabinets, framed photos, and some various vases are “borrowed” from my mom’s house. I still need to replace those for her :). My uncle is in antiques so he has contributed some unique pieces that he will rotate out sometimes.

In the bathrooms are some Mao propaganda posters which are originals. The main wall in the dining room currently has two original scroll paintings of a royal family. The furniture was designed and built by myself and my roommate at the time, Peter Wilday.

All the furniture is really a reflection of my personal taste mixed with a bit of Taiwanese inspiration from a trip I took there before opening Woon. My good friend, Ty Williams, is essentially our Art Director now…he hand painted a lot of the signage and canvas pieces on the walls which helps balance the traditional feel with the contemporary loose and colorful feel of Ty’s work.

Keegan Wong at his restaurant
Old family photos on white walls


You mentioned how important Fung Shui is to your mother, and how it has made its way into every corner of Woon. Would you give us a little context into the process?

My mom is a Feng Shui die hard….before I opened I had to hire a Feng Shui master to read the room. Each section of the space has it’s own representation and certain things need to be placed in those areas in order to counter balance or enhance that representation. So when you look around woon and see the random trinkets and ’turtle dragons’ in the corners…they actually have a function.

For instance, there is a shelf high up in the dining room with some brass horses on it. The horses represent “movement” to help encourage more movement in the dining room and to turn more tables which in turn means more $$$.

There are also some hidden things around the kitchen…like a jar of salt water to help absorb the bad energy in specific corners. I can go on and on about all this but I’ll save it for another time haha.

What was the main design inspiration for the restaurant?

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but it all happened very organically. Generally speaking, it’s a direct reflection of my personal taste in style blended with more traditional aspects of my mom’s and my uncle’s.

It’s sort of an intersection of my Asian American upbringing…blending the new with the old. Also, I had just come back from a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan and I was really inspired by the dichotomy of new and old. Additionally, everything just felt so comfortable, especially in Taiwan.

You walk into a cafe and you immediately feel like you’re a guest in your family friends’ home. That’s exactly how I wanted Woon to feel like.

I’ve always had so much gratitude and appreciation of the Chinese and Asian communities in the cities I spend time in. Chinatown is always where it’s all happening—the confluence of tradition and a real openness to new ideas. It’s evident that the community plays a big role with your project as well and it feels awesome that you’re bringing it to a new corner of LA. How has the community informed what you’re doing at Woon and how you use the space?

I am very fortunate to have ended up in Historic Filipinotown. When looking for a space I knew I wanted to find a spot that felt like it was in a “neighborhood”….and a corner location really helps bring that feeling together. Temple is a busy street, but our cross street, Reno, is a quant little street with families and buildings that have been in this neighborhood forever.

Everyone is very supportive of our business and always look out for us. I’m on a first name basis with all of our filipino and Latinx neighbors. Actually, 4 of our staff have worked here since the beginning and they live across the street. My landlord is an immigrant from Thailand and her and I share food and stories with each other on a daily basis. She’s a gem.

With that said, community is obviously a very important part of Woon. Not only our immediate neighborhood, but the broader community of Asian Americans as well.

I feel like I’ve acquired this responsibility to help tell our Asian American story which will hopefully bring new perspectives to anyone who isn’t familiar with it. As long as we can continue to support this broader community and keep telling my mom’s story, then it’s up to everyone else to take that information how they please. Best case scenario, it helps them gain a new perspective.

Menu painted on the walls next to table and chair
small wooden chair with cushion
Wood side table with pieces for Feng Shui balance


When you think about restaurant interiors that really inspire you, what comes to mind?

It’s quite broad, but I think the most important thing is that it has to be comfortable. It can be the hippest of the hip and on trend, but if I sit down and it doesn’t feel inviting or home-y…then nothing else matters.

My favorite restaurants are ones that feel like you’re inside someone’s home. We tried to keep that balance here at Woon by bringing in my mom’s furniture and the family photos. I pretty much replicated the same wood and furniture that was built in my house by my buddy Peter.

We decided to provide round cushions for everyone so that their bums wouldn’t burn and they could sit more comfortably. I think small details like that go a long way. Obviously having great lighting, plants, family photos and my mom’s Feng shui stuff help really round out the overall feel.

Now that we’re almost on the other side of this thing [covid] what are you looking forward to the most at Woon?

There’s so much to look forward to. I think I’m most excited to actually host people again. Before COVID we had such a great atmosphere in here…we had families with kids, grandparents, young LA rats, foodies all just sharing food family style over a bottle of natural wine and African Psych music blasting in the dining room. It was just always so fun and inclusive which is how my mom hosted myself and my friends. She’d let us put on our music and set the ambiance, and she just did her thing with the food.

I’m also looking forward to sharing Woon outside of these 4 walls. We’ve built such a great retail program with our packaged goods. I hope to grow that to more stores nationwide so that we can bring a slice of Woon into everyone’s homes. Additionally, I think it’d be fitting to expand to a second location, whether that’s in a different county altogether or another in LA.


For more about Keegan Fong and Woon, please check out:

Woon Kitchen

Mama Fong 

Featured Products.
This widget makes post narrow
This will be hidden in site