For diners in Malden, and, for some, the Greater Boston area, District Kitchen is shorthand for top-tier Chinese food. The restaurant is particularly known for its seafood and dumplings (and is the only place in town that serves those giant soup dumplings that you eat with a straw). But now, owner Stacey Zhang says she will open a new restaurant: Bam Bam Chicken will open its doors in October and, yes, in a former Dunkin’ location.
The entrepreneur says this mayor-approved restaurant won’t be a typical fried chicken place. She wants vibrancy, lots of color, and high energy — something to represent herself. “Not a KFC, nothing in the market right now,” Zhang says. Fried chicken is on the menu, of course, but she hopes to bring options like chicken salad sandwiches and frozen yogurt-based smoothies to the menu, too. Diners can also expect sandwiches like a barbecue pulled pork sandwich and crispy pork sandwich in addition to a more classic crispy chicken sandwich. She’s excited about zany options like corn dogs with mozzarella cheese and “crazy” french fries topped with popcorn chicken and all kinds of wild things. Fried oreos, an item Zhang says is usually only available at fairs is getting a proper treatment, too. Guests can dine-in, but grab-and-go options should be a draw, too.
Despite an impressive menu, Zhang says she doesn’t want to do anything too hard to prepare, reflecting on a service industry impacted by staffing issues, inflation, and supply chain problems since the onset of the pandemic. She fears full-service dumpling houses and Chinese restaurants with labor-intensive menus will have a hard time surviving the next few years (not that District Kitchen is going anywhere) and she feels her simpler business has healthier odds of lasting. “To be honest, I didn’t even want people to know it was my second restaurant,” Zhang says. “It’s a very different concept. It’s not Chinese-style — it’s American-style.” She will make barbecue sauce and pineapple sauce in-house, a bit like she did at District Kitchen, but on the whole it is a much simpler restaurant, meant for a wider range of people.
Getting the restaurant ready has been a smooth process so far. “City hall has been a huge help,” Zhang says. On August 10 she dropped off stamped drawings for the health department, one of the last processes to get the building permit before construction on the former Dunkin’. “I won’t change the layout, but I have some crazy ideas.” Like the first restaurant, many will access the small city north of Boston via public transportation (except when the Orange Line catches fire and shuts down for an entire month), so it’s not too far away. Zhang is excited about the challenge. “I don’t want to stop. I want to show the people who work for me that there is always much more than what we already have — passion, to move forward,” Zhang says. “I want to put that spirit into the restaurant.”