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$20 Dinner

Crave-worthy Katsu at Mama Yoshi Mini Mart in Ridgewood

"I wanted to be someone's favorite chicken sandwich."

10:20 AM EST on March 2, 2023

Giant chicken katsu on a tray.

Spicy katsu sandwich, $14.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Yukiko Muneyasu and Miles Tickler, who both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Ridgewood together in 2016, aren't looking to create some sort of convenience store empire with their amazing and delightful Mama Yoshi Mini Mart. They really just want to make you an awesome chicken sandwich.  

As Muneyasu put it to Hell Gate last week, "I started making fried chicken in New York because in the Bay Area, there were so many bars that I loved to go to just to eat their chicken sandwich, and I wanted to create that for somebody here. I wanted to be somebody's favorite chicken sandwich." 

But after running pop-ups in various Brooklyn bars for five years or so, including a lengthy residency at All Night Skate, the couple grew weary of the night life. "We decided we'd like to open up something more...daytime," Muneyasu told Hell Gate. "We realized the bar life was not working for us. We needed sunlight."

Miles Tickler with another satisfied Mama Yoshi customer. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

So in February 2021, they signed the lease on a corner spot in their own neighborhood, on Grove and Cypress where a dry cleaners used to be; spent months building the place out; and last December, opened Mama Yoshi, a Japanese-style convenience store with of an array of snacks, grab-and-go items, and made-to-order meals. 

And it totally rules.      

Start with the chicken katsu sandwich, a sprawling slab of heavily seasoned fried bird topped with more than enough pickles and several squirts of an orange mayo-y sauce, all completely uncontained by its potato bun. (The spicy version, which is what I ordered, is made with a secret blend of some 13 different spices.)

It's so good. There's a vegan version, too, made with cauliflower. And it comes with a pile of thick-cut Utz Ripples, so you don't really need to get a side of Muneyasu's excellent macaroni salad, or potato salad, or, heck, her hijiki salad, but I do it anyway.         

Macaroni salad, $3.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The other Mama Yoshi star is Muneyasu's Spam grilled cheese, with its funky meat and gobs of oozing American cheese squeezed between slices of milk bread. If you're seeking something that's less obviously in the stoner/hangover food family, there are rice bowls here as well, topped with the likes of flaked salmon and microgreens.

A spam grilled cheese cut in half on a tray.
Spam grilled cheese, $12. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

You might also find three types of onigiri on hand, including a crisp shrimp tempura, with a tail jutting playfully from the top, and a vegan ume, packed with pickled plum. Other grab-and-go choices are in the hot case: a weighty beef don, a coffee cup overflowing with fried chicken. And the selection of snacks, sweets, and sauces is substantial. Tickler promised they'd be stocking a bunch of "deep cuts" from Japan in those departments soon.   

Spicy salmon rice bowl, $18. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

It's a tight menu for sure, but with just enough variety to get you eating here once a week. Seating is limited to some stools at a counter along the front window, and a few tables in the fenced-in sidewalk "terrace." There's a friendly, home-cooked vibe to it all, which makes sense given Muneyasu's lack of formal back-of-house restaurant experience. "I learned to cook from my mom," she said. "I took her recipes and kind of changed them up a bit." 

Mama Yoshi Mini Mart is located at 1711 Grove Street, at the corner of Cypress Avenue, and is currently open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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