Whenever Tara Morrow went out looking for spices, sauces and other ingredients to toss into her Asian dishes, she often left the grocery store disappointed.
“Being Asian myself, every time I try to go find ingredients and stuff, it’s always been a big hassle,” she said.
And whatever Morrow found was usually in a small specialty section that left a lot to be desired.
Noticing something was missing from the local market, Morrow and her husband, Hunter, who together own and operate Cafe Lola, decided to open a second restaurant that would cater to the growing Asian population of Johnson City, coupled with a small market that had everything from Pocky to wasabi peas.
Since opening Jade’s Market nearly a year ago, the Morrows are never far from finding the perfect ingredients for all dishes served up at both restaurants.
And if you’re looking to a make an Asian-inspired dish and can’t find the right kind of ingredients, chances are you can find whatever you’re looking for on the shelves of the restaurant’s market, which is styled like a big kitchen pantry.
“A lot of times people will come here and they’ll eat something and say, ‘I wish I knew how to make that.’ Well, they can with what we have in the grocery,” Morrow said.
The couple moved to the area about six years ago from New York with hopes of opening a restaurant. Shortly after arriving in Johnson City, Cafe Lola opened its doors in the Roan Centre shopping area off North Roan Street.
“We had always wanted to name our daughter Lola, but we didn’t have one then, so we named the restaurant Lola instead,” Morrow said.
Morrow got pregnant last year and gave birth to twin girls — Lola and Jade, the namesake behind Jade’s Market.
Since Cafe Lola specializes in bistro fare with a Southern spin, the Morrows wanted Jade’s Market to feature healthy Asian cuisine that can’t be found at a buffet-style restaurant.
The restaurant’s Thai-themed menu serves up popular dishes like drunken noodles and pineapple fried rice, in addition to offering a variety of gluten-free and vegan-friendly items.
The Morrows also didn’t want to do the same thing twice, so they opted for a quick-casual restaurant that serves quality Asian food cafeteria-style. Items not already prepared can be ordered off the menu, and there’s never a long wait time for a specific dish to be cooked up, making it a perfect place for those wanting to grab a quick lunch or dinner.
The good thing about running two restaurants in the same city is the Morrows already knew what kind of market they were entering into when they opened Jade’s, even if they were hoping to cater to a different demographic.
Since moving into the area, Morrow said she’s seen an increase in the area’s diversity, which fueled the couple’s desire to open a second restaurant.
“It is a Southern town but at the same time it has all these other people that have moved here from all these other towns that have come here for either school or work, so it’s become diverse enough where I think it can support something like this,” she said.
Johnson City’s dining market is just as diverse as its population, which can only mean good things for the future of the restaurant.
“I remember when we first moved here, the Indian restaurant had just opened. Now you drive around and you see a Mediterranean grill,” Morrow said. “I wouldn’t have thought six years ago that would’ve made it, but it shows how the market is more diverse and how it’s evolving into an eclectic mix of people.”
Jade’s Market is located at 600 N. State of Franklin Road and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, visit JadesMarket.com.