Even in the midst of the pandemic, Okaeri Cafe found success through and through thanks to Instagram where their food and aesthetics were highly featured according to a Dallas Morning News article from April 20 which reports,
“Okaeri’s story is one of success in the age of restaurant concepts that are created and grown online. Like many restaurants, the cafe was supposed to open in the spring of 2020, but its owners were forced to change their approach when the pandemic began and the world shut down. Now, two years later, Michelle Pepping and Gene Tran’s concept is riding the social media-driven momentum that grew their pandemic ghost kitchen into a popular brick-and-mortar cafe.
Pepping, who owns and runs Chelle’s Seafood Kitchen, also in Richardson, originally converted part of Chelle’s kitchen to Okaeri’s ghost kitchen. She and Tran began making comfort food inspired by Tran’s time in Japan, dishes like katsu curry and omurice, which became an instant internet hit.
Okaeri acquired a loyal following by promoting limited weekly specials on Instagram, and the concept proved successful, but would the ghost kitchen find just as much success as a full cafe? Pepping and Tran were hopeful but unsure.
When they opened the brick-and-mortar cafe, they were hit with more business than they knew what to do with at first. The small 30-seat cafe was overwhelmed with customers who ardently followed the cafe’s pop-up journey and new faces coming to experience Japanese comfort food.”
Apart from their Instagrammable Omurice, they also brought different Japanese snacks and foods. But it did not stop here as they ventured further into beverages according to a CultureMap Dallas article. They say,
“But they’ve also helped introduce authentic Japanese dishes such as okonomiyaki pancakes, made with shredded cabbage, scallions, and meat or seafood; and omurice, a trendy and comforting fusion dish with a soft omelet draped over a dome of fried rice.
You could name pretty much any cutting-edge Japanese dish that surfaced during the pandemic, and Okaeri has probably made it: from “hotto doggu” — hot dogs covered with meal-size toppings such as noodles or shaved beef — to “onigirazu,” like a cross between sushi and a sandwich, layering rice with fillings such as Spam and egg or chicken katzu, fried chicken in a crunchy panko crust.
The cafe will incorporate not only the Japanese items for which they’ve become known, but also an entire coffee program that fulfills Pepping’s longtime desire to have her own coffee shop.
“As a pop-up, it’s hard to do beverages, and the cafe will give us a place to do coffee as well as high-quality Japanese teas,” Tran says.
At the moment, Okaeri Cafe is maintaining its course as a coffee shop with pastries. Come 11 in the morning however, the highly-wanted lunch menu is available until 2 in the afternoon.