All restaurants seem to have a story. In the case of Yunnan By Potomac Noodle House, the idea took shape gradually. The owner Zongmin Li has enjoyed Yunnan food from childhood in Yunnan and had introduced it to her husband and business partner John Bruce many years ago. It was however unavailable in restaurants nearby and like many Yunnanese abroad, Zongmin longed for it. On visits to Yunnan, Zongmin would sometimes disappear at odd hours, but could always be found in a nearby noodle shop, crouched over a streaming bowl of spicy mixian.

Zongmin had “jokingly” talked about opening a Yunnan mixian noodle house for many years, but things only got serious when John and her lived in Beijing between 2013-2016 while she managed Ford Foundation’s research program on natural resources management in western China. Eating out in Beijing, they found that Yunnan eateries were popping up in the capital, which was new and very exciting. Zongmin’s work visits to Yunnan during that time also provided the perfect opportunity to explore Yunnan’s local dishes and flavors. 

Zongmin and John realized there wasn't a restaurant specializing in mixian rice-noodles in the Greater Washington Area, and they knew they must share Yunnan’s uniquely delicious food culture with the DMV. They flew to Kunming, the modern capital of Yunnan, for three weeks of tasting and slipping into restaurant kitchens to learn from local chefs. Soon after returning to Alexandria, Zongmin and John finally started taking the first steps to opening a restaurant in their neighborhood specializing in mixian noodles, small plates, and desserts from Yunnan. In Old Town Alexandria, just across the Potomac River from Washington DC, is a diverse community that dines out often and has cosmopolitan tastes–a perfect situation.

Yunnan By Potomac Noodle House officially opened in February 2019 and have since received much praise from local diners, visiting Chinese guests, and surprisingly, the press. After a wonderful full-page review in the Washington Post by Tim Carman and being awarded Best Cheap Eats 2019 by Northern Virginia Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine, it is clear that the people love our flavor, and we love our guests!

The section above contains a video of Zongmin talking about Yunnan By Potomac and her hopes for its future.

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