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LA Restaurant Yellow Fever Ignites National Conversation About Appropriation

The restaurant opened its third location inside a Long Beach Whole Foods last week

Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Long Beach
Yellow Fever [official]
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Los Angeles-area fast casual bowl restaurant Yellow Fever opened in Long Beach’s Whole Foods 365 last week, but it was a tweet from the grocery chain that thrust the eatery into some unwanted national attention. A slew of online furor was heaped on Whole Foods and Yellow Fever directly, owing to the cringe-worthy name of the restaurant.

Although Yellow Fever has been serving bowls in greater Los Angeles since 2014, the backlash only began late last week when chef and co-founder Kelly Kim and husband Michael opened the Long Beach location as a partnership with Whole Foods. Many consider the name Yellow Fever disrespectful because of the term’s racist association with the fetishization of Asian women (usually at the hands of white men) and its historic negative connotation as an infectious tropical disease carried by mosquitoes.

Many people came out against the restaurant, keeping the discussion going by using the hashtag #YellowFeverEats:

Some even took direct issue with the name’s scientific definition, and how that shouldn’t be associated with a restaurant:

Many Asians also took direct aim at Kelly Kim, and their belief that being Korean-American does not provide a pass to re-integrate racist language into the national discourse:

Owner Kelly Kim has been defending her position from the beginning of Yellow Fever. In previous interviews Kim has said that she liked the name and wanted to re-appropriate the word into something new, pointing to her own heritage as a Korean-born American woman who grew up in Texas without much Asian cultural influence in her life. Others, like Food & Wine writer Andy Wang, agree:

Meanwhile, everyone from the New York Times to The Independent have been asking Whole Foods for comment, but so far they have not responded.

Yellow Fever
3881 N. Lakewood Boulevard, Suite B
Long Beach, CA

Yellow Fever

2560 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291 (310) 301-7810