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Taiwanese bubble tea chain Gong Cha along with acai bowl chain Playa Bowls have recently opened locations in University City.

Credit: Mollie Benn

Acai bowl chain Playa Bowls and Taiwanese bubble tea chain Gong Cha opened new locations in University City, as acai bowl chain SoBol closes its doors. 

Playa Bowls celebrated its grand opening at 4043 Walnut St. on June 17, and Gong Cha — located under The Radian apartment and retail complex at 3925 Walnut St. — held its soft opening June 13. SoBol, located at 3736 Spruce St., suddenly announced its closure on June 19 via a sign on its door. 

Playa Bowls’ new location is its fourth in Philadelphia. It replaces Wishbone Chicken, which closed in February after 10 years of operation. Originally founded in New Jersey in 2014, the chain now operates more than 170 stores nationwide. 

With the soft opening, Gong Cha’s new location will also be its fourth in Philadelphia. The international chain was founded in 2006 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and operates 1,800 stores across 20 countries. 

“I think Gong Cha’s recent opening has made my food experience in University City so much better — I have a sweet tooth and really like desserts and boba places,” rising Nursing sophomore Hazel He said. “Gong Cha has always been my favorite boba shop.” 

SoBol opened its University City location in 2018. Its convenient location near the Quad made it a popular dining destination for Penn students. The chain’s other Philadelphia store near Rittenhouse Square remains open for business. 

“It’s been a wonderful 5 years. Thank you for your business,” the sign read. 

The two new restaurants join others that opened around Penn’s campus within the past year — including Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea and Delco Steaks at Franklin’s Table Food Hall and a long-awaited Five Guys.

Sobol’s sudden shuttering is among multiple food offerings that have recently announced closures. United By Blue, City Tap House, Wishbone Chicken, and McDonald’s all announced closures, with McDonald’s reopening in fall 2024 as part of a building that will also house Penn administrative offices. The owners of Magic Carpet food truck also stated they will retire at the end of June with plans to sell the business.