It all started in the kitchen of David Choi’s grandma. It was there that Choi fell in love with the flavors of Korean barbecue and the communal act of eating together, and got the idea for Seoul Taco. Choi's Korean-Mexican fusion food truck hit the streets in 2011 and one year later became a brick-and-mortar restaurant off the Delmar Loop.
With the success of Seoul Taco, Choi said he felt St. Louis was ready for his take on barbecue. He moved Seoul Taco to a new location in the Loop, and with it opened Seoul Q, a family-style Korean barbecue restaurant, under the same roof.
“Korean barbecue is very communal, very family-style oriented, a lot of shared plates,” Choi told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter. “The reason why I wanted to come up with this concept is just to have a good time … I want it to almost have a partylike feel.”
The design of the restaurant reflects Choi’s wishes, with tables for large parties to sit at, and built-in cast-iron grills in the center of each table for cooking your food as you eat it.
The menu offers a large selection of meats, including seven styles of beef and four styles of pork, and a variety of side dishes and sauces, creating an endless number of flavor combinations with which to experiment.
“Our servers are gonna walk you through the whole process,” Choi said. “They’re gonna explain the dishes and side dishes and what goes with what … And there are really no rules.”
Lovers of traditional American barbecue may not know where to start, but, with a closer look, will see some striking similarities, Sauce Magazine executive editor Ligaya Figueras pointed out. Instead of baked beans, Seoul Q offers kong beans. There is kimchi instead of coleslaw, savory potato pancakes instead of potato salad, croquettes instead of hush puppies, and, of course, plenty of rice. Choi even offers a twist on a traditional barbecue sauce from St. Louis favorite Pappy’s Smokehouse.
Choi explained, “We used the Pappy’s original and we put some Korean flavoring in it, some hints of gochujang, some vinegar, some sesame oil. It gives a different dimension to some already awesome sauce.”
When Potter observed that there were chopsticks at the table, he expressed concern and confessed he’s not very adept at using them, Choi laughed and assured him that forks are available.
Choi demonstrated the use of the grill, guiding Potter and Figueras through cooking the meat and vegetables, and making sauce pairing recommendations. They made lettuce wraps, stuffing leaves of crispy lettuce with their preferred selections of meat, rice, kimchi and other sides.
The drink choices at Seoul Q are just as exciting as the food. They offer Korean and local beers, including Schlafly and 4 Hands, and even some craft cocktails made with the Korean spirit soju and carbonated rice wine makgeolli.
When Potter asked what was for dessert, Choi said, “For dessert? We’ll all take a shot of soju, how about that?”
Sound Bites is a monthly segment produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine.