Restaurateur Hoyul Steven Choi is continuing on in building his Bay Area empire in the coming year, and the next addition to open will be a second location of Kitchen Story in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood — this time with more of a Korean focus rather than Thai.
The first Kitchen Story debuted in the Castro in late 2012, taking over a space that had long been another neighborhood brunch favorite, Tangerine. With the help of chef-partner Kasem "Pop" Saengsawang, Kitchen Story became a popular spot for both brunch and dinner, at least in part because of the addictive "Millionaire's Bacon" that Choi had first introduced at his other brunch-centric restaurant, Sweet Maple in Lower Pac Heights, and later again at Blackwood in the Marina. Both Blackwood and Kitchen Story incorporated Thai fusion influences into the menu, and Saengsawang went on to launch Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine in the Mission in 2015.
This month, Choi is set to debut a second Kitchen Story in a two-story space at 5422 College Avenue in Rockridge (in the now shuttered Duchess space), only this time the brunch and dinner menus will have some Korean flair. In addition to some stonepot dishes and a number of Kitchen Story favorites, the new location will feature dishes like galbi omurice (scrambled eggs over jasmine rice, galbi, carrots, spinach, and sriracha demi-glace), JjamPong (spicy seafood noodles soup, shrimp, scallop, calamari, mussel, vegetables), and Korean fried chicken (KFC) with waffles and adobo maple syrup. There's also a dish inspired by the hit art-house film Parasite, called Jjapaguri, which combines Millionaire's Bacon with two classic Korean instant noodles, Jjapaghetti and Neoguri Udon.
Next on the horizon will be a third location of U:Dessert Story (after the existing two in the Castro and the Marina) in Berkeley, at 1849 Shattuck Avenue. The Thai-, Korean-, and Japanese-inspired dessert spot will feature more mochi bowls, matcha floats, and Thai tea lava toasts, among other drinks and confections. That opens in February 2020.
And following that, around August of next year, Choi will be opening a third location of Sweet Maple in a 3,000-square-foot space at 150 University Avenue in Palo Alto. That follows on the original, nine-year-old Lower Pac Heights location, and a second outpost at SFO's Terminal 2 which opened in May.
All told, Choi and his wife will have 12 restaurants around the Bay Area after these three new ones make their debuts. A native of Busan, South Korea, he began in the food business revitalizing Taylor Street Coffee Shop near Union Square in San Francisco in the early 2000s, followed by Fred's Coffee Shop in Sausalito. In addition to the popular Kitchen Sunnyside in Mill Valley, the Chois also own two Korean-inspired restaurants, Berkeley Social Club and Surisan near SF's Fisherman's Wharf.
Look for Kitchen Story Rockridge to open by mid-December.
Photo of Korean fried chicken courtesy of Berkeley Social Club.