Although West 8th Street is commonly known as a restaurant death trap, that doesn’t stop brave entrepreneurs from trying their damndest to a carve a space for themselves among the all of the discount shoe detritus. Among their ranks is Jung-min Kim, who is planning to open the Eighth Street Kitchen at 22 West 8th Street on October 22.
The 60- to 70-seat restaurant, which Kim owns and manages, will serve traditional Korean food, but will dispatch with side dishes in favor of rice and noodle dishes and a variety of pajeon, or Korean-style pancakes. Eliminating side dishes, Kim says, will help keep his costs low, which will in turn allow him to charge diners more reasonable prices. “Price-wise, the food in Koreatown is ridiculous because of the sides,” Kim says. “People get sides even when they don’t like them, or know what they are.”
This is Kim’s first restaurant; for years he’s worked at the Third Floor Cafe, a lounge in Koreatown where his chef also worked. He’s a bit apprehensive about opening up on a street with such a difficult reputation — his restaurant will actually be located in the former home of another Korean restaurant. “Honestly, it’s a pretty bad area,” he says. “It used to be a great, great area with so many retails shops, but these days, I don’t know.” The solution, he believes, is more restaurants, and he finds hope in the recent openings of Japanese and barbecue spots. And Korean food has been in the news lately, thanks to the recent show of culinary diplomacy by South Korea’s First Lady. The Korean government, Kim says, has passed a law to help people opening Korean restaurants. “But mine is small,” he says. “I don’t think they’re coming to West 8th Street.”