Seoul Taco brings new Korean-Mexican flavor to campus

Seoul Taco, 608 S. Sixth St., is partnering with Hooked on March 1.

By Samiha Uddin

Urban street art decorates the walls of Seoul Taco as Korean music plays in the background. Personified graphics of a burrito holding a boom box, a taco wearing red sunglasses and a bear shooting lasers out of its eyes are just some of the pictures that line the restaurant walls. Each of these images provides customers with a unique atmosphere and dining experience. 

On a trip to Los Angeles, Seoul Taco owner David Choibr noticed food trucks that served Korean-Mexican cuisine, which inspired him to open his own chain in his hometown of St. Louis in 2011br

“At the time, there was nothing like that in St. Louis,” Choi said. “When the weather is nice, it’s quite a different operation because we have the food truck out.”

With the success of his food truck and restaurant, he decided to open a second location in Columbia, Missouribr. On March 12br, he added another restaurant to the mix: the Seoul Taco located on Sixth Street in Champaign.

Although Seoul Taco has not been open long, that doesn’t mean business didn’t start to quickly boom. Nicole Hollowaybr, freshman in LAS, stepped into Seoul Taco on the third night of the restaurant’s opening, and she was amazed at both the food and the vibe of the restaurant.

“This was actually my first time eating a Korean entree — I had the pork golbi bowl and it was really good. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole restaurant, with the spray paint and the little missing parts of the ceiling on the second floor. It felt strangely homey because of how relaxed the environment was. The food tasted amazing and I’m going to try to go back next week. The plan is to try their version of tacos,” Holloway said. 

Along with the L.A. inspirations, Choi’s family recipes have had a huge influence on Seoul Taco’s flavor. 

“Growing up with Korean BBQ my whole life, Seoul Taco consists of a lot of Korean items that came from my family’s recipes from generation to generation,” Choi said. “It actually all started with me replicating the recipes as a college student.”

Joseph Kim, the general manager of the Champaign chain,br explained the urban street art within the restaurant. 

“Everything here is very collaborative, which explains the art behind it: the spray painting designs; the fun images in the wall; the purposeful incomplete, colorful ceilings; all these small details is what makes Seoul Taco, Seoul Taco,” Kim said. “It’s these small details that allow the area to be urban and have a sense of familiarity.”

Despite Kim and Choi’s familiarity with how the business is going to work, they still realize that things are a little different than the Missouri locations.

“This is the closest that we’ve been to any campus, and you can definitely tell we’re in a campus area where the bulk of students come out after classes are over,” Choi said. “Anything different I do see is just the influx of students. St. Louis is just a vibrant area with natural traffic, and so is Columbia.”

Additional differences include memories that were made at the Missouri locations.

“Back in the other two locations, we’ve had people that proposed at the restaurant, and professional athletes always came in. It was a pretty cool atmosphere and a very diverse group, and we’re hoping we can make different memories here,” Choi said. “We really want to partner up with student groups since we’re closer to the campus, so that we can have more of a community type of service instead of just serving food.”

Seoul Taco is open seven days a week, Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.br

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