Korean fried chicken and poke restaurants opening in Dinkytown

Bonchon, a Korean fried chicken restaurant, will open in December alongside a new Japanese poke restaurant.

Imani Cruzen

After delaying its initial summer opening, a Korean fried chicken restaurant and new Japanese poke restaurant will open this winter in Vescio’s Italian Restaurant’s former Dinkytown location.

Bonchon, a New York-based chain with one Minnesota location in Uptown Minneapolis, is expected to open in late December along with the poke restaurant under owner Sam Zheng. The two eateries will replace Vescio’s, which closed in March after a 62-year tenure in Dinkytown.

Bonchon’s original plan to open in August was delayed by City approval setbacks. 

While the unnamed Japanese poke restaurant is expected to open around the same time as Bonchon under the same owner, it will not be associated with the chain, according to Marshall Nguyen, a commercial real estate broker representing Zheng. The two restaurants will be separated in the shared space. 

“We’ve kind of always thought about putting a Japanese poke concept there,” Nguyen said. “At first, we were thinking the entire place for Bonchon, but then we realized that there’s a lot of opportunity down at the [University].”

Bonchon specializes in Korean fried chicken, Asian fusion and traditional Korean dishes and will also offer wine and beer. Poke is a dish of raw fish, rice and vegetables.

Other poke locations in Dinkytown include The Cove and a recently announced JJ’s Poké , which is expected to open this month. But Nguyen says the potential for competition won’t be a problem.

“There’s a lot of business to share around so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” Nguyen said. “[There are] so many people at the [University].”

Lee Sayt, owner of The Cove, said he was frustrated when he learned how similar JJ’s Poke’s menu was to his own. Three poke restaurants in Dinkytown seems like oversaturation in the area, but the competition could be a positive incentive, he said. 

“I believe that competition’s not all bad,” Sayt said. “It’s actually made me work harder in respect to refining our menu and trying to provide … more of a … diversified menu and try to add more stuff to our brand.”

Inika Raikar, a University junior, said the restaurants close proximity to one another will be a way to see who has better poke.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily the greatest set up, just because [there are] a lot of different areas of campus,” Raikar said. “And it might make sense if they’re a little more spread out.”

University sophomore Abby Grott said she likes poke and would also be interested in going to Bonchon.

“I think, … especially the fried chicken, would be interesting because it’s kind of different,” Grott said.