Korean eatery brings Yummy to U

Tae Yun opened Yummy Yummy down the street from Korea Cafe.

Bryce Haugen

Until recently, Jonathan Kim’s hankering for home cooking was hard to cure.

His parents live in Korea.

When the computer science sophomore returned to school this fall, he noticed Yummy Yummy, a restaurant on Oak Street Southeast painted bright green with Korean words in the window. The restaurant opened Sept. 1 and has quickly turned into a popular eatery for Korean students at the University, Kim said.

“I seriously love this place,” said Kim, in between bites of his $5.99 small lunch combo, which included ribs, fried rice and an assortment of moderately spiced vegetables. “(In Korea) we eat this every day ” rice and vegetables.”

He said he visits the restaurant, which is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, at least five times a week, sometimes with as many as 10 friends.

Owner Tae Yun stopped by Kim’s table Wednesday afternoon to see if he wanted refills on his two favorite dishes.

Kim refused this time, but he said Yun offers every time he stops in.

“When I went to school, I didn’t have much money,” Yun said.

In the 1970s, when she took art classes at the University, there were no Korean restaurants. Now there are two on the same street. Yummy Yummy joined Korea Cafe, across from McNamara Alumni Center.

Yun said her basic seven-item menu is made simply with fresh ingredients each day.

“The simple way gets the most flavor of (the food),” she said.

Yun is new to the restaurant business, but not to Korean food, which she still makes for her husband, somewhat reluctantly, after her 10-hour workday.

Her career started at 3M after studying mechanical and electrical engineering at a St. Paul technical school. In the 1980s, she freelanced for defense contracting firms, specializing in drawing diagrams for instruction manuals. At one point, she worked on a Boeing 777, she said.

“I really loved my job,” Yun said.

But after 10 years of self-employment, she settled down, got married and bought a St. Paul liquor store, which she ran for more than a decade before selling it to start Yummy Yummy.

That business, Yun said, was far more lucrative than Yummy Yummy is now. She said sometimes business is brisk, but some days only a few customers walk through the doors.

“I have to be patient,” she said, while she waited for the next customer, two of whom arrived within a minute. “Everything takes a little time.”

Yun returned to the counter and took the patrons’ orders ” in Korean.

One of them, first-year student Hanna Lee, said Yummy Yummy’s “price is good and food is good.”

The lunch buffet at the Korea Cafe cost $6.99, a dollar more than Yummy Yummy’s. Other menu items also cost more.

Mike Diko, a former University transplant research lab technician, and his friend Joel Lisy came to the restaurant for the first time Wednesday afternoon. They had been to Korea Cafe before and wanted to check out the new joint, they said.

Diko ordered Bee Bib Bob, a 10-vegetable dish served on white rice with a hot sauce, while Lisy tried the rice roll.

“It’s all right,” Lisy said. “For $3.50, it’s fine. It’s not a bad snack.”