Get your buns over here

March 27, 2014

There’s a little bit of Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) in K-town’s new hangout The Bun Shop 

His brother Brian and chef James Seok bring out-of-town business to the area

bun shop

The food at the shop is a fusion of Korean and Mediterranean flavors. (Photo – Courtesy of The Bun Shop)

The restaurant does “The Walking Dead” nights when the show airs. (Newsis)

The restaurant does “The Walking Dead” nights when the show airs. (Newsis)

By Tae Hong

Inside The Bun Shop, located in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, you may find Steven Yeun, a breakout star of “The Walking Dead,” sitting at one of its wooden tables once a week, chowing down on a bao bun sandwich and chatting with his brother and owner, Brian Yeun.

Yeun, 28, opened the eatery with his friend and chef, James Seok, in January this year. In many ways, the shop is also a testament to the many new restaurants bringing out-of-town business to the area.

He and Seok hail from Detroit, Mich., where they became friends in high school.

The food at the shop is a fusion of Korean and Mediterranean flavors — on its menu are a variety of meats and vegetables — beef, katsu, spam, pork, spicy pork — wrapped in steamed bao buns and served with an assortment of sides, among them garlic rosemary shoestring fries and deep-fried oreos.

It’s a concept that reflects who they are as restaurateurs, Yeun says.

“We’re Korean kids, and we eat Korean food. We’re from Detroit, and so there’s also a huge Mediterranean influence,” he says. “Anything good we find, we try to put in.”

As many stories nowadays go, first there was a food truck.

bunshop2

The Bun Shop hopes to becomes a casual hangout place to have a drink with friends and watch sports games.

Inspired by the success of the Kogi BBQ Truck and by the bao bun trend that swept through New York City a few years ago, Yeun — who says his passion had always been with hospitality and restaurant management despite the fact that he worked at a banking company after graduating from Purdue University — contacted Seok and suggested they start a food truck, too. The Bun Truck was born in 2011.

Three years after the launch of the successful truck, which was a mainstay of L.A.’s Miracle Mile and which for a year took over R Bar’s kitchen in K-Town to great response, Yeun’s dream of a brick-and-mortar restaurant has become reality.

Not only that, but loyal truck customers have also followed.

“We’re bringing people to Koreatown,” he says. “Some of them live here, but a lot of them are like, ‘Hey, we’re from Silver Lake. We heard about you guys and followed the truck.’”

He says he’s glad that businesses that attract a diverse set of Angelenos, not just Koreans, have been popping up in the area, among them R Bar and Beer Belly. It’s a sign that Koreatown is slowly changing, he says.

“I wanted to attract a mixed crowd,” he says. “I want anyone to feel comfortable in here.”

Yeun, whose Korean names is Choong-yup, was born in Korea and came to the U.S. with his family when he was two years old.

He says he is still in the process of testing the waters with the restaurant, which will soon acquire its beer and wine license. When that happens, he hopes The Bun Shop becomes a casual hangout place to have a drink with friends and watch sports games.

His brother, Steven Yeun, is a minority investor and has been supportive, but he wants the food to stand on its own merit.

The restaurant does “The Walking Dead” nights when the show airs, but Yeun says putting up posters to advertise would “cheapen the place.”

“We’re confident enough in our food that we don’t have to have [Steven] everywhere,” he says. “You can’t rely on someone else’s fame. Food is transparent.”

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