Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The new Cafe on 39th Street may become a Korean restaurant

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 2:29 PM

Mia Jamison thinks 39th Street is ready for some Seoul food.
  • Mia Jamison thinks 39th Street is ready for some Seoul food.

Mia Jamison
  • Mia Jamison
Mia Jamison has a dilemma. The owner of the building on the northeast corner of 39th and Bell (1726 West 39th Street, to be exact, the location of the diner formerly known as Bell Street Mama's back in 2007) opened her own restaurant called Cafe on 39th Street just 17 days ago. Now she's thinking that maybe her concept - an American diner open for breakfast and lunch - wasn't the right one.

Currently, Cafe on 39th Street is open every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and serves omelets, French toast, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, cheeseburgers, Japanese teriyaki chicken, and three Korean bulgogi dishes. "But the only thing that was selling, really selling, was the bulgogi," Jamison says. "So I'm thinking of turning the restaurant into a Korean restaurant open for lunch and dinner."

Jamison would like to know what Fat City readers think of her idea. "I think I need to make this change fast," she says.

Jamison hasn't had the best luck finding a successful tenant for 1726 West 39th Street. After the owners of Bell Street Mama's moved out to take over the former Nichols Lunch location (it closed for good earlier this month), Jamison rented to a short-lived restaurant, Thai Garden. She says she opened Cafe on 39th Street to help a couple of friends who were out of work.

"The breakfast business was never very good," Jamison says. "We first opened at 7 a.m., and no one came. Then we opened at 8 a.m., and a few people came in. And then we opened at 9 a.m. and got a lot busier. But it was basically only busy on weekends."

Beef bulgogi at Cafe on 39th
  • Beef bulgogi at Cafe on 39th
Korean-born Jamison noticed that the most requested dishes were the grilled bulgogi - spicy pork, grilled pork and barbecue-style beef - served on white-hot metal platters with fresh vegetables. That's when she got the idea that maybe a traditional Korean restaurant, serving bulgogi, short ribs, noodles dishes and dumplings, would be a better fit for the international flavor of 39th Street.

"I've been thinking of what to call the restaurant if I did make the change," Jamison says. "I've gotten suggestions like Taste of Seoul, Seoul on 39th Street, Seoul 39, and things like that." (I suggested "Seoul Train," but Jamison didn't get it. I'm not sure I did either.)

Jamison realizes that she'll need to make a decision soon, because a full-service Korean restaurant will require a liquor license. "People like a cold beer with Korean barbecue," she says.

Fat City readers are encouraged to weigh in on Jamison's decision in the comments section.

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