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Meet Jon Kim of Seoul On Sixth in Westlake/ MacArthur Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jon Kim.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jon. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My story begins but never ends with my family and the LA community. It must have been until the beginning of grade school when I first realized that food is an edible piece of culture. Opening my lunchbox quickly became a struggle everyday at lunch as I battled the thought of explaining why kimchi smells like stinky feet. Like many first-generation Korean American kids, I fell victim to my momma’s “foreign”, yet delicious home-cooked meals. If you don’t know, now ya know. Whether it’s sneaking in Momma Kim’s spam kimbap at Dodger games, or slurping on some late-night jjajjangmyun with the homies, LA always provides hope for the hungry.

Lord knows we stay hungry.

An idea started in my high school days in Santa Barbara as eating together not only strengthened the bonds on our football team, but it also kept us out of trouble…for the most part. Cultural barriers never seemed to be an issue when we were eating some of the finest tacos dorados a manos as a routine movie snack with one another. I tell everyone I have five mommas in SB and one thing they all have in common: their food makes me happy. Some of the realest people I know to this day grew up in gangs, but they contributed to my life views and values more than anyone I know. I learned to place family above all, and treat the ones you care about like family.

Respect culture, respect the taco.

This idea began to brew as did my desire to move back to LA after spending three years in the Central Valley for work. My pops had recently taken over the family liq and that was enough for me to move back and to be there to support. 6th street, although known to be rough around the edges, is booming with street food. A true clash of Guatemalan, El Salvadorian, Puerto Rican and Mexican street food stands. I wondered why taqueros never came by our block…

The streets were calling. What better opportunity to help my dad’s business and give back to 6th street?

Seoul On Sixth – it all came to life, one cold night at the end of 2018. With the help of my brother and my cousins, we rolled out the plancha for our first popup in front of Mark’s Liquor on the corner of 6th and Witmer. After several tries from various tortillerias, we found our masa and started making our first crispy cheese tacos at 6pm. What started as a liquor snack, quickly turned into a 6th street staple.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The SOS family all have full-time jobs, so we’ve always been limited to weekends. Apart from the global pandemic, our biggest struggle is having to turn down gigs because of this. Last year we were hit up to cater Young Thug’s “So Much Fun” album release party but had to turn it down due to conflicts with our teams’ schedule. Until we go full time, this will always remain a struggle for us.

Life’s a risk carnal, but there’s a silver lining with everything.

SOS has been very fortunate to weather this storm, largely due to the fact that our team was able to continue their day jobs since we’re only open on the weekends. During this time, we have promoted other small businesses and have been working behind the scenes on our strategy for a return.

Please tell us about Seoul On Sixth.
SOS aims to shine a light on all of the hard-working families on 6th street and across LA, who helped pioneer the robust street food scene we know and love today. Our food simply pays homage to what an LA food experience means to me (that includes the lack of parking). It’s a representation of the cultures that I grew up with, as well as the family who raised me. When we’re asked what type of food we serve? Our response is simple. “LA street food”. What sets us apart? We bring that 6th street energy and also our passion to share great food and culture with our community.

One liq, one plancha, endless tacos.

Instead of blazing our own trail, we strive to mirror an experience one can only get in LA or on 6th street. Just as we respect the cultures behind each cuisine, we respect the tacos we’ve had in LA. That’s why our tacos koreanos only come on handmade tortillas with masa sourced from 6th street, and we don’t have any fancy or forced garnishes. Onion and cilantro, lime, and radish is all we offer on the side. The meat is where we diverge from our Chicano influences and add where we found it made most sense to add our Korean modifications. We have one rule: our team must agree that our flavors respect both cultures, otherwise we won’t serve it. If we can somehow communicate that idea in a form of an eating experience, we have done our job. Great food shouldn’t always be determined by how nice of an ambiance a restaurant has, or how pricey the dishes are.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I try not to get bogged down on the what-ifs, but rather view each popup or event as an opportunity to refine our skills and grow our reach. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re grateful to have achieved what we have so far.

Pricing:

  • Popups (LIQ STORE ONLY): tacos koreanos $2.00 each (includes handmade tortilla and crispy cheese)
  • Popups (OTHER LOCATIONS): tacos koreanos $3.00 each (includes handmade tortilla and crispy cheese)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
DJ Javier, Giovany Reyes, and Sherman Yang

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