Seoul Taco fuses Korean, Mexican fare

Brightly colored boom boxes and a large graphic mural wall mark Seoul Taco as a unique spot to eat in Hyde Park. (Photo by Tia Carol Jones)

Contributing Writer

Walking into Seoul Taco, 1321 E. 57th St., with its brightly painted boom boxes, mural on the brick wall and OutKast playing, the love of the streets is clear.

Proprietor David Choiis behind the counter at the register and taking the food out to customers. The restaurant has been open since Monday, Dec. 3, and it has seen a steady stream of people.

The Hyde Park location is the second Chicago location for the restaurant, which began as a St. Louis food truck in 2011. Choi said he chose St. Louis because he was born and raised in Missouri, but his family lives in Chicago now.

“I was familiar with both cities, and loved them both,” he said.

The menu includes tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and bowls — “Whatever you see at a Mexican restaurant,” said Choi. “The unique thing about us is we use Korean barbecue. There are a lot of similarities: both marinate their meat, both like spicy foods.”

The proteins include bulgogi beef, spicy pork, chicken and tofu. Prices range from $8 for three tacos to $10 for yogi bowls and burritos.

He said that, because the business started as a food truck on the street, street art is included in the restaurant. He worked with local street artists to create the mural inside the Hyde Park location.

“Growing up, I liked ‘90s hip hop, so that’s why you hear ‘90s hip hop,” he said. “All of that is a reflection of all I enjoy.”

Choi said anywhere there is a Seoul Taco he wants to be able to connect with the community.

“I have to meet folks in the community. Not just sell food but connect with the people who live here,” he said.

He chose Hyde Park because of its diversity. He said the community is a whole neighborhood, transcending the atmosphere of a mere college town.

“I think there is a space for something like us, quick and affordable,” he said. “It’s just a little bit different than what you would normally get here.”

Choi also said he knows people in Hyde Park and that utilizing relationships is an integral part of his business.

“Instead of copy, paste and build, find out how we can be involved in the community,” he said.