SF Korean Market Favorite Queens Adds Lively Indoor Dining

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Starting October 14, patrons of Korea’s favorite Queens will be able to eat spicy braised tofu and sip a glass of natural wine or small-batch soju inside the Inner Sunset Market.

Owners Clara Lee and Eddo Kim are opening a space at the back of the 9th Avenue store for the first time to eat and drink in person. The duo have created a new menu that highlights their passion for celebrating small Korean producers through a playful California lens. There will be haemul buchu jeon, a crispy seafood pancake with local garlic chives, and golbaengi muchim, a cold snail salad, mortadella and green onions as a tribute to love. from Korea for snails and spam (with bologna replacing the classic canned meat product). Bowls of fresh and chewy rice cakes from Hayward’s JR Rice Bakery are served in a deliberately loose gochujang sauce, ideal for dipping kimbap and other snacks.

The new creations are “much loved classic heritage dishes … foods that we have frequently found at the table at home as after school or dinner snacks, and dishes meant to be shared,” said Lee.

Lee and Kim will also serve a rotating wine list by the glass, as well as craft beer and soju. Four coffee tables and geometrically shaped stools in bright colors are set up in view of the open kitchen.

Queens’ golbaengi muchim, a cold salad of snails, mortadella and green onions dressed in a gochujang wine.

Brontë Wittpenn / The Chronicle

It’s a throwback to their original dream of Queens, where they source Korean handicrafts and make their own banchan, gochujang and sesame oil on the spot. Before the pandemic, they hosted pop-up dinners featuring many pantry staples for sale in the market, such as a fermented tuna sauce rich in umami and gochugaru made from ancient chili peppers harvested by hand at Jirisan, South Korea.

“We want people to be able to see what kind of products go into the food they eat,” Kim said. “Dining inside at a grocery store (store) is awesome.”

Lee and Kim opened Queens in 2019, creating a unique and curated selection of specialty Korean products, like anchovies imported from a renowned fisherman in Korea, as well as Bay Area ingredients they love. Their banchan pulls seasonal produce from the farmers market, like tomato kimchi in the summer and crispy fennel and Asian pear kimchi in the winter. A chilled section is topped with the same daikon radish, perilla leaves, and Meji tofu that go into their dishes.

Queens owners Clara Lee, left, and Eddo Kim are bringing a dining menu to their market for the first time in hopes of educating patrons more about Korean cuisine.

Queens owners Clara Lee, left, and Eddo Kim are bringing a dining menu to their market for the first time in hopes of further educating customers about Korean cuisine.

Brontë Wittpenn / The Chronicle

For the couple, whose parents both immigrated from Korea to America in the 1980s, the market is meant to be nostalgic for those who grew up with ddeok bokki and educational for those new to Korean cuisine. The new restaurant area also reflects this objective.

“This is a great opportunity for our staff to share how the dishes are prepared and what we use and literally guide them to that and have them try doing it at home,” Lee said.

The Queens Restaurant menu will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. People can also have packaged banchan, snacks like honey butter crisps and a beer from the refrigerator, and spend time at the table until the market closes at 6 p.m.

Lee and Kim have gradually increased Queens’ footprint beyond the Inner Sunset convenience store. You can now find their gochujang and other homemade products in specialty stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York. They are also behind a snack menu served at the new Bar Part Time in the Mission natural wine bar.

Queens. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. 1235 Ninth Avenue, San Francisco. queenssf.com/

Elena Kadvany is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ekadvany



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