Five years ago, father and daughter John and Jen Choi wouldn’t have imagined that they’d be restauranteurs, but they’re about to bring their Korean fusion to Philly with their second eatery. Crunchik’n, already at the Jersey Shore, is opening at 212 S. 11th Street in what was most recently the Ugly Duckling and before that Hummus Grill.
The fast-casual restaurant will offer counter service for dining in with seats for 30, plus takeout and delivery. The menu is made up of Korean dishes given an American twist, like the bulgogi and spicy pork cheesesteaks. Also on offer: rice bowls, Korean fried chicken, tacos, kimchi fried rice balls, and bubble tea. Unlike the original Crunchik’n in Ocean City, New Jersey, the Philly location will also serve oven-baked chicken, which Jen Choi describes as a healthier alternative to its fried counterpart. The chicken — battered and then baked, instead of deep-fried — is a rarity on Korean menus in the U.S., she says.
Neither Jen nor John has a long history in the restaurant business. The family moved to Edison, New Jersey, from Korea in 1990, but John returned every year to teach bible at a Korean university. Jen went for her master’s in public health at a school in Baltimore. But a few years ago, after retiring from teaching, John came up with the idea to start a restaurant. He spent the next two years again traveling back and forth to Korea, this time to test family recipes, before convincing his daughter to join him full-time and open Crunchik’n on the Ocean City boardwalk.
Now, the pair is looking forward to feeding the crowds near Jefferson Hospital.
“We want to make sure that we’re providing high-quality food at affordable prices,” Jen says. “We make everything from scratch. We do it because we know that food constitutes so much of our quality of life and our long-term health.”
Look for Crunchik’n in Washington Square West to start serving in December. Nearby, hit Korean restaurant Seorabol in Olney is opening a second location very soon at 1326 Spruce Street. In Old City, Buk Chon, a cute Korean BYOB, just opened at 132 Chestnut.