Saturday, August 3, 2013

Charleston Edition: The Heart & Seoul Bar & Grill


Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillHeart & Seoul Bar & GrillThe Seoul of Charleston – what kind of restaurant do you think that might be? Korean? Soul?

Both are right. The Seoul of Charleston – which is actually now called The Heart and Seoul Bar and Grill – serves both Korean and soul food. Heavenly.

Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillSeoul – because it’s the capital of South Korea. And the homonym “soul” as in, soul food.

It was located on Washington Street West, but is now located at 1634 6th Avenue. They’ve only been there for a few weeks, they said, and it’s because they wanted a liquor license to sell a Korean drink.

It’s in a VFW building that has seen better days, so a little hesitant walking in. Once we got inside, it seemed to cater more toward a bar crowd than a restaurant crowd. Lots of red, cement walls with a few black tables and a bar along the right side. It’s a little dark and looks like it’s seen some long, rough nights.

Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillA few “limited” menus were in a clear casings on the bar top. Because they just moved recently, they said they didn’t have a full menu quite yet. We quickly looked over the menus, and I asked about one item. A worker checked with the kitchen and found out most of the full menu was actually available. Score!

Since half of the restaurant is focused on soul food, they have fried chicken, fish, ribeye, short ribs, bake beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and sweet potato casserole on the menu.

The Korean menu has beef and chicken bulgogi – Korean BBQ; chicken, shrimp and vegetable eggrolls; kimbap – Korean-style sushi; kalbi – Korean-style beef short ribs marinated in brown sugar, soy sauce and spices; kimchi - homemade, hot, pickled Napa cabbage with special spices, mandu – fried vegetable dumplings, and fried rice.

I wanted the best of both worlds, so I went with beef bulgogi and Granny’s Sweet Baked Mac & Cheese.

Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillVisiting a friend of a friend freshman year, my friend’s mother made homemade, authentic bulgogi. And ohmygod.

We waited quite a while for our food, but I was okay with it. Sallie Shultz, who is half-Korean, has used her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes in the kitchen. She came out to talk with us and was very accommodating for my vegetarian companion and me.

Co-Owner Donald Williams and Shultz started the restaurant after making too much food after a party once and setting up shop. They noticed it was selling and the rest is history.

After a wait, she placed our plates in front of us.

Mine had half of it covered in pieces of beef, the other half, a square of pasta goodness.

Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillThis is some of the best bulgogi I’ve ever eaten. Bulgogi is essentially Korean BBQ. It’s thinly sliced beef, which has been marinated in brown sugar, soy sauce, and a special blend of spices.

The beef is of superb quality – no gristle, fat – only quality, moist, perfectly seasoned beef. It has just a hint of sweetness with a little tang. No condiments necessary – good pieces of meat. Just amazing.

Granny’s Sweet Baked Macaroni and Cheese was also a recipe handed down to Shultz. The macaroni and cheese was cut into a hunk and was also slightly sweet, but in a way that just makes it taste authentically southern. It was full of cream and butter and all those things that make macaroni and cheese a legitimate side dish, rather than something from a box. Indulgent. Delicious. Fantastic.

Heart & Seoul Bar & GrillThey have specials each day of the week available after 2 p.m. Tuesday is cook’s choice, Wednesday is Ox tail, Thursday is pepper steak, and Friday is curry chicken.

They’re open until late in the night – I asked what time they closed on Wednesday and they said 2 or 3 a.m. So that’s an option for late night eating. Some menu items aren’t available after a certain time.

They also deliver. Call them for details.

They’re typically open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday 12 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., Saturday 4 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. and closed on Sunday and last two Mondays.

They accept major credit cards. (304) 421-7685 for more info.

Just go there. And eat some of the best food Charleston has to offer.

Grade: A
The Seoul of Charleston on Urbanspoon