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Anyone looking to open a Korean restaurant in Atlanta is sure to face stiff competition. With one of the largest Korean populations in the nation, Atlanta brags some of the best spots for anyone with a craving bibimbap, soondubu jjigae, or Korean barbecue
Despite the daunting odds, restaurateur and Jae Yim Shim has been able to find her place in the Atlanta restaurant scene, opening KPOP Korean BBQ and Bar in Woodstock’s South Pointe at Town Lake in July 2019. With the success of that first location, Shim announced several openings slated for 2020.
Among those upcoming restaurants, Shim announced that Thrill Korean Steak and Bar, an all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant, would open in April. The pandemic forced Shim to delay the restaurant’s opening. However, Thrill will finally open its doors at the end of August.
The sleek gold and black themes present in the walls, seats, even the built-in table grills at Thrill, look more at home at an Art Deco speakeasy than a Korean barbecue buffet. As Thrill subverts what a typical Korean barbecue place can look like, the food that they serve is just a few ticks from traditional.
“Our concept is pretty much very similar to Korean barbecue; however, we’re more catered towards the American population,” Shim’s general manager Alex Yi said in an interview. “A lot of our sauces and marinades are a little more sugary than we Koreans usually like to eat it.”
Thrill adds more sweetness by adding fruits to the marinade, such as pinapples.
Though Thrill is unmistakably Korean, serving 20 varieties of meat in the all-you-can-eat meal and 12 side dish options, Shim’s intention behind this new restaurant is to bring the food to an wider audience.
“My goal really is to bring awareness of Korean culture, Korean food to the American community,” Shim said. “Korean food is already out there for the Asian community. I just feel like it hasn’t been introduced to the American community in a way that’s comfortable for them to come in and try it.”
A large part of the restaurant’s identity also comes from Yi and Shim’s identities as Korean-Americans born and raised in America. Shim was born in Iowa and grew up in the Atlanta area while Yi was born and raised in Marietta. With these backgrounds, both Yi and Shim underline that they serve is for everyone.
“One thing that would definitely separate us from typical Korean restaurants is definitely that myself and Jae, we’re more Americanized,” Yi said. “So culturally, we do go along with the Korean culture lines, but when it comes to operating a restaurant, we’re all about customer service, greeting every single customer, treating them all equally.”
In addition to Thrill, Shim has a handful of restaurants opening in the coming months. Shim is also opening two KPOPs in the coming months, one in McDonough and one on Buford Highway, which will replace the Heart and Soul BBQ concept Shim was planning earlier this year.
Seoul Food, Shim’s fast-casual, Korean-to-go restaurant, opened in the beginning of June in South Pointe at Town Lake. She is currently planning to open another Seoul Food in Kennesaw, though she declined to disclose the address.