A new fast-casual Korean eatery holds a soft opening today on Laclede’s Landing, with a grand opening planned for Feb. 1. Kimchi Guys offers Korean fried chicken, Korean-Mexican fare, rice bowls, sandwiches and, of course, kimchi, just a stone’s throw away from the Arch.

The concept comes from Munsok So, who is president and CEO of So Hospitality Group, a local company that also currently owns and operates three locations of sushi restaurant and lounge Drunken Fish in the St. Louis area and one in Kansas City. So has owned the newly renovated Cutlery Building, of which Kimchi Guys occupies the first floor, since 2006.

“Three years ago, we closed down a location of Drunken Fish when the building collapsed. When we moved back into the building, we decided to reconcept,” So says. “Being Korean-American, I have a lot of love for Korean food and wanted to bring a modern menu that I thought would make sense in the marketplace to the area. In Korea, there’s Korean fried chicken on every corner. This will be the first Korean fried chicken place in St. Louis.”

Kimchi Guys fills the approximately 1,300-square-foot ground-floor space with about 30 seats. So worked with Architextures to carry out the modern, industrial design. Highlights of the sleek and simple room include materials such as reclaimed wood and corrugated metal. A counter divides an open kitchen and queue where guests line up to place orders.

The menu begins with the house signature fried chicken, which is brined to tenderize and flavor the meat before getting coated in a starch-based batter. The chicken is double fried at two different temperatures and served with your choice of sauce: original (a sweet and spicy sauce made with Korean chili peppers), Korean Buffalo, soy-garlic or honey butter. The chicken is available as two-piece white or dark meat, tenders, wings and half or full birds.

“Korean/Mexican BBQ” options feature Korean barbecue proteins as “takos,” “korritos,” “kuesadillas” and nachos. The latter, for instance, comes with your choice of beef, chicken, spicy chicken, spicy pork or spicy shrimp with nacho cheese, street corn, kimchi mayo, cilantro mayo, Serrano peppers, green onions and sesame seeds. 

Korean barbecue bowls such as a bibimbap bowl with mixed sautéed veggies, rice, Kimchi Guys sauce and a fried egg are also available. Sandwiches include a Korean fried chicken sandwich; spicy Korean barbecue pork sliders; a bulgogi Philly; and a “Kuban” with spicy pork, barbecue beef, bacon, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, cucumber kimchi and mayo. Mandu, or dumplings, come filled with kimchi and pork. Vegan items with spicy, marinated plant-based “chicken” are also available.

Sides include hot fries, kimchi fried rice, potato salad, coleslaw and street corn. Kimchi options include spicy cabbage, spicy cucumber, spicy radish and white radish kimchi. To drink, Kimchi Guys offers fountain Stubborn craft sodas as well as bottled Korean liquors and craft and domestic beers. The selection includes fruity Jinro soju, Hite Korean beer and Schlafly beer.

“I’m very excited about bringing a unique dining experience to the St. Louis market and adding to the culinary diversity that is constantly improving here,” So says.

Kimchi Guys’ tentative hours of operation will be daily from 11am to 9pm. Its grand opening on February 1 will run from 11am to 7pm, with all net profits donated to The ALS Association - St. Louis Regional Chapter.

Kimchi Guys, 612 N. Second St., Laclede's Landing, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.241.3474, kimchiguys.com