The chef behind Houston’s Korean restaurant boom, plus fresh new hotel dining

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Jason Cho joins CultureMap food editor to discuss his businesses. The Korean American chef and restaurateur currently operates Dak & Bop in Lazybrook/Timbergrove and the Galleria-area location of South Korean coffee shop Toms N Toms; he will open Karne Korean Steakhouse in The Heights later this year.

When Cho opened Dak & Bop’s first location in the Museum District, Korean fried chicken, which gets its signature crunch from being twice-fried, hadn’t taken off in Houston. Cho recalls having to convince skeptical investors and bankers that he could build a sustainable business, but Dak & Bop took off almost immediately. Even though national chains such as Bonchon and BB.Q Chicken have since entered the market, Cho says he isn’t concerned about increased competition.

“I feel like our city is big enough that we can support each other,” Cho says. “It means Korean culture is growing. I feel like it’s behind compared to Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese food in Houston. I feel like it’s growing, and there’s a lot of great options out there.”

Those options will improve this summer when Cho and his partners open Karne, a chef-driven Korean steakhouse. Cho previews some of what diners can expect from the restaurant, which counts Youtube star Mikey Chen as one of its partners. The chef overcame his initial reluctance about adding Chen once he met him.

“What he brings to Karne is he’ll be promoting it once we open. His face and name will be associated with it,” Cho says. “He’s there to make sure Karne represents everything he represents, which is great Asian cuisine, great service, and great food.

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Linda Salinas discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Guy Fieri’s visit to Houston; the Texas Legislature approving alcohol to-go on a permanent basis; and the imminent opening of Brooklyn-based ice cream shop Van Leeuwen.

In the restaurants of the week segment, they discuss recent meals at two concepts that recently opened at renovated hotels: Tonight & Tomorrow at La Colombe d’Or in Montrose and Space Cowboy at the Heights House Hotel. Both earn praise from the hosts, who opine that they offer new tastes to their respective neighborhoods.

Subscribe to “What’s Eric Eating” on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturday at 1 pm on ESPN 97.5.

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