Seoulju, a beloved Korean eatery on North Lamar Boulevard known for its mouthwatering fried chicken, will be shutting its doors for good on December 31, succumbing to the relentless tides of gentrification that are reshaping Austin's culinary landscape, according to a somber announcement from the restaurant's owner. The close-knit family business, spearheaded by owner John Lee and his mother, chef Sang Mi Kang, has been a fixture in the neighborhood, serving an array of Korean comfort foods since its initial opening as College Roadhouse in 2015 and later reinvented as Seoulju in 2019, per an Eater report.
Despite their heartfelt efforts to remain afloat, including a shift to more takeout-centric operations amidst the global pandemic, Seoulju's tale is one tinged with a sense of loss. The plaza that has been their home will be demolished for new development, and they are unable to secure an agreement that would allow them to stay put. The restaurant has been forced to make the tough decision to shut down. In an Instagram post, owner Lee vocalized the restaurant has been forced to make the tough decision to shut down, in an Instagram post owner Lee vocalized the heartache over this transition, stating, "The neighborhood we’ve called home is undergoing significant changes, driven by gentrification," and although disheartened, they are actively seeking new employment opportunities for their dedicated staff.
During its bustling years, Seoulju distinguished itself not only with its culinary prowess featuring Korean fried chicken, hot pots, and house-made soju but also with gestures of goodwill that extended beyond their kitchen, as detailed in an Austin American Statesman article, exemplified by Lee handing out a Mother's Day gift card to a family, a gesture inspired by his mother's generosity, and their teaming with ATX Hospital Meals to feed healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic.
As a farewell homage to their supportive community, Seoulju plans to host a New Year's Eve party, which will double as the restaurant's swan song, details of which are expected to emerge in the coming weeks, at their soon-to-be previous location at 9515 North Lamar Boulevard; furthermore, their Kitchen United Mix takeout operation, which previously offered a refuge for their delectable dishes, has already ceased service after a mere four-month tenure, highlighting the harsh economic challenges endured by local food businesses.