K-Town Snack Bar brings popular Korean food to Oakland


Image via Seyoung Choo

People set up wall art inside of K-Town Snack Bar on Oakland Ave.

By Maya Valletta, Staff Writer

K-Town Snack Bar is the first restaurant in the United States to serve instant ramyun made in EZ COOK IH5600 machines, according to its owner, Jae Park.

Park began working in the food industry in 2017 when he opened the Mr. Bulgogi food truck as a weekend project. He opened K-Town Snack Bar in August, located on Oakland Avenue between Stack’d and Fuel and Fuddle, because he saw a lack of Korean restaurants in the Oakland area. He said he wanted to provide students with delicious but affordable Korean food. 

Park said he is excited to offer instant ramyun made with the ramyun machine. The ramyun machines are very popular in Korea. They can be found inside or outside, convenience store or restaurant, company or school, Park said.

“It is better than traditional cooking methods,” Park said. “Pot on the stove is not very good for the ramyun because the boiling point is very different.” 

When it comes to pricing, Park said his target market is college students, and every item on the menu costs less than $10. The ramyun and soup tteokbokki cost $6. He said he sets up low margins to meet the student’s budget. 

“Low margins, more sales,” Park said.

He said the EZ COOK IH5600 machine uses induction heat to keep the noodles tasty. Ramyun is one of eight menu items served at K-Town, alongside a choice of five toppings such as cheese or wagyu brisket for an additional cost. Every season gets a new menu, and Park said his favorite item on the menu is the ramyun. 

Park said the restaurant’s soup tteokbokki is a very popular street food in Korea, but he doesn’t think anyone makes it in Pittsburgh.

“Tteokbokki is a new item here,” Park said. “There are two types of tteokbokki in Korea. Right now soup tteokbokki is the most popular one.”

He also believes K-Town is the only place making gold fish, a Korean pastry. 

Aside from pricing, the restaurant aims to provide quick service. The staff prepares orders as they come through, but the food is ready in a matter of minutes, Park said. 

Since opening the restaurant in August, Park has seen business increase every day. He said his main goal for this year is establishing a good name in the neighborhood.

“We want to make a brand, gain popularity in Oakland, and get good word of mouth,” Park said. 

Seyoung Choo, a fifth-year student at CMU, decorated the restaurant in bold yellows and reds. She created everything from the brand’s logo to the graphics painted inside the restaurant. Choo is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in architecture with a double major in social and political history and a minor in design, and she describes herself as a versatile and curious artist. 

“I really like exploring different mediums and art design or art opportunities,” Choo said. 

The street food served in K-Town has origins in ‘80s and ‘90s traditions of street food, so she designed the shop to reflect this era of style and typography. “Reply1988,” a South Korean television drama, captures a lot of imagery of South Korea, so it was a main source of inspiration for K-Town’s design, Choo said. 

“I was interested in using traditional and authentic kinds of imagery, patterns and designs,” Choo said.

During the brainstorming process, Choo provided the owners with moodboards and case studies to support her ideas. Once the owners decided on a color palette and primary font, she drew her own characters and aesthetic. After Choo created the digital designs, she started designing the interior. 

“I think the biggest challenge was using the space within its parameters,” Choo said. “The space is a long rectangle, so it was hard thinking about designing the movement of people and putting things on the wall.” 

Choo said her favorite part of the project was painting the space. Because the project was low-budget, Choo recruited her personal friends into helping her finish the mural. She said it was a fun summer project and gave them the opportunity to closely bond. 

Grace Yun, a pre-dental junior at Pitt and K-Town employee, said she takes high pride in working for the restaurant. She speaks fluent Korean and English. She said the responsibilities of the job are versatile 一 she has to be prepared to work as cashier, waitress or cook, depending on how many people are in the restaurant. 

For those who want something sweet off the menu, Yun highly recommends trying the bulgogi rice. She also recommends the tteokbokki, a Korean rice cake soup, which is completely homemade. 

“If you are good at eating spicy food, I do recommend the tteokbokki as well,” Yun said. “It is one of my favorites.”

K-Town has recently joined delivery apps such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, and Yun said it makes the environment very fast-paced, especially during peak hours. Yun didn’t have any experience in the food industry before working at K-Town, but said her past experience working as a dental assistant made her a natural when talking to customers.  

Yun added working at K-Town Snack bar is a fulfilling experience.

“My boss really cares about the customers and coworkers,” Yun said. “He takes good care of the employees, which is one thing I really like about working here.”


Editor’s Note: Grace Yun is a former staff writer at The Pitt News.