Originally a pop-up, TKO, or “the Korean One,” will open as a food stall in East Atlanta Village’s Southern Feed Store in a couple months. Lazy Betty sous chef Lino Yi is the mastermind behind its Korean-American street food, while Lazy Betty chef/partner Aaron Phillps and Juniper Cafe’s Carl Van Tyle Gilbert help with management and finances.
“I love Lazy Betty. I’ve learned a lot, but none of my friends can visit me at here because they can’t afford it,” Yi says. “Everyone deserves a good meal. I designed the [TKO] menu so it’s affordable, fun, casual, and easy to approach.”
He describes the food as “Newtro,” a Korean term for “modernized retro.” To create it, he’ll combine traditional Korean recipes from his childhood with new, American ingredients. He references a time his grandmother used Spam instead of pork in kimchi stew as inspiration.
The menu will be concise and include favorites from the pop-ups (originally held at Ration & Dram, Buteco, Full Commission, and more). Items may include a volcano hot dog topped with sushi-style crab salad, KFC (Korean fried chicken) nuggets, and a Korean corn dog made with mozzarella cheese, fried panko crumbs, and sugar. Beef egg roll taquitos and kimchi fried rice will also be available. Yi says he anticipates offering “fun, wacky” specials, like mandu dumpling Mondays and Korean barbecue tacos Tuesdays.
The 400-square-foot space will not serve alcohol, as neighboring bar Buteco has that covered.
“I like the food court idea because it’s easier,” Yi says. “Ultimately, I just want to make food, and counter service is the easiest route to do that.”
He describes the stall as looking “punk rock” and “80s-esque” with plywood covered in stickers and photos, like an old bar or club. Paper lanterns a la Japanese ramen shops will provide ambiance, while the menus are tacked to a metal sheet with magnets. Bold colors—red, white, black, and blue—will represent the Korean flag. “I want to throw back to my childhood,” Yi says. “When you’re limited by resources, you’re forced to get very creative.”