The idea behind Berkeley’s Korean Superette started as a bigger plan seven years ago. Shoppers looking for Korean groceries had only a few options back then, recalls Chi Moon, partner of Korean Superette. There was the Koreana Plaza in Oakland, or the choice of heading to San Jose or San Francisco. In 2015, Moon’s family, which owns a handful of Bay Area restaurants including Ohgane, Bowl’d, Spoon Korean Bistro and BopShop, considered opening a large Korean grocery store. “It didn’t work out,” Moon said. “So we kept that idea aside.”
Fast forward to 2022, and although Korean Superette on Solano Avenue isn’t quite a full-fledged grocery store, the store serves home-cooked Korean cuisine alongside a selection of Korean groceries aimed at meeting the needs of consumers. a single-family household. Moon, along with her sister Jessica Oh and friend Hyeyoung Yoon, opened the convenience store together in April, taking over the former Rivoli space after it closed in September, although the space has been dark since August. The convenience store’s ready-meal serving differs from Moon and Oh’s other restaurants — two of which, Bowl’d and BopShop Korean Kitchen, are also located on Solano Avenue — and instead focuses on Korean comfort food that can be ordered at the counter. Options include two types of tteokbokki, braised rice cakes with beef and vegetables or fish cakes and an egg; jjajangmyeon, udon noodles with dark soy sauce; soondubu jjigae, a soft tofu stew made with vegetables, eggs and a choice of protein. “You feel like you’re eating food mom made for you,” Yoon says.
The main course menu is a selection of the partners’ favorite dishes, but with more vegetables. “We are conscious of making healthy foods,” says Moon. In addition to cooked-to-order meals, a selection of ready-to-reheat ready-to-go meals are available from one of the refrigerators that line the wall of the convenience store. These items will change often, depending on the selection of vegetables available, Yoon says.
Further into the Korean convenience store, the rear part of the space serves as both a market for Korean food and pantry items, as well as a dining area that extends to the rear terrace and garden . For those who like instant noodles, an entire wall is dedicated to them, a colorful array of Korean dishes as well as ramen from Japan and other Asian countries: buldak ramen, kimchi ramen, soon a vegetarian noodle soup. Another wall covers pantry staples such as gochujang, cooking oils, and different noodles; there’s even a small household items section of dishes and utensils, if needed. Peruse the freezers and refrigerators that line the east side of the building and you’ll find a mix of treats ready to take home; there’s a banchan mix packaged in take-out deli containers, which sit alongside bagged rice cakes; frozen foods such as mandu or dumplings, Korean corn dogs, with their extra crispy exterior, and more; there is also a small selection of thinly sliced meats, ready for the Korean barbecue, as well as chicken and pork cutlets.
Despite the grocery shelves and the wall of refrigerators, the business manages to evoke a sense of home for Yoon. “The garden and the landscaping itself is like a home to me,” Yoon says. “The garden gives you comfort and coziness like you are sitting in the kitchen or living room, eating. I’m from Korea, but I came here years ago and I still miss Korean food. I don’t can’t really get those banchans and kimchi on the side made by mom, and so I want to give people that feeling of homemade Korean food.
Korean convenience store (1539 Solano Avenue, Berkeley) is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Saturday and the kitchen closes at 8 p.m.