With each passing month, Austin's feast becomes a little less mobile. Chi’Lantro is the latest food truck to trade wheels for a foundation, opening a storefront earlier this month. Their first restaurant allows for an expanded menu, beer, and, perhaps most importantly, air conditioning.
Austinites are more than familiar with the food trucks, which have been serving up Korean fusion since 2010 to a devoted fan base. Owner Jae Kim’s first brick-and-mortar stays true to those words. The tile and exposed wooden beams create a bare bones atmosphere, which balances nicely with the mural on the entrance wall. Kim kept the interior simple in order to save costs, but also to stay true to their character. With the help of designer Kim Lewis, they chose materials that were very foundational to reflect the dedication and work ethic it takes to build a business from the ground up.
That doesn't mean that the space is all serious, however. Turquoise and kelly-green geometric chairs add cheer, with orange highlighting the bracketing and glossy white tables. More orange is provided from the cords of the hanging fixtures. The spare accents keep the tiny space (it only accommodates twenty diners or so) from being too cluttered.
The menu is slightly different from the original food truck, although some classics remain. Kim says he wanted to add a little more “flair to [their] character” by experimenting with some new menu items while staying true to his Korean fusion roots. The deep-fried kimchi fried rice balls are an early hit, combining rice, cheddar, Monterey Jack, nori, and gochujang. Korean fried chicken wings, or “K-Pops," are not sports-bar standard. Each wing is all meat, carefully trimmed of all gristle. Although labor-intensive, Kim says he loves that the wings are so clean to eat.
Although the burritos and quesadillas have not made it on to the new restaurant menu, Kim kept the famous kimchi fries. The combination of crunchy, savory, and spicy makes these fries the perfect drinking food. Luckily, another benefit of having a proper restaurant is being able to offer several beers on tap.
If you don’t live close to the South Lamar location, no worries. Kim says he plans on opening more locations in the future. And if you miss the old menu, the trucks aren't rolling off anytime soon.
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