If you were outside of the country by yourself, what would you miss the most? It would probably be your family, especially your mom’s cooking.There is one hidden gem in Koreatown, Los Angeles where many Koreans can have authentic Korean food that reminds them of home. That restaurant is Jun Won Restaurant, which is on 8th and Berendo St.
Jun Won Restaurant has been one of the best Korean restaurants for 21 years. Even though the restaurant has an old, faded Korean sign and the inside of the restaurant has an “old” vibe, people who want to have substantial and real Korean food go to Jun Won.
When it gets close to lunchtime, you will constantly see people coming and going. When the clock hits 12PM, 10 tables are all packed within 10 minutes. Seeing a line at the restaurant is not rare, but the good thing about Jun Won is that the owner personally takes the order of the customers that are waiting to pre-order their food so that the food will be ready as soon as they are seated. Not only the care that the restaurant puts into the food, but their extra attention to their customers is what brings people back.
Another special quality about Jun Won is that the recipes of all the dishes in the restaurant are all made by the owner Jeff Yong-won Jun’s mother. She started her first ever restaurant in a men’s sauna, and she opened her own restaurant in 1994 where she named it “Jun Won” restaurant after her son’s name. Her son, Jeff Jun, took over the restaurant 8 years ago and continued the success of the restaurant with using his mother’s recipes.
Jun Won is famous for their fish dishes and the most popular fish dish is the Eun Dae Goo Jorim (Steamed Cod Fish). Some of the other popular dishes are the Dongtae Jjigae (Pollack Stew), Tofu Jjigae (Tofu Stew), Pureed Soybean Soup and Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew). The Kimchi Stew was even selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of best in town. The main dishes are also served with eight or nine seasonal banchans (side dishes), which stimulates the appetite and complements the food. Although some may be intimidated by the strong flavors, Jun Won has a diverse and loyal customer base where many even bring their friends who have never tried Korean food.
Owner Jeff Jun takes special care of each and every customer that comes to the restaurant. He already got his mother’s recipes, but he runs the restaurant with his positive business mind and excellent customer service. Jun stated, “When I was a kid, I just helped my mom with serving the food for one or two hours and then I would go hang out with my friends. As I got older, I started to truly enjoy working at the restaurant. Then, I started to think of what else I can do for the restaurant. I even went to high class American restaurants and tried to learn from them. I realized great service makes a huge difference. I always emphasize to our servers to make an excuse to approach customers and try to be there for them before they need us.”
Jun Won has become so popular within the Koreatown community that even Korean celebrities from Korea would visit to have Korean food that’s similar to their “mom’s cooking” even though they are thousands miles away. Some of the Korean celebrities that have visited are actor Jang Dong-gun, actress Kim Hee-sun, 2NE1′s Minzy and Big Bang. Recently, Big Bang visited Los Angeles for their World Tour where they performed at the Staples Center and the Honda Civic Center. While they were in LA, they also visited Jun Won a few times as they are also big fans of the restaurant.
“As I’ve watched how Koreatown has developed over the years, I’m just really glad that Korean food has become more known to the public outside of its borders. I’m not here to serve just Korean food; I also serve Korean culture and our true colors. It’s good to be doing business and to have a multicultural clientele behind the walls of Korean culture,” said Jun.
Although Jun is currently planning to move to another location, he assures that the quality of the food and service won’t ever change. The only thing that will change is a different “look” of the restaurant and also additional menu items that will provide customers a wider choice. He is also looking to create more dishes for vegetarians. The restaurant hours are Monday-Saturday from 11:00AM to 2:30PM, 5:30PM to 9:00PM.