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Chicago Ramen Chain Operator Opens Specialty Food Store

A new Asian specialty food store in Chicago that includes an innovative food court had its grand opening this weekend, Dec. 2-3.

Gangnam Market is operated by Kenny Yang, the owner of the six-unit Strings Ramen Shop restaurant chain in the Chicago area and other Midwest markets. He also owns the Ken Kee noodle restaurant in Chicago, offering Cantonese street cart-style noodles, and Gyuro Ramen, also in Chicago.

Yang began offering an assortment of conventional and specialty Asian groceries in the Gangnam Market space a few months ago, according to reports. He has partnered with fellow Chicago restaurant operator Henry Cai to help add the food court, which now includes six stalls offering a range of pan-Asian and Asian-American fare, along with a full bar, and a décor meant to evoke the aura of an Asian night market, complete with music and bright, whimsical neon signs overhead depicting various stylized food items.

“Gangnam Market is not just a grocery store, it’s a whole experience,” the company said in an Instagram post.

A spokesperson for Gangnam Market could not be reached for comment.

The 28,000-square-foot store, which is located in the River West neighborhood, is a “one-stop shop for groceries, Asian snacks, sushi, bubble tea, and more,” the company said in another Instagram post. It was previously home to another specialty food store called Urban Market.

Products in the grocery aisles of Gangnam Market include an assortment of conventional and specialty produce, sliced meats and vegetables for making hot pot, a butcher counter, a floral display, and a wide assortment of both American and Asian CPG snack foods and beverages, including a variety of Asian flavors of Lays potato chips. Asian staples include an assortment of Jin Mai Lang instant noodles, among other items, such as Asian sauces and condiments.

The freezer cases include an assortment of seafood, such as raw shrimp and tuna, as well as mochi ice cream and other conventional and Asian items.

Specialty beverages include large displays of Vita Coco, Poppi, and Olipop, and the store also includes a refrigerated case of cold-press juices and an assortment of kombuchas. Alcoholic beverage selections include soju, the Korean distilled spirit, offered under brands that include Soon Hari, Good Day, and Jinro, as well as Japanese sake, wines, and local craft beer.

Perhaps the store’s main attraction, however, is its selection of prepared food stalls, which include a ramen outlet, a Korean-Mexican taco mashup, a sushi counter, Hong Kong-inspired pastry shop offering both sweet and savory items, and a rice bowl concept. There is also a specialty coffee and tea outlet offering boba teas and smoothies, as well as a cocktail bar that includes Asian-inspired drinks in addition to wines, beers, and traditional cocktails. The store includes indoor seating.

The menu at each foodservice outlet seeks to offer opportunities for customers to explore interesting flavors and ingredients in a street-food-style experience. At Gangnam Taco, for example, customers can order the Bulgogi Steak Burrito, which includes bulgogi steak, kimchi fried rice, lettuce, cheese carrots, green onion, gochujang mayo sauce, and sour cream. At Workout Rice, customers can choose from several Wagyu beef and Hainanese chicken dishes, including Beef Tongue Donburi, made with braised, thinly sliced Wagyu beef tongue, served on rice, with a side of miso soup, toasted garlic, pickled radish, and pickled cabbage.

The Matt Bakes pastry outlet, meanwhile, offers an assortment of Hong Kong-style items, from BBQ Pork Buns to Portuguese Custard Tarts and Matcha Red Bean Buns shaped like turtles. It also includes whole cakes and slices, and a selection of dim sum and Asian-style sandwiches, such as an Egg Drop Sandwich on milk bread and a Truffle Beef and Egg Sandwich, also on milk bread.

Related: Wegmans, Instacart Partner on Alcohol Delivery; SFA, Mediterranean Diet Roundtable Partner on Fancy Food Show Content.

Image: Gangnam Market