Childhood friends, Korean immigrants David JoonWoo Yun, Steve JaeWoo Choi, and Eric JaeHo Choi opened C as in Charlie in NYC’s Bowery District in September. The trio grew up in Atlanta and opened the new eatery, their first joint restaurant, to capture culinary memories of their parents modifying traditional Korean dishes with American ingredients. When key Korean ingredients were scarce in Atlanta grocery stores, the group’s parents would have to improvise, resulting in a unique culinary fusion that is the backbone of C as in Charlie. David’s mothers use of spaghetti instead of Korean-style wheat noodles in her rendition of Seolleongtang, a traditional Korean Oxbone stew, inspired the restaurant’s Oxbone Cream Pasta. Executive chef Eric Jaeho Choi tells the trio’s story through a genre bending menu of Korean Southern small plates.
The menu and design is curated to share the spirit of “Jeong,” a concept akin to Southern Hospitality. The intimate 40-seat interior is designed to foster a sense of community and encourage shared conversation over sake or tea. C as in Charlie is currently open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, 6-11pm and Friday through Saturday, 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Restaurants have been through so many challenges the last few years. What has been positive about all the ups and downs, in your personal experience?
It's true that the restaurant industry faced significant challenges in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, looking back, there were some positive developments amidst the difficulties.
Furthermore, government support for the industry has been significant, with local authorities making it easier for restaurants to operate during the pandemic. This includes the issuance of outdoor seating permits that were previously difficult to obtain and had to be inspected and renewed regularly. Additionally, there have been some changes in the liquor licensing process that have helped restaurant owners get licenses much faster than before, such as the issuance of temporary liquor licenses by NY State since 2022. This has reduced the waiting time for liquor licenses from 3-6 months to just a few months in our case, which has been a great relief.
What is special about creating a concept with lifelong friends versus persons you may know professionally, or from the field?
Working with lifelong friends has been one of the best parts of opening and running the restaurant. Our shared history and experiences have allowed us to naturally sync with each other over time, leading to a deep understanding of each other's likes, dislikes, and passions. We have come to a point where we dress, talk, and walk similarly at this point. This has enabled us to make quick and unified decisions without the need for lengthy debates and discussions that can arise when working with other professionals who may not share the same perspectives.
Describe your perfect day off, away from the intense world of running an NYC restaurant?
Since we work in an environment where we meet lots of new people and enjoy sharing drinks with them, we often seek out quieter places where we can unwind and recharge. Before we opened the business, we used to go fishing or camping upstate New York to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature.