Seorabol in Olney now has a sister spot in Center City. Chef Chris Cho, the son of the original restaurant’s owner, is carrying on his family’s tradition with a full-service eatery (with alcohol) just off Broad Street.
As a kid in Northeast Philadelphia, Chris Cho peeled vegetables in his father’s Korean restaurants, but he was not supposed to end up in the business.
Cho dutifully opened cellphone stores and flipped houses. His hustle was lucrative.
But when his father, Kye, was sent to an emergency room one day about seven years ago, Cho stepped back to help at Seorabol, the family’s popular destination restaurant in the city’s Olney section.
“I actually enjoy serving, because we had zero waiters who spoke English," he said. “It was interesting to introduce people to the food, and they loved it. ‘Oh my God! Finally someone who speaks English!’ Then I went to the kitchen to see if there was anything I could help with. And I know this is corny, but I say it’s like King Arthur when he picked up the sword. For me, it was when I picked up the knife. I think I just had it in me.”
Just a few years later, Cho is set up on the ground floor of the Center City One high-rise on Spruce Street near Broad, running a branch of Seorabol and sharing his heritage with a wider audience.
Korean dining — traditionally found in the Korean strongholds of Olney as well as in communities in Cheltenham, Upper Darby, the Route 309 corridor through Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill — is slowly making its way into Center City.