Breaking News
More () »

Seattle's OHSUN Banchan Deli & Cafe serves traditional Korean food with a twist

The restaurant serves traditional Korean food with a twist. It's 100% gluten-free, mostly vegan, with flavors from the Pacific Northwest and the South.

SEATTLE — Stepping into OHSUN Banchan Deli & Cafe in Seattle's Pioneer Square is like stepping right into Sara Upshaw's family kitchen. It's friendly, cheerful and full of home-cooked, Korean comfort food.

"I wanted to be able to show people a different side of Korean food that a lot of times you don't get exposed to," said Upshaw.

The restaurant serves traditional Korean food with a twist. It's 100% gluten-free, mostly vegan, with flavors from the Pacific Northwest and the South.

"My dad has some southern roots from Georgia. But my mom, she's from Korea," Upshaw explained.

OHSUN is named after Upshaw's grandmother, the matriarch of her family who was always feeding a huge crowd at home, in her church and community.

Because of the language barrier, food is how her grandmother communicated and showed her love.

"She's someone that always made sure that we had banchan and that's something that we focus on here," Upshaw said.

Banchan are small Korean side dishes that accompany an entree and are meant to be eaten together. They're smaller than American side dishes and are served in a group of three for good luck. Upshaw describes the banchan at OHSUN as very produce-based with a lot of bold flavors.

"Korean food has a lot of flavor in general, but I like to step it up a little bit more," Upshaw said. "These are made to be punctuation marks for a meal to move along."

Upshaw opened this restaurant in December 2022 without any culinary background.

While working at Nordstrom, she started a food blog called "Kimchi Halfie," which is a nod to her half-Korean identity.

That led to YouTube videos where she taught people Korean recipes and wrote a cookbook "Korean Barbecue at Home".

She taught cooking classes and started doing pop-ups. During the pandemic, she finally quit her corporate job and opened a brick-and-mortar store.

Now, Upshaw's found her own purpose in feeding people and welcoming those who might be trying Korean food for the first time. For the older generation, like her mom, seeing people embrace Korean food is surprising.

"She gets so amazed that people will want to know about Korean cuisine and why they would want to eat it," Upshaw said. "It's something that, you know, frankly, she was made fun of sometimes eating it. And so I feel like it's up to the second-gen kiddos to be very loud and proud about it and say this is the food that we ate growing up."

OHSUN has become a popular spot in Pioneer Square during the lunch hour for dine-in customers and to-go orders. There are also various banchan in the deli case that people can take home to enjoy.  Upshaw credits her success to the outpouring of support from the neighborhood.

"Having a restaurant is hard. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Upshaw said.  "Speaking to other restauranteurs who have done this for many, many years, they lovingly warned me of the ups and downs that I would have. But I don't regret it one bit. And it's all because of our customers and our patrons."

Before You Leave, Check This Out