reunited and it feels so good
Return of the Dak: Sizzling Korean fried chicken spot makes big Museum District comeback
Reunions are rare in the restaurant business. If an establishment leaves a specific location, it’s unlikely to return for any number of reasons, but one of Houston’s most popular Korean fried chicken restaurants will soon be the exception to that rule.
Dak & Bop is returning to its original home in the Museum District. The restaurant will reopen at its original location in the Parc Binz building (1801 Binz St.) that local wine bar City Cellars HTX left at the end of July.
Owner Jason Cho recently signed a lease to return to his former home and has begun working to remodel the restaurant. If all goes according to plan, it should open in December. It will join Cho’s existing portfolio that include Dak & Bop’s current location in Lazybrook/Timbergrove, South Korean coffee shop Tom N Toms near the Galleria, and upscale Korean steakhouse Karne in the Heights.
Cho tells CultureMap he never wanted to close Dak & Bop’s original location, but he had to make the decision about renewing the lease in May 2020 when many restaurants were still closed or only operating as to-go. Faced with such an uncertain future, he opted to concentrate on his larger, second location in Lazybrook/Timbergrove that opened in January 2020.
“I missed that area. I’ve been eyeing that market the entire time,” Cho tells CultureMap. “There aren’t many retail spaces available. I saw the article where City Cellars says they’re making too much money and have to vacate. I called Chris [Balat, the developer of Parc Binz] and said, ‘do you want a reunion?’ I went to his office the next day, and it made sense.”
Dak & Bop’s current location in the Lazybrook/Timbergrove area features both Korean fried chicken and a more extensive, Korean-inspired menu developed by Cho and former executive chef Jordan Economy, but the Museum District restaurant will focus more tightly on chicken. The chicken is fried twice to ensure a crispy crust and juicy meat. Other dishes on the menu include bulgogi mac and cheese and kim chi fries. Given the smaller footprint, Cho wants to focus on the restaurant’s core identity.
“People relate Dak & Bop with chicken. They want really good, crispy chicken,” Cho says.
While restaurants such as Bonchon have spread Korean fried chicken across Houston, it was relatively unknown when Cho opened Dak & Bop in 2015. Although the restauranteur had confidence his concept would find an audience, he had difficulty securing a location until he met with Balat.
“Chris was the only one with the vision to give me a shot to open up KFC back then,” Cho explains. “I submitted leases to a lot of different places. Everywhere shot me down. He was the only person who said yes, because he understood the cuisine.”
“Any time a tenant approaches and they have some sort of concept, we check it out, whether it’s in New York or Europe. Every tenant changes the neighborhood,” Balat says. “People asked where he went and why he left. He was heavily missed.”
The bond between Cho and Balat goes beyond landlord-tenant. Chris’s father, Dr. Isam Balat, delivered both of Cho’s children. Cho adds that he’s looking forward to seeing his customers from the Medical Center return to the new location.
As for Balat, he’s currently building Parc Binz II across the street from the original building. It will have approximately 6,000-square-feet available for retail tenants. Expect announcements soon about what businesses will be joining Parc Binz’s existing tenants — Dak & Bop, Barnaby’s, and Fadi’s.