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Korean fast casual restaurant SeoulSpice opening in Rosslyn next week with free food

Korean fast casual eatery SeoulSpice is opening a new location in Rosslyn next week and offering free food for its first customers.

The spot at 1735 N. Lynn Street, on the ground floor of the International Place building, will be SeoulSpice’s sixth location and first in Virginia. It is set to open its doors on Wednesday, Feb. 23, and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

On opening day, each in-store customer can get a “complimentary entrée bowl” while supplies last. Customers must physically be in the restaurant to get the bowl.

The growing restaurant chain, which serves Korean comfort food including rice bowls and japchae noodle bowls, was founded by a world-class percussionist.

“Like all musicians, I’m a foodie,” owner Eric Shin tells ARLnow.

Shin became the principal percussionist with the National Symphony Orchestra about a decade ago. So, when friends came to visit, he would often play “tour guide” taking them to all the popular Korean restaurants in the area.

He soon realized there was a need in the D.C. area for fresh Korean flavors in a more simple, fast-casual format.

So, taking what he learned from his mom who opened a restaurant in Atlanta, he opened his own restaurant in 2016. SeoulSpice’s first location was in D.C. and has since expanded to Maryland.

Over the years, Shin says he’s learned a lot, particularly about how his careers intersect. He’s also a faculty member at the music school at the University of Maryland.

“Food, like music, is this pursuit of perfection,” he says. “There’s so many parallels in music and food, both being incredible ways to learn about culture.”

Food runs in Shin’s family. Many of the recipes come from family members, passed down over generations, with nearly all ingredients prepped and made in-house. The menu includes Korean-style burritos, bibimbap, japchae, bulgogi, kimchi, and sauces, which are all made from scratch.

In fact, Shin ran the entire menu by his grandmother, who approved it save for one item.

“[We] offer cilantro-lime ranch, which is one of my favorite sauces… I’m a ranch addict. But my grandma was so pissed off when we showed her this on the menu,” Shin laughs. “But the flavors really work. It took a lot of convincing… to win [her] over.”

SeoulSpice also ended up being gluten-free, not because Shin intended it to be but because he preferred the complexity of tamari as a soy sauce alternative, which is naturally free of gluten.

The lease was signed for the Rosslyn location prior to the pandemic, Shin says, so it has taken a while to open. Plus, it’s a bit of a challenging space, having operated as a dry cleaning business prior and being under a thousand square feet.

Shin is excited for the opening, though, since Arlington was the most requested location for a new restaurant.

“Practically every week, we got emails from someone in Northern Virginia saying, ‘please come out here!'” he says.

Shin believes that his work as a percussionist is in some ways his “secret sauce” for his success as a restaurateur.

“When you’re practicing in music,” Shin says. “You’re always finding interesting ways to do new things.”

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