The C as in Charlie Team’s Favorite New York Korean Spots That Remind Them of Home
Where do chefs go and, more importantly, where do they love to eat? In Resy Regulars, we ask Resy chefs to tell us where they’re regulars.
In this edition, we’re chatting with the trio from C as in Charlie, whose lifelong friendship is the stuff of lore (cue “Stand by Me”) that’s resulted in a much-adored Southern-Korean tapas spot with free-flowing soju in Soho.
Decades earlier, in 2003, the founders — chef Eric JaeHo Choi, his brother and money manager Steve JaeWoo Choi, and best friend and operations guy David JoonWoo Yun — met at a local Korean church in Atlanta, where they were the only kids who spoke predominantly Korean. Together, they shared childhood sleepovers and family dinners and even attended college in New York City.
David came first, convincing Eric and Steve to follow. When they encountered Manhattan’s Koreatown, their jaws dropped. “This is crazy,” says Yun. “This is almost just like Korea.” Compared to Atlanta, New York’s Korean American community was much larger, and the nightlife continued into the early dawn. “We were immediately hooked on all this New York City energy in Koreatown,” says Yun.
In Flushing, Queens, a neighborhood that welcomed an influx of working-class and middle-income Korean immigrants in the 1980s, they found a different facet of the Korean American life. The restaurants here had that “emo” (auntie) energy and “jeong,” or familial hospitality.
The trio ended up working at the now-closed Kristalbelli, one of the city’s first upscale Korean barbecue joints that stood out for its use of smokeless crystal grills and ownership by a major K-pop production house called JYP Entertainment.
“It was our mission to always open up our own restaurant one day,” says Yun. “Whenever we went out and had a drink, or stayed at each other’s home and had a beer, we always said, ‘Oh, if we open up our own restaurant, it should be this kind of concept, that kind of concept.’”
In 2022, the trio debuted C as in Charlie — a place that expressed their collective Korean American experience. You can taste it in the ox bone cream pasta, inspired by Yun’s mom’s use of Italian spaghetti in her seollangtang. Or in a newer dish, like a fluke ceviche steeped in yakju, a Korean wine, made with juicy tangerines from Jeju Island, where Eric and Steve’s parents now live.
For each, their friendship has always been about finding their Korea in America — in each other, in the food, in the larger community — particularly as the times keep changing. And on their off hours, they’re still heading to those spots across New York’s Korean American enclaves that give them a sense of home. Here’s a look at a few of them.