Restaurateurs bring Korean flavour to Haliburton
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 12, 2016
After two-and-a-half years in business, Andy Oh has the recipe to make a restaurant successful in small town Haliburton.
It all comes down to customer service, quality food and a reliable team.
“Food is important, the service is important, price is important and the process,” said Oh, who owns Maple Avenue Tap & Grill with his wife, Sunny Park. “These things have to work in harmony ... so they make one single customer happy.”
Located on Maple Avenue in the downtown core, the business was previously known as the Haliburton Family Restaurant.
They’ve managed to turn the business around in a short period of time. With 16 years of experience in the food industry, Oh completely revamped the menu to offer homemade food. They also renovated the interior 18 months ago to create a more spacious, bright and comfortable environment. It wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of the Haliburton County Development Corporation, said Oh. One local couple even gave him $1,500 as a gift.
The restaurant has earned rave reviews from locals and the food usually gets mentioned.
Before coming to Haliburton, the former Aurora residents, who are originally from Korea, were considering taking over a restaurant in downtown Toronto. However, that opportunity wasn’t the right one.
Instead, a friend referred them to a business opportunity in Haliburton. Oh was apprehensive, but his wife convinced him.
“She said she had a feeling,” he said.
Oh has been hosting a monthly Korean night at the restaurant during the winter. Due to its popularity, they decided to open a second restaurant that offers a full Korean menu.
“I noticed local people are happy to try something new. They can have a club sandwich anywhere, but I learned that local people are happy to have a choice,” he said.
They took the leap and purchased a building, located at 172 Highland St., in March. It has been home to many restaurants, most recently Hali’s Bistro and Aniz before that. No renovations are needed because the space is in immaculate condition.
Oh has been focusing on finding the talent to run the restaurant. He has hired a chef from Toronto with experience in Korean food. Four servers and one dishwasher will also be employed.
Oh firmly believes in creating new jobs and also giving his existing staff hours when business slows down.
“If it wasn’t for the locals, I couldn’t stay here. I have to pay back.”
The new restaurant is called Hankook E Korean Cuisine. It means “for the love of Korean.” His wife came up with the name and logo. Her background in visual arts has been helpful.
Customers can expect table cooking, stone bowl, traditional dishes, maki sushi, tempura and more, explained Oh.
It will be licensed. Takeout will be available and Oh plans on having a grab-and-go section for people in a hurry.
The restaurant will open at 11 a.m. next Tuesday.
Oh will continue to focus his efforts on Maple Avenue, as it’s his “first baby.” But that doesn’t mean he won’t lend a hand when necessary.
Although it’s been full of challenges, running a restaurant has been very rewarding. Oh enjoys connecting with his customers and ensuring their experience is memorable.
“I’m not afraid if a customer complains because when a customer complains they take care of me,” he said.
Feedback helps him make things better.
The couple intends on staying in Haliburton for the long-term. Their recent purchase of a home is evidence of their commitment.
“Hopefully everything turns out [well],” he said with a big smile. “I’m excited for a new adventure to start. This is my second baby.”
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.