A Korean barbecue concept’s evolution is continuing.
Cupbop, which launched locally as a food truck in April 2019 and added a kiosk along the 16th Street Mall at the end of that year, is preparing to open three brick-and-mortar locations.
Co-owner Yeiri Song said the restaurants in Highlands, Arvada and Aurora should open in the next three months.
“We’re super excited to introduce this new trend of Korean food in Denver and to meet all the foodies here,” Song said. “The Highlands location is going to be our main commissary kitchen in Denver that fuels both the kiosk and food truck at the same time.”
The company — which has a presence in Utah, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado — offers a simple menu of meat, rice and noodle dishes, all served in a cup. Customers can mix it up with one of 10 sauces that have a range of spiciness from one to 10.
Song said the company signed a lease for the brick-and-mortar locations three months ago.
The Highlands location at 3453 W. 32nd Ave., as well as the Arvada location at 7450 W. 52nd Ave., are expected to open in January. The Aurora location at 13700 E. Colfax Ave. is slated for sometime between February and March, according to Song.
The company will continue to operate its food truck and downtown kiosk.
The Cupbop location in Highlands will also share a space with the Korean chain’s sister brand Ramen 930, a fast-casual Japanese ramen restaurant that already has a location in Salt Lake City.
“It’s called Ramen 930 because our bone broth is cooked for over 24 hours, and the ramen is ready to serve fresh by 9:30 a.m.,” Song said.
Cupbop was started in Salt Lake City in 2013 by Song’s husband, Junghun, along with his friends Jihyung Park and Jongkun Kim, who met while serving at an LDS Church mission in Korea and later moved to Utah together. The three friends wanted to introduce their heritage and love for Korean street food to America.
After a Korean documentarian debuted a movie called “The Rebirth of Korean Comfort Food in America” detailing Cupbop’s origin and success in the U.S. last year, Song and her husband Jung said they had requests from Koreans all over the world to open a location in their area.
The founders saw a lot of passion in Daniel Hyunmin Lim, who wanted to start a Cupbop franchise in Denver, so they hired him to run their local corporate locations.
Song said Cupbop’s sales in Utah have increased by 20 percent compared to last year, mainly due to the restaurant’s fast-casual style that makes it easier to grab meals to-go.
“We never want to give up. And while the pandemic was hard for any and every business, we wanted to use this time as an opportunity to expand and grow,” Song said.