Restaurant opened during the pandemic brings authentic Korean food to Newtonbrook

Yonge Pocha opened amid the pandemic with the aim of giving the Korean community a taste of home and introducing Torontonians to the concept of "Pojangmacha." Erica Natividad takes a look inside.

By Erica Natividad

When Karah Ryu realized the COVID-19 pandemic meant travelling back to South Korea for authentic Korean street food would be difficult, she decided to take a risk and open a restaurant during the peak of the pandemic.

“Because of COVID, people cannot visit Korea including me,” Ryu told CityNews. “So I missed Korea and the food as well. So we thought what about we bring something exactly like Korea.”

Karah Ryu and her partner opened Yonge Pocha in December of 2020 to bring the authentic feel of Korean street food to the neighbourhood of Newtonbrook.

It is one of a slew of Korean food options, among many other cultural selections, in the neighbourhood.

“Pojangmacha literally means covered wagon so this is an indoor Pojangmacha”

Yonge Pocha is modelled after Pojangmacha, pop-up food stalls covered by a tent that are popular place for late night snacks and drinks in South Korea.

“Pojangmacha literally means covered wagon so this is an indoor Pojangmacha,” explained Ryu. “After a long day of work, people go to grab food and drink with their co-worker. So I just want to introduce Pojangmacha to Torontonians.”

Korean celebrities and ads for Soju, a Korean alcoholic beverage, line the walls. Booths draped in orange tent material to mimic the intimate quarters found in Pojangmacha can be found towards the back.

On the menu is classic Korean street food fare and other authentic dishes, including easy-to-share seafood pancakes and Korean pork stir fry.

Ryu said the Sheppard and Finch area has lots of Korean restaurants and bars, which is why she decided to open a little further north in Newtonbrook.

“I felt like it’s too competitive but here, it’s more diverse and not much Korean food around here so I felt like why not? We can open here and we’re the only one and unique.”

To find out more on Yonge Pocha, head to their website.

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