by Laura Czingula
photography by Ryan Sones
The scent of fried rice, spicy chicken and cooked noodles is what someone can smell half a mile down the street from the Bowl House.
Although it is practically hidden from the community and is considered just a little hole-in-the-wall establishment, the Bowl House is one of the most popular Asian food restaurants in La Verne.
The Bowl House is owned and operated by husband and wife duo Myung and Choung Kim. The Kims were both born in Korea but lived in New York most of their lives, until they moved to California about four years ago.
“We came to California because my wife’s family was here,” says Myung. “And they [Choung’s family] were wanting us to come out here.”
“We had experience for the business. We had a family restaurant, but it was too big for us to deal with,” says Myung.
However, when they arrived in California, they decided to give it another try. That is when they opened up the Bowl House a year and a half ago, located on Third Street right next to the barber shop and across the street from the University of La Verne.
“We know a lot about the food business; it’s the only business I know,” says Myung.
Although the Bowl House is small, that was exactly what Myung was looking for.
“I could not afford a big business,” he says. “I was looking for a small business, and there was a lot of potential at this place because of the college.”
The first year was a struggle for the new restaurant owners, but once the Bowl House had established itself and received a great review from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the business started booming about six months ago.
When actor Christian Slater was an inmate at the La Verne jail, which is right next store to the Bowl House, the Kims say he ate there all of the time.
“When he [Slater] was released from the jail, he came over to us and thanked us for our service,” says Myung.
The Bowl House offers basic Japanese food, with a mixture of Korean and Chinese food as well.
“I serve Japanese food, but not the old Japanese food,” says Myung. Myung says his Japanese food is more Americanized.
Myung and his wife do all their own shopping for the Bowl House at the distributing company Ciscos. That is where they buy all their supplies that they need to keep the restaurant up and going. They receive their meat from a wholesale company.
“I go to the market a couple times a week,” says Myung.
Asked who the cook was, Myung laughs and replies, “My wife and I cook. There cannot be more than two people in the kitchen; it is too small.”
Those who have eaten at the Bowl House would understand why Myung laughed. The place is basically a tiny little area that only allows one person in at a time. However, there is a couple of chairs and tables with umbrellas over them out in front of the store on the sidewalk for Bowl House customers.
“The store is so small that one time Bonita High School tried to order a really big order of chicken bowls. We couldn’t do it; it was too much for the small restaurant,” he says.
The couple arrives at the restaurant around 9 a.m. every morning, except on Sundays when they are closed. The Bowl House is open from 10 a.m-8 p.m Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday.
“Basically, we don’t have a social life,” says Myung. “Except on Sundays, when we go to church, that is the only social thing we do. We do the same thing every day. We get up, come to the store, and then go home and go to bed and get up the next morning to come in again.”
The menu consists of only 11 items, all of which are very popular. One favorite is the chicken bowl, which comes with steamed rice, vegetables and teriyaki sauce. Myung says almost 70 percent of his customers prefer the chicken bowl over everything else.
“I think the chicken bowl is the most popular among customers because I trim the chicken and I take off the fat, so there is almost no fat on the chicken. I trim and chop, and that is a lot of work,”says Myung.
The second runner up for the most popular menu item is the Teriyaki bowl. And that probably has something to do with the fact that Myung makes a special teriyaki sauce that is a secret family recipe.
“The teriyaki sauce has been around a long time in my family; everyone likes it,” he says. “Maybe people like it because the teriyaki sauce has no grease.”
Also available on the Bowl House menu for vegetarians is a Tofu bowl, which has a unique taste about it, because, according to Myung, he does not do what other restaurants do. He has his own tofu recipe that is different from any other restaurants, and he says, his tastes good.
The newest item on the menu is the hot and spicy chicken, which Myung makes totally by himself.
“I put it on the menu because people like hot and spicy food,” says Myung. “But it was only temporarily, I didn’t think people would want it during the hot weather. But people like hot food even though it is hot weather,” he says. “So now it is on the menu for good.”
The Kim’s menu is reasonable. The most expensive item on the menu is the California roll with the Udon soup at $5.95. Other than that everything else costs from $3 to $4.
“We try and give good, fast food. People want that,” says Myung. “Our food is not greasy, and maybe it is so popular because people like the combination of different foods. Plus, we have a friendly atmosphere, and our food is relatively cheap.”
Myung is looking into making the Bowl House into a chain of restaurants. Right now, he is considering some places in Claremont and Ontario.