Atlanta Orders In: Let’s Bap dishes up fast-casual Korean food in Atlanta, Chamblee

Kimbap, sometimes spelled gimbap, is a Korean-style sushi roll made from cooked rice and other ingredients rolled in dried seaweed and served in bite-size pieces. Let’s Bap offers bulgogi kimbap and a vegetarian version. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Kimbap, sometimes spelled gimbap, is a Korean-style sushi roll made from cooked rice and other ingredients rolled in dried seaweed and served in bite-size pieces. Let’s Bap offers bulgogi kimbap and a vegetarian version. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Timing, they say, is everything. The timing for the opening of both locations of fast-casual Korean restaurant Let’s Bap could not have been worse.

Business partners Jeong do Kim and Ji Young Baik had planned to get Let’s Bap off the ground years ago. They signed a lease on a space in the Chamblee Plaza strip mall in August, 2017, but the space wasn’t delivered to them until 2019. Construction and permitting delayed things even further; the doors finally opened this past November.

ExploreMore Atlanta Orders In
Let’s Bap launched in 2020 with a location in the Sweet Auburn Historic District in downtown Atlanta and another at 5460 Peachtree Blvd. in Chamblee (pictured). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Let’s Bap launched in 2020 with a location in the Sweet Auburn Historic District in downtown Atlanta and another at 5460 Peachtree Blvd. in Chamblee (pictured). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

It was a similar story of construction setbacks with the location they opened last July at 206 Edgewood Ave. in downtown Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District, despite having signed the lease agreement 11 months earlier.

Due to the pandemic, business has not been as brisk as the owners had hoped, explained Kim’s wife, Michelle Kim, who assists with the operation in Chamblee. “COVID really hit us,” she said. This is especially true of the downtown location, which, in normal times, could expect to feed office workers and Georgia State University students.

The kicker, she said, is that they have tried to apply for federal loans for small businesses affected by the pandemic, but have been denied, because Let’s Bap was not open for business prior to the pandemic. They can’t get a Paycheck Protection Program loan, “because they said we didn’t open since February or before. But we couldn’t. It took us six months just to get our permit. We didn’t imagine this when we signed the lease. Rent is coming up in a few days. That’s kind of worrisome.”

ExploreDeKalb County dining news
Popular Korean street food tteokbokki are chewy stir-fried rice cakes with a pronounced heat, thanks to a sauce made with gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste) and gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Popular Korean street food tteokbokki are chewy stir-fried rice cakes with a pronounced heat, thanks to a sauce made with gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste) and gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Still, she said, they are thankful for what business they have generated. Delivery orders far outnumber takeout or dine-in at the Edgewood eatery, with third-party fees chipping further away at slim profit margins. Chamblee, however, is seeing more action.

“I’m very thankful for the neighbors that are supporting. I’m really happy to see they are coming,” she said.

The customers come for cup-bap, customizable rice bowls that consist of rice (bap) with a variety of toppings. Let’s Bap offers fried or steamed white rice as a base, protein options — thin strips of grilled marinated beef (bulbogi), sweet-spicy Korean fried chicken or tofu — a handful of vegetables, and a choice of sauce.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news
Let’s Bap offers numerous dosirak, or lunchbox, options. Pictured is one that features, clockwise from left, Korean fried rice, pork mandu (dumplings) and bulgogi (grilled beef). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Let’s Bap offers numerous dosirak, or lunchbox, options. Pictured is one that features, clockwise from left, Korean fried rice, pork mandu (dumplings) and bulgogi (grilled beef). Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

They also come for dosirak, packed meals that typically contain rice and several side dishes, or banchan. At Let’s Bap, these range from two- to five-item combinations, averaging about $10.

And, they come for snacks, known as bunsik, but dubbed on the menu as “tapas” for the uninitiated.

Serving a largely American clientele thus far has come with teaching moments, Kim said. Like, explaining that kimbap — rice and other fillings rolled in nori and cut into bite-size pieces — isn’t eaten the same way as a Japanese sushi roll. Whereas the latter might be dipped in soy sauce, kimbap is not, because each ingredient already is seasoned. “You don’t need a sauce,” she said. For die-hard dippers, she recommends mayo-based yum yum sauce.

Also, forget the chopsticks. This is finger food. It’s not fancy, but it sure is fun.

An order of yubuchobap brings fried tofu pockets filled with seasoned rice and vegetables, making for hearty finger food. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
An order of yubuchobap brings fried tofu pockets filled with seasoned rice and vegetables, making for hearty finger food. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

LET’S BAP

Menu: fast-casual Korean

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: Korean lunchbox of bulgogi, mandu and Korean fried rice; pork mandu (dumplings); tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes); yubuchobap (fried tofu pockets filled with seasoned rice and veggies); bulgogi kimbap (Korean-style sushi roll). Any Let’s Bap lunchbox is a complete and filling one-person meal. The pork filling for the dumplings is generous. The chewy texture of tteokbokki may not appeal to nonadventurous diners. Yubuchobap and the highly recommended kimbap are sturdy finger foods that travel well. Order it all for a unique and affordable Korean-style picnic.

Service options: carryout or dine-in; place orders in person or online; delivery via DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats

Outdoor dining: limited seating on awning-covered patio

Mask policy: required for all employees; highly encouraged, but not mandated, for customers

Address, phone: 5460 Peachtree Blvd., Chamblee; 470-223-4963

Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays

Website: letsbapchamblee.com

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News