El Coreano Korean Mexican restaurant once stood at the 23rd and Bryant street location. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Jan. 19, 2022.

The restaurant space at 23rd and Bryant streets has hosted it all, to no avail: Soul food, Korean/Mexican/Chinese cuisine. But a new “food service” business declared its takeover this month, and could be the one to finally stick. 

Aarna Kitchen filed a business permit in January for the spot, at 2848 23rd St., which formerly housed El Coreano Korean Mexican Food, city data shows. So far, there’s little information on Aarna Kitchen or its listed proprietor, G & Gr Inc. 

What’s for sure is that Aarna Kitchen will be the latest culinary venture to try its luck at 2848 23rd St. in the last seven years. The last owner tried two different cuisines: Asian/Mexican fusion, and southern food. 

The new eatery will replace El Coreano, known for its unique offerings of Mexican/Korean/Chinese food and its friendly, earnest staff. 

El Coreano’s voicemail alludes to a temporary holiday closure from Dec. 24 to Jan. 4. However, the restaurant never peeled off the brown paper lining the windows, nor opened its doors to customers again. 

The Mexican/Korean/Chinese eatery would have celebrated its one-year anniversary in January, but for now it’s adios, annyeonghi gaseyo and zai jian.  

Mission Local reached out to El Coreano and one of its staff for comment. This article will be updated if and when they respond. 

Before they briefly served food as El Coreano, Miguel de Ocampo and Jaime Chavez dished out southern flavors as Buttermilk Southern Kitchen. That lasted from 2015 to January 2020, and at one time, the owners offered each of the various cuisines. 

Prior to OCampo and Chavez’s run, the space operated as a Launderworld Bryant from 1993 to 2015, crowning it the longest business run at the location in recent years according to city data

While little is known about Aarna Kitchen so far, it’s clear El Coreano’s closure will make an impact on customers who were fond of its manager Fidel Contreras

Multiple Yelp reviewers praised Contreras for “impeccable service” and an amicable attitude, and others highlighted his eager habit of gifting customers free samples of horchata. Our own reporter’s interactions with Contreras corroborated this earnest manner: “Contreras is the kind of restaurant manager who offers you on-the-house horchata until you finally give in — and damn, it’s good.”

As we previously reported, Contreras joined the restaurant when it was Buttermilk Southern Kitchen. With El Coreano under the same ownership, Contreras received the greenlight to make up his own recipes, such as the horchata he constantly pushed on customers. 

He embodied what it meant to be a restaurant caretaker, piling on roles as waiter, bartender, janitor, painter, and more, logging hours every day of the week. 

“I start here early in the morning and then very late at night go home, sleep, come back again. But it’s fun for me,” Contreras said.

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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