The idea behind Berkeley’s Korean Superette began seven years ago as a larger plan. Shoppers looking for Korean foods had few options back then, recalls Chi Moon, a partner at Korean Superette. There was the Koreana Plaza in Oakland or the choice to go to San Jose or San Francisco. In 2015, Moon’s family, who own a handful of Bay Area restaurants including Ohgane, Bowl’d, Spoon Korean Bistro, and BopShop, considered opening a major Korean grocery store. “It didn’t go through,” says Moon. “So we put that idea aside.”
Fast forward to 2022, and while the Korean Superette on Solano Avenue isn’t a full-fledged grocery store, the store serves home-cooked Korean food alongside a selection of Korean groceries intended for a single-family household. Moon, along with sister Jessica Oh and girlfriend Hyeyoung Yoon, co-opened the Superette in April and took over the former Rivoli space after it closed in September, though the space had been dark since August. The Superette’s ready meals differ from Moon and Oh’s other restaurants — two of which, Bowl’d and BopShop Korean Kitchen, are also located on Solano Avenue — and instead focus on Korean comfort food, which can be ordered at the front desk. Options include two types of tteokbokki, braised rice cakes with either beef and vegetables or fish cakes and an egg; jjajangmyeon, udon noodles with black soybean sauce; Soondubu Jjigae, a soft tofu stew with vegetables, egg and an assortment of proteins. “You feel like you’re eating food that Mom made for you,” says Yoon.
The menu is a selection of the partners’ favorite dishes, but with more vegetables. “We are conscious of preparing healthy food,” says Moon. In addition to cooked-to-order meals, there is also a selection of ready-to-go and ready meals available in one of the Superette’s wall-mounted refrigerators. These items often change depending on the selection of vegetables available, Yoon says.
Further in the Korean Superette, the back of the room serves both as a market for Korean groceries and pantry items, and as a dining area that extends to the back patio and garden. For instant noodle lovers, there’s an entire wall dedicated to them, a colorful selection of both Korean favorites and ramen from Japan and other Asian countries: buldak ramen, kimchi ramen, soon to be veggie noodle soup. Another wall covers pantry staples like gochujang, cooking oils, and various noodles; If required, there is even a small household goods department with crockery and cutlery. Check out the freezers and fridges that line the east side of the building and you’ll find a mix of goodies to take home. there’s a banchan medley packaged in take-away deli containers that sit alongside bagged rice cakes; frozen foods like mandu or dumplings, Korean corn dogs with their extra crunchy exterior, and more; There is also a small selection of thinly sliced meats ready for Korean BBQ, as well as chicken and pork chops.
Despite the shelves of groceries and the wall of refrigerators, the store manages to make Yoon feel at home. “The garden and the facility itself feel like a house to me,” says Yoon. “The garden gives you comfort and coziness like sitting in the kitchen or living room and eating a meal. I’m from Korea but I came here years ago and I always miss Korean food. I can’t really get my mom’s side dishes of banchans and kimchi, so I want to bring that feeling of Korean home-cooked food to people.”
Korean Superette (1539 Solano Avenue, Berkeley) is open Sunday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and the kitchen closes at 8:00 p.m