2 dining trends in Philadelphia

Giwa is a Korean fast casual / fast food / take-out kind of restaurant, and I think they’ve hit a sweet spot towards presenting Korean food in a more palatable way to mainstream America. Giwa‘s menu and website both introduces newcomers to what Korean food is, accentuating its health benefits, and mentioning the 3 most popular dishes (to get past the paralyzing indecision of too many choices.) And the atmosphere of the restaurant is simple and clean; and, with only 25 seats, it’s a good setup for take-out food to go. Real Korean food connoisseurs may say it’s not authentic enough, but (I think) the point is to give non-Koreans an easy on ramp.

That’s one of the notions that’d been stewing in the back of my mind about different ethnic Asian foods, be it Chinese, Japanese, or Thai. All of these are mainstream now; these 4 have made certain adjustments to make it inviting for non-Asians to enjoy their foods. I’d wondered what would it take to mainstream Korean food — Giwa has done it! I think for Chinese food, that meant (initially) chop suey, fried rice, and sweet & sour pork. Plus, Chinese food has the sheer extra number of years to assimilate. There are still many who don’t eat Chinese, so even a fast-growing fast-food chain like Panda Express uses intentional tactics to explain Chinese food to non-Chinese (cf. Panda Express spreads Chinese food across USA.) I love the visual beauty of Japanese sushi and showmanship of Japanese Teppanyaki. Thai food has mainstreamed by having beautiful decor and ambiance at its restaurants.

This morning, I’m really looking forward to “dining” at Cereality for the very first time. Yes, a fast casual kind of place that serves all kinds of cereals all day.

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  1. joe says:

    Hope Giwa (or something similar) becomes a franchise. I’ve also often wondered what it would take for Korean food to become mainstream in the States. A decade ago, we were excited about Sorabol becoming the Panda Express of Chinese food – but it hasn’t seemed to gain much traction.

    In the Bay Area, an Indian food chain called Chaat Cafe has been getting pretty popular…

  2. JoseonIllin says:


    There’s an interesting website on Korean food from a non-Asian’s perspective that’s got recipes and other good stuff:


    On a personal note some of the best places I’ve had Korean food are Korean churches. I have a lot of fond memories of eating a great homemade Korean meal on a tri-partioned styrofoam plate with a cup of Coke to wash down the meal with…

  3. djchuang says:

    Joe, Looking at the Sorabol website, they’ve already got a dozen locations, so they must be doing something right to spread the gospel of Korean food 🙂 (unless they’re an overgrown thing like Boston Market that soon collapsed under its own weight)

    Jose, thanks for the link to zenkimchi. From there I found a Mandoo Bar in New York City, kinda the little boutique dining experience of dumpling bars like Dumpling Man — one of my favorites when I’m in The City.

  4. LH says:

    DJ, you know more about Philly cuisine than I do! Btw, Cereality is two blocks from where I work (www.econsult.com). Next time you’re in Philly, let me know so we can hook up.