Story by Luis Carrión
When you meet James Baker for the first time it might feel odd to hear him speak Korean with the ease of a native speaker. “I was born in Korea,” he points out, “and I did not immigrate to the United States until I was 17 years old.” He says that when Korean’s speak to him about his restaurant over the phone, they are inevitable surprised by his appearance when they arrive. His Father was American (hence the name “Baker,”) and his Mother Korean, and he says that growing up in his native country he experienced some hardship because of his looks. “I was always bigger” he says, “so I could take care of myself.”
Baker is the latest generation of his family to operate the Korean House restaurant located on East Speedway, and he says that after he took over the business from his uncle he has vowed to keep the tradition of authenticity alive. He tries to keep the dining experience at Korea House true to the cultural legacy of his homeland and offers many regional dishes. The menu at the restaurant features an array of soups that Baker says are a favorite of Koreans in search of a taste from home. He also has a series of grilled meats that are served with rice, salad, and several side dishes.
Baker says that there are flavors suitable for the American palate, but he’s more than happy to accommodate the requests for an authentic Korean experience --This often means with a little extra heat, and spice. He also says that Soup, often served at every meal in Korea, is still the most authentic dish served at Korea House. “They discovered the spoon buried with some of our ancient kings," he says, "that’s how long we’ve been eating soup.”