Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant Kalbi Taco Shack opens on Cherokee Street

The style of Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine pioneered by Los Angeles chef Roy Choi and then introduced to St. Louis a few years ago by Seoul Taco has found a new home on Cherokee Street. Kalbi Taco Shack is now open at 2301 Cherokee, one block east of South Jefferson Avenue in Benton Park.
 
Kalbi Taco Shack offers tacos, burritos, quesadillas, banh mi and rice bowls with the diner's choice of protein: kalbi (the traditional Korean dish of marinated beef short-rib meat that gives the restaurant its name), sweet-and-spicy chicken, spicy pork or tofu.
 
This is the first restaurant for Sue Wong-Shackelford and her husband, Mark Shackelford, but Wong-Shackelford grew up in the industry. In the 1970s, her mother was a chef at the Chinese restaurant the Rice Bowl at the intersection of South Grand Boulevard and Juniata Street, while her father was a chef at the Polynesian restaurant Trader Vic's.
 
Now, with her own daughters having become interested in food and restaurants, Wong-Shackelford tells Off the Menu, “I'm going full circle.”
 
“My parents not only cooked Chinese food (at home),” Wong-Shackelford continues. “They cooked Vietnamese, Polynesian, a little bit of everything – all Asian cuisines.”
 
For Kalbi Taco Shack, Wong-Shackelford and her older daughter, Olivia, have taken her parents' recipes and tweaked them. Marinades, sauces and other components are made fresh daily.
 
The entire operation has drawn on family and friends to open, from the recipes of her late parents' to the her brother's help with the design and construction.
 
“I'm really proud of it,” Wong-Shackelford says.
 
For now, Kalbi Taco Shack is open from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Wong-Shackelford says they might expand the hours in the future, though she still wants to keep some family time at home with her younger daughter. The restaurant's phone number is 314-240-5544.
 
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