San Soo Gab San, a cherished Korean barbecue known for its charcoal grill tables, was shut down last week by the city for fire safety and ventilation violations. The Lincoln Square restaurant will remain closed until ownership fixes the issues, according to a city spokesperson.
City officials affixed a large orange sticker on the restaurant’s door at 5247 N. Western Avenue. The sticker is dated September 20 and orders that the building should remain vacant and unoccupied until the concerns are addressed.
The restaurant, which opened in 1991, was for many years the only Korean restaurant that Michelin recognized in Chicago (it was a steady member of the tire company’s Bib Gourmand list which recognizes value for the money). A sibling location is open in suburban Morton Grove. While many Korean barbecues now use gas to light their grills, San Soo continues to use hardwood charcoal which purists say makes bulgogi, kalbi, and other meats more flavorful. There was a short-lived attempt in 2017 to open another location in River North, but the space has since transitioned to Perilla Korean American Fare under different ownership. When opening the River West location, the ownership group — which was different than in Lincoln Square — touted a ventilation system that minimized smoke and prevented odor from being trapped in customers’ clothing.
San Soo’s ownership hasn’t been reached for comment. The restaurant’s voicemail message says they’re closed due to remodeling. Messages to the Morton Grove location have gone unreturned. A spokesperson for the city’s buildings department says that San Soo has “hired an architect and a licensed contractor and repair work may commence once the permit is issued.”
“The restaurant will be allowed to reopen as long as all of required permits are obtained and all of the violations are corrected,” the city’s statement also reads.