clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Famed Korean Barbecue Gets Temporarily Shut Down for Fire and Ventilation Issues

San Soo Gab San’s hardwood charcoal grills are part of the restaurant’s mystique

Two signs at a strip mall.
San Soo Gab San is a Chicago fixture.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

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.

The brick exterior of a restaurant with a glass door and orange sticker.
A sticker dated September 20 has shut San Soo Gab San down.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago
The restaurant can reopen when the fixes are made, the city says.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

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.

San Soo Gab San

5247 North Western Avenue, , IL 60625 (773) 334-1589 Visit Website