Urbanizing Gas Stations

Why Gas-Station Restaurants Are Great for Suburbs

A new crop of restaurants in gas stations, like Seoul Food D.C., will help suburbs grow into more authentic urban places. 

CityLab, Nov. 14, 2014

It’s 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, and I’m at Seoul Food D.C., eating a kimchi-bacon rice bowl as I watch cars whoosh down a six-lane road. I’m fighting the urge to finish my lunch with one of the pumpkin whoopie pies next to the cash register—instead, I settle for a pack of gum, sold in the Tiger Mart a few steps away.

Tiger Mart, you may recall, is Exxon’s convenience-store brand. Yes, this Korean-fusion café operates out of a gas station. Anna and Jon Goree launched Seoul Food in a food truck in nearby Arlington, Virginia, in 2011. After building a devoted following for their caramelized kimchi and bibimbap, the couple decided to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

They learned of the space in the Exxon when they got a call from its new owner, an acquaintance who was unsure what to do with his extra square footage. The Gorees liked the space and the location, and in early 2013, they signed a three-year lease.

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Photograph by Hank Shiffman/Shutterstock