I was curious, to say the least, when I learned that the new Foolish Things High Dive across from Church Studio would be serving Korean street food to go with coffee and cocktails.
Foolish Things Coffee Co. downtown and Foolish Things Bar & Biscuit in Brookside, owned by Katie and Justin Carpenter, have little to suggest an Asian slant was coming on the third Foolish Things concept.
“I started thinking about the cultural intersection of Asian and American history, such as kung fu in the 1970s and ’80s with hip hop, and I started thinking about Asian flavors,” Justin Carpenter said. “That led to exploring Korean cuisine.
“We aren’t trying to put a totally authentic Korean menu out there, but we took our inspiration from Korean street food profiles.”
Nick Corcoran, an eight-year veteran of BurnCo Barbeque at the 18th Street and Boston Avenue location, was hired as director of kitchens for all three restaurants.
“Eight years in one spot probably was enough, and this came with the opportunity to cook my own food and have some fun,” Corcoran said. “Besides, barbecued meats are in this cuisine, too.”
A festive crowd was in the cozy dining room when we went by recently for dinner. We took seats at the bar where server and coffee guru Jasmine and bartender Johnny gave us friendly and efficient service.
It doesn’t take long to go over the menu, which includes a handful of bar snacks, a salad, two soups, five street tacos, bibimbap and fried rice or rice noodle bowls.
Bibimbap features a bowl of white rice topped with marinated veggies, an over-easy egg and choice of bulgogi (marinated barbecued beef), spicy pork, mushrooms or marinated tofu.
It is customary to mix all of the ingredients together just before eating, but you are free to attack it any way you wish.
In the rice and noodle bowls, the veggies and egg with bulgogi, spicy pork, mushrooms or marinated tofu are mixed and cooked together.
All of the bowls are $9 to $12.
We ordered a mushroom fried rice bowl ($10) that included carrots and green onion with the egg and mushrooms. A mildly spicy sauce held it all together.
We also tried the Don Squatch street taco ($4.50), a tasty combination of bulgogi, pickled daikon, barbecue sauce and oranges. I liked it the way it was, but bottles of hot sauces are available for those who prefer to kick it up a notch.
The tacos are $4.50 each or three for $12. These are larger than the typical Mexican street taco, so three would be plenty for dinner for most diners.
We also shared a large bowl of egg drop soup ($6) and wonton nachos ($6). I never have seen an egg drop soup so loaded with egg, and honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Maybe less egg.
The nachos, obviously, were prepared with wonton chips and topped with green onions, cheese and sliced jalapenos. Bulgogi, spicy pork or tofu may be added for an extra charge.
Main dishes also come with banchan, a Korean term for small snacks that complement the meal. Ours were small bowls of kimchi (fermented cabbage), pickled daikon and pickled jalapenos.
High Dive has full bar service, featuring Japanese whiskeys and craft cocktails. Bar manager Kara Nienow has integrated Asian ingredients into a number of the cocktails, many of which have whimsical names such as Ugly Love Child, Give It Ume Baby and Tanks and Bombs.
“I’m passionate about Japanese whiskeys,” Carpenter said. “They produce some of the best in the world.”
Food is served on metal trays and in large metal bowls.
Karaoke is scheduled Wednesday nights, and live music occasionally is booked Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The room includes a small stage, a leftover from the previous tenant, The Coffee Blues, that was built with wood reclaimed from Church Studio, which is being renovated by Teresa Knox.
“Teresa approached us about putting a coffee bar in here,” Carpenter said. “I think she liked what we were doing downtown and on Peoria. A friend of mine, Hunter Gambill (owner of OK Distilling Co.), and I came over to look at the space, and we really liked it.”
Carpenter said the name High Dive has nothing to do with diving boards or swimming pools. Or cliff divers.
“It’s a high concept dive bar,” he said. “It’s casual but executed with uncompromising quality.”