Backoo’s Korean Chicken To Go on the Bedford Highway is a classic hole-in-the-wall. The tiny space is spartan, offering only a handful of stools alongside wall-mounted counters. In the corner of the room a flat screen TV mounted near the ceiling plays KBS World, a Korean 24-hour news channel. The sound of deep-frying chicken is so loud in the small room that it makes conversation difficult.
This location opened in June, and Backoo’s first outpost, on Birmingham Street in downtown Halifax, opened in January. It’s been a wild ride for JoungMin Kim and Sang Ho Back who met by chance less than three years ago.
“We met at the wholesale store,” he says. “Just bumped into each other and said hi. I can see that guy is Korean. That’s how we became friends.” Kim says Halifax doesn’t have a large Korean population so the two bonded quickly over their shared culture.
“I was talking to him about how there was no Korean chicken here,” Kim says. “I used to live in Vancouver. I know people not just from Korea, but lots of Canadians who like it because it goes well with beer.” Back had been thinking about opening a restaurant since he moved to Halifax a few years before.
In December 2015, the pair, along with a third friend, Jae Gwon Koo, formed a company. A month later, Backoo’s opened on Birmingham Street. The menu was small, just three types of chicken and a handful of daily specials, such as bibimbap (a popular vegetable and meat steamed rice dish topped with a sunny-side up egg).