Expansion Mode

A Big Move for One of Seattle's Most Compelling Restaurants

Paju's new South Lake Union location could bring new prominence to a restaurant that's long deserved it.

By Allecia Vermillion April 24, 2024

Dishes like Paju's yellowtail in naengmyeon broth will come along for the ride.

Image: Courtesy Paju

One of Seattle’s most compelling—and, dare I say, under-hyped—restaurants is making big moves. Paju, lower Queen Anne’s den of modern Korean food, will relocate to a more prominent new address in South Lake Union.

Owner Bill Jeong and his former partner opened Paju in 2019 in a location their bootstrapped budget would allow. “Our plan was to get out of the space in two years,” says Jeong. Of course, the pandemic’s onset upended that schedule and all the tidy financial projections that supported it.

Paju’s tight quarters didn’t stop it from gaining attention. The restaurant landed on the New York Times’s national restaurant list in 2021. Night after night, Jeong and team put out dishes like truffle rib eye bulgogi, fried rice black with squid ink, ornate vegetable dishes, and other plates that melded Korean flavors with a fine dining sensibility. But still, Paju has always deserved more widespread acclaim.

It may actually get it in the new space. After two years of looking, Jeong will move into 513 Westlake Avenue N. This address was home to Revel’s popup while that restaurant awaited its own new location. Before that, Josh Henderson originally tricked it out as Vestal, which he intended as his more personal fine dining project back in the frothy pre-pandemic days. Jeong is excited about the hearth, a souvenir from the Vestal era—not to mention the powerful hood system that’s already installed and the potential it creates.

When Paju reopens, Jeong’s team will have space to prep dry-aged, whole roasted duck and Italian-style porchetta, served with, essentially, banchan. The labor involved means these dishes will be available in limited quantities; there’s even talk of a beef wellington, if customers are willing to pre-order.

If this doesn’t sound like Korean food, well, Jeong’s sensibility has always roamed among the common ground this cuisine shares with other food cultures. After all, “Porchetta is basically pork belly,” he points out. “When you go to a Korean restaurant, pork belly and brisket is always number one.”

Nobody need mourn the crispy pancake and beef tartare; favorites from Paju’s existing menu will come along as well. The new location will also add hard liquor to the current wine and beer mix, and will start serving lunch next year, as stipulated by its lease with Amazon.

I’ll miss Paju as an option for dinner near Climate Pledge Arena. Wading into Amazonland for dinner can be rough, though the $2 evening parking helps. The current restaurant will serve its last dinner May 11; Jeong hopes the reopen sometime in June.

South Lake Union can be a tricky place for restaurants—so full of promise, but also traffic and throngs of people who just want cheap and casual. But a space more than double the size of the original will hopefully offer a chance for this kitchen to flex the full range of its talent. And a chance for Paju to build the following it deserves.