Korean food at Dak is more than just business for Ju family

By Courtney Tan

The Jus are busy at work as they season, brine and marinade meat and vegetables to prepare for the work day. Photo by Courtney Tan.
The Jus are busy at work as they season, brine and marinade meat and vegetables to prepare for the work day. Photo by Courtney Tan.

Dak is special to the Ju family. The relatively new Korean restaurant in Edgewater unified the family after many hardships — from the closure of their first restaurant to a cancer diagnosis.

The cramped kitchen is filled with silver appliances and four seemingly exhausted kitchen staff. Sunhui, who also goes by Mama Ju, due to her kind and affectionate nature, wipes a knife across her apron as she prepares to cut mushrooms.

Seteak takes his glasses off and wipes his tired, wrinkled face as he prepares to wash and brine the chicken by hand. The two brothers, Daniel and Tom, both in their 30s, begin to prepare for the 12-hour shift by switching out their sneakers for more comfortable shoes and tying aprons over their bulky bodies.

Dak’s wooden tables, black floors and simple decorations give the restaurant a clean look. The space is small with roughly 20 seats and bright, colorful pictures of South Korea are framed against the wall.

Meat fries in oils while fresh carrots, mushrooms and other vegetables are chopped and prepared for pickling and seasoning. The pressure cooker with chicken inside beeps and hisses loudly, almost drowning out the pop music blasting from the speakers.

An order for a beef rice bowl and five Dak sauce wings — the restaurant’s most popular combination — comes in and the Jus get right to work. Married for almost 40 years, Mama Ju and Seteak, both in their 60s, marinade, steam, pickle, ferment and season the food.

Daniel and Tom keep the restaurant running and fry the meats. Mama Ju adds a generous scoop of steaming white rice into a metal bowl and begins to arrange cucumbers, bean sprouts and other vegetables. The family works in silence until the meal is ready.

However, the process didn’t always go this smoothly. In fact, after their first restaurant closed, Tom and Daniel had once thought the family wouldn’t be able to work together again.

In 2003, Daniel, Mama Ju, and Seteak opened up a Japanese restaurant in Cleveland hoping to gain popularity through the rising sushi trend. Seteak, a sushi chef by trade, had insisted that offering high-quality Japanese food and sushi would do well in a busy city, such as Cleveland.

Although the Ju family had high hopes for this restaurant, they faced financial issues as the building’s rent went up and business slowed down. The restaurant’s management and marketing were lacking and it closed after a mere two years.

Sorely disappointed, the Jus agreed not to work together again. Mama Ju and Seteak were the most disappointed as South Korean immigrants who arrived from Seoul in Chicago in 1977 with only $200 to their name.

Mama Ju and Seteak hoped to provide a better life for their future children with the little education they had. They both started out working in dry cleaning shops, Korean grocery stores and other Korean restaurants to be able to feed and provide for their two growing boys and rent a decent-sized apartment.

“Sacrifice and struggle doesn’t even begin to explain what they went through,” Tom says.

In 2007, it felt as though the family’s struggles would finally be rewarded — but this feeling was only temporary.

Every day, for years, Seteak played the same six lottery numbers, 7-8-24-28-32-41, at the local convenience store next to the dry cleaning shop where he worked. Then, on September 22, 2007, Seteak stopped in disbelief as he stared at the winning numbers in his hand.

“It felt so surreal. It felt like my dreams were coming true,” Seteak recalls. “I could finally be a part of the American dream.”

He had won $9 million, with a payout of $3.1 million. It was an amount he’d never expected to see in his lifetime.

Two years later, Mama Ju was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy, medication and the whole family’s relocation to Chicago, where there were better treatment options, depleted the lottery winnings fairly quickly.

A health insurance problem and other personal family issues forced the family to spend even more money. The Jus also had sent most of their money to relatives in South Korea who “needed the money more than they did,” as Mama Ju put it. After four years, the lottery money had dwindled down to just $15,000.

The news of Mama Ju’s breast cancer was a shock to the family. “She’s the one thing that keeps this family together and sane,” Daniel says.

As she slowly recovered in Chicago, Daniel began to contemplate the family’s next steps. Seteak was semi-retired and Mama Ju had been out of work for a couple of years. Without many options, Seteak and Mama Ju began to reconsider working at a dry cleaning shop, but Daniel disagreed with that idea. He told the family they should open up a restaurant instead.

“She’s always been good at cooking, and people have paid her to cook for her events. So why not do what she’s good at?” Tom says about the opening of the restaurant.

The family knew only two things: it would be a Korean restaurant and would focus on fried chicken, a rising trend.

“We went into this knowing we wanted a restaurant, but we didn’t have a menu. The only thing that kept me from blowing up at my family was my mom,” Daniel says while laughing.

Despite disagreements, the family managed to complete a menu they found satisfactory and in 2012, Dak finally opened. ABC’s Hungry Hound, Steve Dolinsky, was one of their most famous early customers. It was so busy that the restaurant ran out of chicken and the wait time was over two hours.

For now, the Ju family has figured out a system that works and although sales are much better than their first restaurant’s, it isn’t as much as they’d like it to be.

“Our goal is to get my parents out of the restaurant and into retirement,” Daniel says. “They’ve worked too hard and been through too much to work 12-hour shifts a day.”

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Train derailment at Granville

By Taylor Utzig, Editor

A southbound train derailed near the Granville Red Line stop around 2:07 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

ABC7 Chicago reported the following about the incident:

Fire trucks, ambulances and police flooded the streets around the Granville Red Line stop in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood after a southbound train coming into the station around 2:07 p.m. Saturday afternoon suddenly derailed.

“It was a little bit of a jolt,” said Salome Chebaro.

Chebaro was one of the 175 passengers stuck at a standstill for over an hour and then forced to walk along the tracks to safety. One person suffered a shoulder injury during the derailment and was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital.

A second train was also delayed and then evacuated after the derailment. Fire and rescue said things went as smoothly as they could.

Due to this derailment and ongoing construction along the red line track, Northbound trains toward Howard will not stop between Addison and Howard through 4:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 2.

Visit CTA Customer Alerts for more information.

Shooting at Edgewater gas station

By Loyola Student Dispatch Staff

A 35-year-old man was shot early Sunday morning at a gas station in Edgewater.

A Chicago Sun-Times wire article reported the following of the incident:

Shortly before 4 a.m., he got into an argument with someone who pulled out a gun and shot him in the left hip and leg at the station in the 5700 block of North Broadway, according to Chicago Police.

A friend of the 35-year-old drove him to Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he is listed in good condition, police said.

Northside neighborhoods on alert after string of burglaries

By Taylor Utzig, Editor

Police are warning Northside business owners after a series of smash and grab burglaries in Rogers Park and Edgewater.

In each incident, a rock or a brick has been thrown through a window of the business and valuable items and cash have been stolen, according to an article by Linze Rice at DNAinfo.

Burglaries have been reported on the streets of W. Devon, W. Broadway and W. Morse Ave.

VIDEO: Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus filled with holiday decorations

By Nader Issa

Loyola University Chicago put its students into the holiday spirit last week with the addition of holiday decorations around the university’s Lake Shore Campus.

Tree lights, Christmas trees and red and green spotlights can be seen all around campus as part of Loyola’s preparation for the holiday season.

The campus’s biggest Christmas tree can be found in the Damen Student Center, which happens to be the most decorated part of the campus. Lights line all the trees that surround the student center and red and green lights can be seen shining on the building from across the campus.

Continue reading “VIDEO: Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus filled with holiday decorations”

Chicago architecture festival to feature three Loyola buildings

Piper Hall. Photo from Loyola University Chicago.
Piper Hall. Photo from Loyola University Chicago.

By Abby McDowell

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is featuring three of Loyola University’s buildings on the Lake Shore campus Saturday and Sunday as part of Open House Chicago, the city’s largest architectural festival.

Continue reading “Chicago architecture festival to feature three Loyola buildings”

Voting now open for Kenmore plaza’s new name

Photo from Loyola University Chicago.
Photo from Loyola University Chicago.

By Alexa Ristich

Voting for the name of the new Kenmore plaza opened Thursday.

The new plaza is on the 6300 block of North Kenmore Avenue, located between de Nobili Hall and the Institute of Environmental Sustainability. The plaza was built over the spring semester and summer of 2014 and finally opened this passed August.

The University received over 200 submissions for the new name from students, faculty and staff. They have finally narrowed it down to these three options: St. Ignatius Plaza, Rambler Plaza and Loyola Plaza.

Voting will be open from now until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct 8. Click here to submit a vote.

Students, neighbors tour Institute of Enviromental Sustainability

San Francisco Hall. Photo from Loyola University Chicago.
Institute of Environmental Sustainability. Photo from Loyola University Chicago.

Loyola University opened the doors of its Institute of Environmental Sustainability Sept. 23 at a tour for students neighbors interested in exploring the facility and its programs.

Aaron Durnbaugh, Loyola’s director of sustainability,gave the hour-long tour presenting the building, academics and Loyola’s mission regarding environmental issues.

Continue reading “Students, neighbors tour Institute of Enviromental Sustainability”

Loyola to cut ribbon on new Kenmore Plaza

Kenmore Plaza rendering. Loyola University image.
Kenmore Plaza rendering.
Loyola University image.

By Loyola Student Dispatch Staff

A cookout and live bluegrass music will accompany tonight’s official unveiling of Loyola University Chicago’s Kenmore Plaza at the school’s Lake Shore Campus.

Here are the details from a university news release:

Continue reading “Loyola to cut ribbon on new Kenmore Plaza”