If you haven’t previously visited Koreatown’s Oxford Plaza, the two-story shopping center on the corner of South Oxford Avenue and West Eighth Street, you haven’t missed much. Aside from a seemingly deserted mall filled with ambiguous beauty supply stores and a mostly empty-shelved grocery store, it hasn’t been one of the many must-visit destinations in K-town — until now. Two months ago, James Kim (a former server at Beverly Hills' Genwa Korean Barbecue) brought new life to the otherwise desolate mall with his fast-casual Seoul Waffle Pizza, a restaurant whose specialty is pretty much self-explanatory: waffle pizzas.
Park in the free lot and take the escalator up to the brightly lit commissary, where ample seating is ready and neatly set up with bottles of Tabasco. Enter the small storefront and Kim stands behind a counter, smiling so wide that he’s on the verge of giggling. It’s as though he himself finds the concept of pizza toppings on a waffle funny. Maybe he’s even more amused that people are so excited about it.
The menu consists of nine pizzas ranging from $9 to $12. Kim suggests one pizza per person. It's not easy to decide among the variety of Korean- and American-inspired toppings, such as the Seoul Lover, a waffle pizza piled with sweet house-made beef bulgogi, grilled kimchi and corn, or the Spicy Chicken slathered with gochujang, onions and scallions. Thankfully there’s the Four Seasons, a four-way combo of pesto with tomato, pepperoni, kimchi aioli with chicken breast and barbecued steak. When asked which is the most popular, Kim says that everything has been equal so far but if you haven’t tried the pepperoni, you should.
After ordering, take a seat. You'll be served a small mixed green salad drizzled with a sweet raspberry dressing, one of the several unexpected and charming perks of eating at Seoul Waffle. When the pizza arrives, Kim hands you small liquid-filled containers. For the second time (third, if you count the sign by the counter), he announces that it is “100% pure maple syrup.” The syrup is a reminder that you are eating waffles, not pizza. But the result is so enjoyable, it's puzzling as to why it's the first time someone thought of this combo. Sprinkle some hot pepper flakes and Tabasco on top, because when you've got sweet and savory, the only thing missing is spicy.
The combo is obvious fare for stoners and the late-night boozing crowd, which is why it seems odd that Seoul's hours are noon to 9:30 p.m. But Kim is aware of the late-night power of his creations and will be extending Seoul's hours to 1:30 a.m. soon.
“How is everything?” Kim asks, noticing — apart from a crumb of bulgogi and a kernel of corn— your completely devoured tray of pizza. And before you can reply, he mentions another unexpected perk with a laugh: “It's also low-calorie.”