Seoul Fried Chicken and Padmanadi expand to Calgary

· The Pulse

Edmonton-based restaurants Seoul Fried Chicken and Padmanadi are hoping for a warm welcome as they expand into Calgary this year.

Seoul Fried Chicken (SFC), which offers Korean fried chicken, held its soft opening in Calgary on June 30. Padmanadi, a vegan restaurant, is aiming for a Sept. 15 grand opening. Both locations have been in the works for some time.

"Ever since opening downtown, we were exploring our next move," SFC partner Suzanna Yu told Taproot. Chef Jake Lee, who started SFC in 2016, has always had a vision to expand the brand throughout Alberta, she said. SFC added its second location in Edmonton last summer. "We considered expanding in Edmonton further but wanted to drive more awareness to the brand. So Calgary came up."

Yu and SFC partner David Shi spent time in Calgary over the past year and a half surveying the Korean fried chicken competition.

"I think for us our product stands out," said Yu. "The flavours we offer are unique to the ones we've tried, and our price point and the amount of food you get is a big factor that has helped us become successful."

Padmanadi also has two locations in Edmonton, having added a southside location in 2019. Its expansion to Calgary came as a result of wanting to better serve existing customers in that city.

"There is demand for plant-based food in Calgary," said Maya Richmond, co-owner of Padmanadi. "We have a lot of clients that come into our Edmonton restaurants asking if we would open in Calgary. People would buy so much food to bring back to Calgary and freeze it."

Richmond suggested that Padmanadi brings a unique take on vegan food to Calgary. "I don't think there is an Indonesian-Chinese plant-based restaurant in Calgary. Calgary has a lot of different kinds of plant-based restaurants, but none of them have a dine-in, family restaurant experience like Padmanadi would offer."

Carmen Cheng, a Calgary-based food writer, predicts that Padmanadi will be well-received in the city.

"I think Padmanadi has a really loyal vegan customer base Alberta-wide," said Cheng. "There will be Edmonton transplants in Calgary that will be happy. Padmanadi has also been delivered here through Uproot Food Collective for a number of years, so I wouldn't be surprised if they have a following through Uproot."

As for Seoul Fried Chicken, Cheng said the appetite for Korean food is strong in Calgary, crediting chef Roy Oh for making Korean flavours mainstream. In fact, SFC's Calgary location is down the block from Oh's current restaurant, Roy's Korean Kitchen, in the neighbourhood of Mission.

"Calgary has strong Korean fried chicken brands," said Cheng, citing Yum Yum BBQ Chicken and WOW Chicken, among others. "So SFC will have to get their brand out there."

The interior of Seoul Fried Chicken's downtown Edmonton restaurant with a neon sign near the window

Seoul Fried Chicken, which opened its second Edmonton location on 104 Street downtown in 2022, has expanded to Calgary with a new location at 2100 4 Street SW in Mission. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Yu said SFC participated in a recent Mission-based event called the Lilac Festival in early June, and was buoyed by the response.

"The people who chatted with us and bought chicken had already heard about us and tried us in Edmonton," said Yu. "It's good to know there's already customers who know about the brand and can help us promote through word of mouth."

With the area already home to several sit-down restaurants, SFC's Mission location at 2100 4 Street SW will have minimal seating, mirroring its original storefront in Old Strathcona that focuses more on take-out. The restaurant will offer about 10 seats indoors and a patio that will open later this summer.

Padmanadi's restaurant at #110, 8835 McLeod Trail will offer 65 seats, and the location was scouted to meet the transportation demands of diners. "We have lots of clients who live in the suburbs, so we found a space with a lot of parking," said Richmond. "It's central but not so downtown that you can't find parking."

Both restaurants are committed to keeping prices the same across the province, in spite of higher operating expenses in Calgary (Richmond estimates that rent is 20% higher than in Edmonton). SFC will offer a duplicate menu, while Padmanadi will offer a menu that is a hybrid between the two Edmonton locations, promising that the most popular dishes — ginger beef and curry chicken — will be included.

When asked about future plans, SFC isn't hiding its ambitions, especially given Yu and Shi have both relocated to Calgary for the expansion.

"So for Calgary specifically our goal is to have two to three restaurants in the next two years, pending how this first location does," said Yu. "For Edmonton, we want to grow and expand even further. In Edmonton the next moves will be more south into Windermere and north into the Northgate area."

While the family behind Padmanadi isn't ruling out additional locations, they are taking it one step at a time. Richmond has also relocated to Calgary and said she is "pouring everything" into the expansion.

"I moved my husband and my two-year-old here. When you say to people that you have three restaurants, some people think you're a big franchise. But we're local, we live here," Richmond said. "My family came to Canada 20 years ago and know that building that community is important. It's something my dad did in Edmonton. I hope I can do it, too."