“My wife and I saw a van driving next to us that had the logos of all of our top places to eat in the Denver area with ‘Thank Sool Pocha’ being our absolute favorite. It was coincidence to see that all of our top places were owned under the same group. In any case, we wanted to say thank you for sharing the great food in the Denver area! All of your locations are fantastic!” - Jordan C.
It's a New Year for Denver:
22 People to Watch in 2022
Article by Westword
Though he often flies under the radar, restaurateur
JW Lee is one of the busiest hospitality pros in the
Denver area. Currently, he operates fifteen establishments,
including two of our picks for the 100 Denver restaurants
we can't live without for 2022 (Seoul K-BBQ & Hot Pot
and Seoul ManDoo). In 2021, he brought New York City-born
Korean fried chicken concept Mono Mono to Denver; it landed on our ten best chicken wings list and quickly expanded to two locations — one in LoDo and one in Congress Park. Now he's adding a third in 2022, in a Lafayette location that just happened to come with brewing equipment.
"We're going to end up exploring some more brewery business, hopefully by mid-summer," Lee says.
A fourth Mono Mono in Boulder is a possibility, too, but the labor shortage is one hurdle Lee will have to get over to make his many 2022 plans a reality. "My daily pains are day-to-day operations for staff," he admits. But despite that challenge, getting into beer isn't the only thing on his radar. Lee is also planning to open another Seoul Korean BBQ in Colorado Springs — which will be the first with tabletop grills in that city — as well as a new Korean BBQ outpost in Aurora that will use cast iron for cooking. "It's a more traditional way to eat meat, and it holds so much more heat," he explains. Lee also has exclusive franchise rights to open more Mochinut locations in Colorado, and hopes to add more of the mochi doughnut shops soon.
Meet the Man Bringing
Traditional South Korean
Eats to Colorado
Article by 5280 Magazine
Over the last 15 years, J.W. Lee of Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken has opened nearly a dozen restaurants inspired by his homeland.
Since J.W. Lee moved to Colorado 15 years ago, the South Korean–born chef-owner behind Seoul Hospitality Group has introduced many Coloradans to the flavors and dishes of his home country. In Aurora alone, Denverites can feast on late-night Korean eats at ThankSool Pocha K Pub, which serves comforts like spicy stews and soju (a clear rice liquor); bite into a juicy dumpling at Seoul Mandoo; or cook their own meats on tabletop grills at Seoul K-BBQ and Hot Pot.
But Lee’s latest venture—which he opened in LoDO in 2020 and expanded into an empire of three locations, including one with a brewery in Lafayette—is his fastest-growing concept yet. For each outpost, Lee, who was born in Gangneung, South Korea, crafted a menu that blends traditional Korean flavors like gochujang (a spicy pepper paste) and kimchi with American staples like sandwiches and french fries, all of which are tied together with a common dish beloved by both Americans and Koreans: fried chicken.
Lee has a long history in the hospitality industry and trained in South Korea. He moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, when he says, being a chef wasn’t a prosperous career in his home country. But he learned that it was possible to make a respectable career in the kitchen Stateside.
“When I was a chef in Korea, our country was still kind of poor at that time, and the expectation as a chef was not really great,” Lee says.