Cook St. Paul is no more. Juche, a Korean-influenced dinner spot, takes its place.

Eddie Wu isn’t afraid of change.

The owner of the Payne Avenue restaurant formerly known as Cook St. Paul closed his restaurant at the beginning of the pandemic, while most restaurants switched to takeout.

And instead of reopening the restaurant as it was when it was safe, Wu, who was deeply affected by the murder of George Floyd, decided to let chefs of color take over the space for a series of pop-ups.

All that time, though, Wu and his wife, Eve Wu, were thinking hard about what they wanted for the future.

“It was two years of, ‘What does a restaurant I want to run look like? What do I want?’” Wu said.

Slowly, through an extended but helpful existential crisis, Juche, which means “self-reliance” in Korean, emerged. The dinner-only spot is open Thursday through Saturday for now. Pieces of the dining room are still on order, and the menu is still taking shape.

The Wus partnered with chef Chris Her, formerly of Union Hmong Kitchen. Her grew up on the East Side, just a few blocks from the restaurant, and his mom still works for a school in the neighborhood.

“We all really want to connect with this neighborhood,” Wu said.

Juche, which serves a lot of the Korean-fusion dishes that Cook St. Paul had come to be known for, is nearly the opposite of the Americana-type diner that Cook St. Paul had been.

The walls have been painted black and tall booths take up most of the dining room space. There will be a few counters to sit at, but no full bar for now. Wu said they have some hard-to-find Korean beers and are the first in the Twin Cities to serve makgeolli, a creamy, viscous, effervescent rice wine that is ubiquitous in Korea.

“If you’re in Korea, you get a bowl of it before your dinner without asking for it,” Wu said.

The menu is a mix of new and tried-and-true. If you ate at Cook St. Paul, you’ll be familiar with Juche’s Mac ‘N’ Chi — macaroni and cheese with kimchi — and the addictive spiced corn chips, renamed from Koritos to Mr. Wu’s Chips. They’ll also be adding the Trust Me, a kimchi and peanut butter sandwich, bi bim bop bowls, a spicy Korean burger and fries in the near future.

New items include General Khan’s Chicken — crispy chicken thighs tossed in a spicy, sweet and sour sauce — kimchi fried rice, mung bean pancakes and doenjang jjigae, a soybean paste stew.

Sweet Science Ice Cream has created a new flavor for the restaurant — honeydew — that is available on its own or with a few different toppings.

The team plans to eventually offer karaoke, which is huge in the Korean community, and will play K Dramas (a nickname for popular Korean television dramas) on a loop.

To celebrate the new space, Wu said they’ll have a special Korean Lunar New Year’s menu on Saturday, Jan. 21. Watch Juche’s Instagram (@juchestpaul) for more details.

Juche: 1124 Payne Ave., St. Paul; 612-490-3380;

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