Biz Beat

Korean restaurant inspiring positive buzz in Turlock

A series of photographs on a wall serves as a menu at Manna Korean Cuisine, shown Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, by co-owner James Kwon.
A series of photographs on a wall serves as a menu at Manna Korean Cuisine, shown Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, by co-owner James Kwon.

I am chagrined to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever had Korean food.

That’s going to change, thanks to a new restaurant in Turlock and a former co-worker.

Jack Doo, who wrote for the business section of this fine publication for many years, wrote in to tell me about Manna Korean Cuisine. He said he and his wife, Cathy, found “great food at bargain prices.”

He also told me about the personable couple who own the place. That would be James and Susanna Kwon.

“The husband was very cordial and explained all the various dishes,” Jack wrote.

Susanna, James Kwon explained when I stopped by last week, does all the cooking.

“She’s the boss,” he said with a laugh.

Manna opened in August on East Olive Avenue, tucked behind West America Bank near Cost Less Market. James Kwon said business has been “up and down” as people find out about Manna.

Much of the business the restaurant receives comes from word of mouth.

“People come in and say their friends told them about us,” Kwon said. “Then they become regular customers.”

With a small kitchen, the menu is limited. But judging by the reviews on Yelp, everything offered is delicious. A series of photographs on one wall serves as a menu of sorts.

One of the most popular dishes is Bi Bim Bab, which Kwon explained is steamed rice topped with six vegetables and an egg. It’s a dish made for royalty, he said.

Susanna Kwon learned the recipes from her mother in Korea, James Kwon said. He and his wife have lived in Turlock for about six months, moving from Sacramento.

“We like it,” he said of the town. “It feels safe.”

Everything is fresh and homemade. Indeed, while I visited during the morning hours, some serious chopping was going on in the kitchen. Even typical dishes such as teriyaki chicken have a special touch, Kwon said.

“It’s a different sauce than you will find anywhere else,” he said. And the Kwons are open to adjusting dishes according to diners’ desires. “My customers are my family,” he said.

Manna Korean Cuisine is at 218 W. Olive Ave., Turlock. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 209-656-1448.

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I also got another tip this week from a former co-worker. This one is sad, though. And it has a personal aspect to it.

Maria Rocha wrote in to tell me that Home Fabrics & Rugs is closing. The store is on Sisk Road just north of Vintage Faire Mall. Longtime Modestans will remember the site as the original location of Cost Plus in town.

When we moved to Turlock 12 years ago, Maria and another friend and co-worker, Clare Noonan, offered to make curtains and valances for our new house. We went shopping at several stores – I had no idea what I was doing – and finally selected materials at Home Fabrics & Rugs. Maria and Clare put their sewing machines to work and the window treatments that hang in my home today are thanks to them and their many talents.

But people aren’t sewing like they used to, and those who do often go online for fabrics. Home Fabrics & Rugs is focusing on its online presence and is closing several stores. According to the company’s Facebook page, Modesto’s will close by the end of March.

That shopping center is losing another longtime tenant, as well. Kenneth’s Fine Mens Wear is having a closing sale, too.