TNT Diner

Cham Garden Korean BBQ has new owners. Its former owners are opening something new

Jennifer Jones, left, Jesenia Fonseca, center, and Erica Rembert enjoy grilling the meat at their table at Cham Garden Korean BBQ in Lakewood.
Jennifer Jones, left, Jesenia Fonseca, center, and Erica Rembert enjoy grilling the meat at their table at Cham Garden Korean BBQ in Lakewood. Staff file, 2011

Two longtime customers have bought popular tabletop-barbecue restaurant, Cham Garden Korean BBQ in Lakewood.

Yes, the smoked pork jowl will still be available. Don’t panic.

There are no menu or concept changes planned.

The new owners are Jay and Kay Lim.

“Funny story. They were here one night two, three months ago, and we’ve been saying we’ve been thinking about selling the store. They said they were interested in buying, and it went from there,” said Danny Pak, son of Cham’s owners, James and Yoon Hee Pak.

Danny is the restaurant’s host alongside his father James. His mom, Yoon Hee, is the restaurant’s chef.

The family opened Cham Garden in 2007. They previously owned Manna Garden in downtown Tacoma from 2000 to 2004.

Customers can pick their own meat in a buffet setting at Cham Garden Korean BBQ in Lakewood. Lui Kit Wong Staff file, 2011

Cham is a popular destination for its pork jowl and other Korean-style meats, handmade banchan and flavor-punched homemade sauces, but also because its format is slightly different than that of nearby Korean barbecue restaurants.

At Cham, diners grill marinated meats and vegetables on a tabletop grill, but the meat-and-vegetable selection is serve-yourself buffet style. At Lakewood’s four other Korean barbecue restaurants, diners select from a pre-set menu and then the food is shuttled to the table for tabletop cooking.

At Cham, a fixed price buys a diner as much or as little as he or she desires from the buffet line.

The Pak family will continue working with the Lims through the end of the month to pass along recipes and other business tips and tricks, Danny Pak said.

Pak said the restaurant’s purchase is a relief for the family because now his parents can fully retire. He expects his dad will expand his photography and gardening hobbies while both his parents expect to spend more time with their grandkids.

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Diners grill their own meat on a tabletop barbecue at Cham Garden Korean BBQ. Sue Kidd Staff file, 2011

The sale of the restaurant left Danny Pak without a job, but that’s OK. He’s creating a new one.

Pak and his brother, Timothy, will open Build A Burger, a fast-casual burger restaurant in a former Subway space on Tacoma Mall Boulevard near Le-Le East West and Sushi Revolution.

They’re hoping for a May opening and are currently working on permits and menu details.

They’ll serve burgers that can be customized by diners, much like how a Subway operates.

Pak said they will use only fresh beef made from ground chuck and brisket. They’re also working with a local bakery to customize their hamburger buns.

The burger menu will feature a wide range of toppings, plus fries and onion rings. Eventually, they hope to add shakes.

Pak said the style of burgers will be classic American, but Korean flavors might show up here and there on the menu.

Cham Garden Korean BBQ

10518 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-584-2287