When Kil Lee came up with the concept for his restaurant Dokyo Dauntaun, he wanted to focus on certain things.
“Dokyo is always about kind of finding new things or new ways to be innovative with food and drinks,” he said.
Dokyo first opened its doors in February of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. As a small new restaurant, they have continued to grow over the last two years.
Despite the challenges they faced, Lee said he and his staff were able to overcome them. Dokyo even was able to keep operating without having to let any staff go during the pandemic.
That innovation that planted the seed for Dokyo extends to giving Korean food a bigger platform in a city where Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Filipino cuisines already were visible.
“We don’t have a Korean menu here in Corpus Christi, other than, maybe one or two spots,” he said. “So we kind of focus on the Korean food, and craft cocktails.”
Lee has been in the restaurant business for quite some time, but with Dokyo, he has been able to have complete control.
He dictates how the kitchen, sushi bar, and bar would be, as well as creating a specific ambiance for customers.
Customer Olivia Baranowsaki appreciated his efforts on a recent night.
"Not only was the cocktail great, the food is great, the experience, the vibe, everything is just, like, awesome!” she said.
Old fashioneds can be found at most bars and restaurants around the Coastal Bend, but Dokyo puts its own spin on the classic, smoking it, and using Japanese whiskey.
“So it’s kind of our own take on an old fashioned; we just gave it our own Asian twist to it,” Lee said. “The other ones have buzz buttons and kind of create different effects on your tastebuds.”
The popular restaurant not only has raised Downtown’s culinary profile, but it’s also added to the area’s aesthetics.
“Because we own the building, we’re able to do whatever we want with it,” he said. “Put a ton of artwork on the outside, and on the inside.”
Dokyo started with just one part of the restaurant, but over the past two years they have opened up the place to have two sides. This makes it easier to cater for both families and adults to enjoy either lounge like seating or a normal restaurant vibe.
“I was very concerned about being able to fill both sides, but that kind of went away quickly, so I’m super thankful that we’re able to do business at this capacity I suppose,” he said.
Along with a huge menu highlighting Korean food, sushi, and craft cocktails, there is plenty to choose from.
“Every time I bring people into town, I always bring them here,” Baranowsaki said.
And Lee cherishes that support from the community, and hopes people stay tuned for the next year.
“I’m real thankful to the citizens of Corpus for supporting our small local business," he said.
Apparently, the feeling is mutual.
“I’m already planning my next trip back here!” said customer Kaitlyn Hess.