Two decades, a food cart and two locations later, I-Ho’s Korean Grill is moving to its permanent home downtown.
Owner I-Ho Pomeroy will reopen her restaurant at 323 W. Main St. in January. The restaurant is next door to the Gallatin History Museum and behind her husband’s law office.
Pomeroy closed her restaurant’s former location, on West Main Street near the Gallatin Valley Mall, this week as she prepares to move into her newly built restaurant downtown.
Finishing touches on the interior of the restaurant are still being completed, but Pomeroy said she hopes to open sometime in January.
Construction on the small restaurant started last year and is just now wrapping up.
The restaurant will be about the same size as her location on West Main Street. She plans to keep the menu the same, but will be adding two Korean barbecue tables.
The bright blue and red exterior of the restaurant reminds Pomeroy of storefronts in South Korea. She plans to have a local artist paint a tiger mural — maps of the Korean peninsula are often painted in the shape of a tiger — on an exterior wall next summer.
“Fancy restaurants are dimmy and romantic, but I like bright restaurants,” Pomeroy said, saying that having a brightly colored restaurant was her one design request.
Pomeroy, who is also a sitting city commissioner, said she was excited to move downtown and to be able to own her restaurant, rather than rent. She hopes to have more foot traffic and visibility.
She also plans to have her daughter and son-in-law, Jin-Ju and John Jahns, take over the restaurant and most of its operations. The Jahns moved back to Bozeman earlier this fall from Munich, Germany, in part to help out at the restaurant, she said.
“A restaurant is a young person’s occupation,” Pomeroy said. The 63-year-old added that her daughter grew up working in her restaurant.
They’ll officially become the restaurant’s owners next year, said John Jahns. In the meantime, they’re learning the ins and outs of the restaurant and Pomeroy’s recipes.
Even when they take over, Pomeroy won’t be going anywhere and will still be closely involved in the restaurant.
I-Ho’s Korean Grill began more than 20 years ago as a food cart. Her food cart, built by her husband, soon became popular and she grew into a location on Lincoln Street near Montana State University. She credits hungry MSU students, staff and faculty for her successes at her first location.
The restaurant operated there for 16 years. The building came under new ownership in 2015 and her lease wasn’t renewed. Pomeroy reopened the restaurant at her West Main location in 2016, where it’s been ever since.
Looking back, Pomeroy said she never thought she’d come this far with her restaurant.
Two decades ago, many in Bozeman were unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, she said, and many were skeptical she would be able to run a successful restaurant.
Now, Pomeroy sells jars of her kimchi at nine different grocery stores in town, and said Korean food and many aspects of Korean culture, such as music and film, are getting more and more popular in the U.S., including in Montana.
“Korean food is pretty healthy and during the pandemic in March and April (2020) people realized how important eating healthy food and boosting the immune system is,” she said.
With Pomeroy’s move downtown, she said she’s grateful for the decades-long support shown to her and her family.
“I never planned to have a restaurant,” Pomeroy said. “Restaurants are a hard job. There’s no doubt about that. But I’m so thankful to this community for supporting our business. Not only to our customers but our employees.”