Lynn Hobart and Josh Hill of the South Philly Cheesesteaks food truck have taken on a new endeavor, closely tying with Hobart’s roots — Korean corn dogs.
A popular foodie trend on social media, Korean corn dogs have appeared in Charleston with Hobart and Hill’s Seol Ah’s (pronounced SOOL-AH) food truck at The Whale.
Hobart and Hill put their foot in the door of the Charleston food scene three and a half years ago with South Philly Cheesesteaks. Debuting their cheesesteaks at the downtown farmer’s market, they grew from that tent to a food truck. Despite the differences between South Philly and Seol Ah’s menu, it was always Hobart’s dream of opening a Korean fusion food truck.
“I was adopted when I was very little from Korea and have always been motivated to incorporate some of my background and heritage into something that I do,” Hobart said about starting Seol Ah’s, named from her Korean name, Seol Ah Che.
And although Hobart has only visited Korea once, she was still able to connect with her culture in other ways.
“I did work near K[orea] Town for about three years when I lived in [New York City],” Hobart said. “That was the driving force behind how I got to learn so much [about my culture] and eat Korean food all the time.”
After moving to Charleston, Hobart noticed a gap in the city’s food industry for Asian-fusion concepts, and decided to fill it with the Korean corn dogs.
“There’s just some foods you don’t find around here,” Hobart said. “The corn dogs weren’t in the plan for the Korean concept to begin with, but the lightbulb went off in my head.”
The traditional Korean corn dog is coated in a special dough, rolled in egg, coated in panko, deep fried and finally rolled in sugar for extra crunch. Another common rendition is covered in the dough, rolled in diced potatoes coated in flour, coated in panko and deep fried. Currently, Hobart serves the traditional version and plans on having the potato version as a special a few times a week.
“The dough is the tricky part,” Hobart said about the cooking process. “I’ve cooked a lot of things, but I haven’t baked a lot. I had to watch YouTube videos for weeks on end to perfect that.”
Using the traditional flavors as a guide, Hobart experiments with new toppings based on customers’ tastes.
One of those experiments is a spicy corn dog topped with a spicy garlic chili cheese blend. Another recent experiment used Spicy Ranch Doritos as a coating — that item sold out within an hour. Seol Ah’s also has an extra-crunchy corn dog, covered in crushed ramen noodles.
In addition to the signature Korean corn dogs, Seol Ah’s serves other fusion items like a Korean fried chicken sandwich and bulgogi cheesesteak.
“There’s a little secret in the flour for the fried chicken that makes it very, very crispy. We also marinate the chicken and the steak for 24 hours. The combination of those two things elevates it to that next level,” Hobart said.
Seol Ah’s currently has a residency at The Whale, a craft beer bar at 1640 Meeting St. Hobart met its owner at her first corn-dog pop up at Charles Towne Fermentory. Initially a casual conversation about The Whale’s need for a food vendor, Hobart and Hill jumped on the opportunity, purchasing a food truck two weeks later and opening Seol-Ah’s. Though, not without some reluctance.
“I had South Philly as security,” Hobart said. “It’s just tough to open a business right now with all the inflation.”
But before the truck was open, Lynn created an Instagram and Facebook page and saw an overwhelmingly positive response from the community.
“I felt confident [about the concept] with the food being so unique to Charleston and just the response that I’ve gotten from people [has been inspiring],” said Hobart. “That told me that there’s a demand even more than I thought there was because you never know how things are going to turn out.”
Find Seol Ah’s at The Whale Tuesday-Friday, 4-8 p.m. and Saturday, 2-8 p.m.