Picture it: The stage is ready, the setlist picked, the lights dim and the hush that falls over your chatty fans turns into a gentle roar as you get ready to belt out the first note of yet another sold-out show. That’s pretty much how my first karaoke duet went during my visit to the new Seoul Food Meat Company Mill District location, opened in the new Lintmen’s food hall in Optimist Park late in 2022.
That’s how I remember it, anyway.
Note to self: Practice rapping Cardi B’s & Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” at least two weeks before curtains to avoid embarrassment stumbling through a litany of expletives and raunchy lyrics.
South End regs probably remember that the OG location on South Church Street straight popped off when it opened in 2016. Everybody and their mama (read: Chads, Brads, & puppy parentals) was grappling to get a taste of the extra crispy, extra saucy BAF Wings (which must be short for Big As Fuck because they are humongous, but forgive me if I’m mistaken) and the ramen mac & cheese, served with a side of karaoke and K-pop music videos.
It was the perfect concept for an ADHD individual like myself, but would this concept be sticky enough for South End or Charlotte?
Whether it was the relentless South End Chads or puppy moms who single-handedly propelled the business to success, we’ll never know, but, as it turns out, COVID couldn’t “break their Seoul.” (Is a Beyonce reference too much if you’re not a self-proclaimed Beyhive member?) And seven years later, there I was, standing in front of the entrance to Seoul Food Meat Company’s second locale, and like the wings, the space is also BAF (15,000 square feet, to be exact).
Who knew after attending a full-blown puppy birthday party complete with doggy cake and playtime in the outdoor dog park that there were even bigger dreams for Charlotte pups to behold? And that goes for the kiddos, too. Imagine washing down chicken wings with a cold beer while your spawn plays on the playground and your bestie pup plays in the dog park. For a cooped-up parent, that’s a pretty solid daydream.
And at night, when the spawn goes to sleep, the adults have an even bigger playground to play on — complete with event space, under-table soccer, two bars, shuffleboard, and of course, karaoke booths. Six color-themed rooms line the wall to the left after advancing through a decorative wooden walkway illuminated with hanging, twinkling lights toward the back of the space.
Rental prices range from $60 per hour (for 8-10 people) to $120 per hour (for up to 30 people), so while the prices caused my brow to furrow, don’t get it twisted, you can make a fool of yourself for pretty cheap if you bring a group.
Did I mention the karaoke booths are soundproof? So much so that the smile was wiped from my face after returning with a cider because I had no idea before opening the door that I would interrupt a performance note that would rival a goat mid-bleat.
Personally, I’ve never been much of a karaoke person. After being forced to take voice lessons because I was deemed too much of an introvert (believe it or not!), I’ve never wanted to subject myself to the torture that was hitting a wrong note not even halfway through Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” and crying through the rest of the performance (OK, this happened once but never again).
But in the confines of the purple room, even after a few intimidatingly good performances, a little swig of Soju, a seltzer of some sort, three beers, and more than a couple of duds from other members of your motley crew, you may be whistling a different tune. And that I was.
Both “WAP” and “Busted” by Ronald Isley were total flops when I hit the stage, but the amount of belly laughs that left my cheeks aching were totally worth it.
But listen, don’t go to Seoul Food Meat Company if you plan on ripping shots all night — unless you’ve got deep pockets. It was only after my girlfriend went to order her reg, a Jager bomb, that we discovered the “shot” (which barely covered the bottom of the shot glass) was $17! And even though menu prices include tax and gratuity is not required, the way my checking and savings are set up, that’s a hard pass from me on shots bruh.
Nevertheless, that Friday evening started with me lamenting to my boyfriend, “I don’t know if I’m going. The reservation is at 10 p.m., that’s way too late a start time for a non-karaoke participant.”
Yet somehow that turned into utter disappointment when the Mill District location closed at midnight, as the lights came on and we had to leave. What can I say? It really was chicken soup for the young-at-heart Seoul.
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