Big news from chefs Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor: Sobban, their Korean-Southern diner in Decatur, will close for good on Saturday, December 19. The restaurant's lease is up, but the main reason for the shutter is the wife-and-husband team plans to open a second Heirloom Market BBQ in Songdo, South Korea.
"Originally we were planning on opening Heirloom in Korea a couple of years ago with Jiyeon's brother, but the timing wasn't good," Taylor said in a Wednesday phone conversation with Eater Atlanta. "Now we're going to be splitting our time between Atlanta and South Korea, so it just makes sense for us to downsize what we're doing here, for now."
The duo will partner with Sungyeob Lee, Jiyeon's brother, to open the new restaurant in Songdo sometime next year. Roughly 22 miles from the South Korean capital of Seoul, it's been labeled as the city of the future by various media outlets — Taylor said "it's like SimCity." Songdo is a smart city with all of its major buildings meeting LEED certification. Lee, a native of South Korea, and Taylor will import smokers and serve a similar menu to the original Heirloom Market.
Sobban is shutting its doors, but Taylor said it may be revived in some form at a later date. He wants the next incarnation to be closer to Heirloom Market in Cobb County, and a project in the development surrounding the Atlanta Braves' new ballpark could come to fruition in 2017. Lee and Taylor have been considering a new location for Sobban "for the last year."
"We've been thinking about doing that for a little while so we could do what we wanted to," Taylor said. "We had a little too many issues with [Dekalb County] over at that property. They wouldn't let that building be certain things — usage and enclosing the patio, stuff like that."
Sobban recently made renovations and underwent a bit of a concept change, shifting to more of a fast-casual-style restaurant. Taylor said he's not aware of what might move into his restaurant's space, but the building's landlord is in talks with potential replacements.
Update: December 2, 3:30 p.m. Lee addressed the closing in a statement posted on Facebook.
I am so sorry to say that I am closing Sobban.... Heirloom is my first son and Sobban is my little girl...it is painful...
Ever since I cooked as a professional cook I dreamed about restaurant like Sobban. Korean influenced Western food. Some people said fusion confusion but it is a new style of cuisine to me. It is such a challange and difficult to pairing like a international marriage. Food is a culture. Create a harmony with two different cultures not easy. Language barrier in a real relationship sometimes frustrated but there some good things about it 'Silence is gold' ~~~ But realistic world needs more than that.
I was trying to express myself and speak with my food through Sobban but there was some barriers and mistakes that I made.
I never had a chance to express myself as a cook when I worked for somebody. There is not much chances for female cooks... but I luckily had a chance in the kitchen at Sobban. I really appreciated who had my food at Sobban and gave me a opportunity to show my heart.
Closing Sobban is so painful but my girl is in my heart and I will take care of her and one day I will bring her out to the world again....
I am truly sorry to Sobban's loyal customers. Thank you... and love you all. God bless you.
- Chef Jiyeon Lee