A Local Kid-Friendly Institution: Kim’s Corner has become the go-to for the lunch crowd and young kids alike

By on January 17, 2018

Located in the lobby of the Snow King, Kim’s Corner has become a local institution. Opening at 10 a.m. sharp, Kim’s serves out a variety of food, including breakfast sandwiches, smoothies and parfaits, an assortment of Korean food and American mountain classics such as burgers, hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks.

Born and raised in South Korea, Hyunnam Kim Degman came to Jackson for the first time in 2003 on a travel-work visa.

“I applied to work at Yellowstone, but they sent me to Dornan’s instead,” Kim said.

Working in the deli making sandwiches and at the cash register, Kim fell in love with both the mountain town as well as her future husband Matthew. When her visa ended, Kim went home, determined to return and open up a Korean restaurant in Jackson.

“No one I met here knew anything about Korea,” she said. “All they asked about was North Korea. I thought the best way to educate people about my culture would be through food.”

To achieve this goal, Kim attended culinary school in Korea, honing in her knife skills and learning how to cook the traditional dishes she’d grown up with.

After splitting time between Korea and Wyoming, Kim and Matthew married in 2008 and she returned to Jackson, ready to make her dream a reality.

Like many local establishments, Kim’s Corner started at the Saturday Farmer’s Market and Wednesday People’s Market where she sold spicy pork, tofu and Bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef) over sticky rice.

In 2010, Kim opened her first spot off of West Broadway by Lucky’s Market. She quickly had a following of lunch regulars.

By 2012, she was ready to expand and settled into her cafe at Snow King.

“I wanted to appeal to all customers,” she said. “So I made sure my menu had options for all eaters.”

After five years of trying to balance her time between the two locations, she closed down her first location, opting to focus her time and effort into the Snow King Cafe instead.

While the sales between Korean and American options are split down the middle, the most popular item on her extensive menu is the Triangle Kim-Pap. A portable, hot, triangular pocket of delicious flavor, it’s not exactly surprising that the Triangle flies off the counter on a daily basis. Filled with your choice of spicy pork, soy ginger beef, spicy tuna or veggies, the basis of the Triangle is a mixture of purple and sticky rice and is wrapped in a sheet of nori (dried seaweed).

“I’m sort of surprised since not everyone loves Nori, but the kids really love these,” said Kim. “They like to eat them on the way up the mountain.”

With two to three employees behind the counter on a daily basis, and five to six on race days and busy weekends, every cashier is taught how to assemble the pockets as they sell like, well, hot rice cakes.

“I wouldn’t be able to sustain this if it wasn’t for my loyal customers,” she said.

Employees of the mountain and people working in offices in the vicinity come by almost every day, bringing the Number 1 (spicy pork over purple rice with a cucumber salad), fried udon noodle with green onion, carrots, onion, spinach bean sprouts and choice of meat or burger back to work with them.

And you can’t blame them. Her food is excellent and affordable. The vegetables are fresh and crunchy, the flavors are warming and deliciously balanced and her kindness is quite simply infectious.

It’s no surprise the kids coming to ski and skate make the heart and soul of Kim’s communal following.

“When the kids come in after school, it’s the best part of my day,” Kim said, smiling.

Many of them have gift cards, the equivalent of a college dining card, which Kim keeps behind the register. They’re paid for by parents.

“They’re all so respectful, so full of energy and joy, it lights this place up and makes my day. I’m so grateful for them,” she said.

While the cafe has served as a wonderful way to introduce her food to the local community, Kim’s ultimate goal is to open a Korean restaurant where she can serve nothing but traditional dishes.

“It’s just limited, the things I can actually serve here, versus what I could do in a real restaurant,” she said.

Considering her past success, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see a Kim’s Korean Restaurant blossom and flourish in our town. PJH

About Helen Goelet

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