After a December announcement without a location, the owners of the Vista's 929 Kitchen and Bar announced they are opening MOA Korean BBQ on Columbia's Main Street.
In late December, the restaurant announced on social media it would be opening a new location of MOA in 2022, but did not say where. The restaurant will sit at 1333 Main St. and its owners expect to open in October of this year.
The seven-story building just blocks from the South Carolina Statehouse operates as office and retail space. The restaurant will operate on the ground floor of the building.
Owner Sean Kim said he wants the place to feel “lighter and brighter” than 929, which opened in 2017, and MOA in Charlotte, which have distinct darker atmospheres.
The 6,500-square-foot spot will have lighter-colored walls and traditional Korean art and architecture accents, with a U-shaped bar, outdoor seating and Hollywood-style seating.
MOA in uptown Charlotte, which Kim opened in Aug. 2020, is more upscale of an affair than Columbia’s 929, offering tableside grilling, a staple feature of Korean barbecue. The restaurant uses a dry aging method for its meats, meaning meat is hung up and aged over time to increase flavor and tenderness.
Korean barbecue, while similar to American barbecue, is different in the cuts of meat that are served as well as the marinades and sides that accompany it. MOA’s corn cheese is a popular side dish and its key ingredients are corn, mayonnaise and mozzarella cheese.
The Columbia location will have a similar menu to Charlotte, but will serve coffee and tea out of a separate cafe — something that the Charlotte location does not offer.
Kim’s bar manager, Matt Shannon, has worked for the restaurant for four years and operates a booth at the Soda City Market on Saturdays selling boba tea. Now he will operate the cafe inside MOA Columbia.
MOA Columbia is one of three new restaurants on Main Street in the last few months. Just three blocks down, smoked meat, microbrewery and oyster bar Smoked opened up in November. Ambrosia Taverna will soon serve Greek food in the former location of MOM's on Main restaurant. An outpost of Charleston's Prohibition also has plans to open in the former Main Street Public House space.
Kim said the new openings and growth on Main Street, as well as the number of upscale dining already there, made him want to put his restaurant in the area.
“There are two or three new restaurants coming to Main. I mean, I think Main Street will eventually change to like Charlotte uptown or Greenville downtown,” Kim said.