December 6, 2021

Korean-fusion restaurant in Cortland opened Sept. 3

Thomas Spinner of Cortland ordered a Kimchi fried rice dish Thursday evening at a new Korean restaurant in the city of Cortland.

“I’ve never had Korean food before so I’m excited to try this,” he said. “It sounds new and interesting to me.”

Yori House, a Korean-fusion restaurant at 114 Elm St., opened Sept. 3. It’s menu mainly includes authentic Korean dishes, but some include Italian and Spanish ingredients.

Rick Nash of Cortland decided to have chicken tacos with Korean ingredients for dinner, but he has tried a little bit of everything at the restaurant.

“I like the food,” he said. “It’s very fresh and the service is quick.”

Hype revolved around the restaurant even before it opened.

Lee and Peter Han, the owners of Yori House, moved from Ithaca to Cortland in 2006, and started their own stand called Yum Yum Korea at the Ithaca Farmers Market.

The stand gained popularity, leading them to expand into a restaurant in Cortland, said Christine Han, manager of the restaurant and Lee and Peter’s daughter.

“This building was on sale so we decided to go for it and this is where we are today,” Christine Han said.

The Cortland County Chamber of Commerce created a Cortland takeout Facebook page to help restaurants with business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Han said Yori House took advantage of the option, which led to even more anticipation of the restaurant’s opening.

“It played a huge role of bringing the community to focus on our opening,” she said.

“They had a great reputation before the restaurant,” said Bob Haight, executive director for the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce. “News was spreading fast about their food.”

The hype proved to be successful as the restaurant sold out of food by 6 p.m. on the day of the grand opening. Han said the restaurant was forced to close the next day so they could prepare for the weekend rush.

“It was chaotic because we prepared our supplies for the weekend,” she said. “We prepared for our grand opening days in advance.”

Han said despite the “crazy experience” on the first day, the community understood.

“The day came and we were not prepared at all,” she said. “We were trying to get a grip on running a restaurant for the first time. Thankfully, our customers were patient and supportive.”

Han said the restaurant has brought in customers throughout the city and even surrounding areas from Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.

Over the two weeks since the opening, the popularity has continued. Han said the restaurant already has regulars, which has put employees into a rhythm with day-to-day business.

“The reviews I’ve been seeing are fantastic,” Haight said. “They’ve been satisfying their customers. If you continue to satisfy customers, they’ll be back.”

Christine Han believes the community craved for something different in a restaurant. Turns out, Korean cuisine was what they needed, she added.

“We love to engage with our customers and everyone has been saying they’ve been excited that this place opened up,” she said. “They were accustomed to pizza or Italian food in the area, and now they have this.”

Customers like Spinner and Nash appreciate the quality of the food and prices for meals.

“It’s different, especially from our normal Chinese restaurants in the area,” Spinner said.

“It’s nice to have something other than the usual,” Nash said.

Han said if the popularity continues, they will consider adding more items to the menu. Right now, they are focused on the basics of being a newer restaurant.

“We’ll continue to make the quality of our food better and make sure our operations run smoothly,” she said. “Expansion is a possibility down the road.”