Restaurant Review: Mama Kim’s

Restaurant Review: Installment #2


Mama Kim’s on King Street

In the second installment of our Restaurant Review series, we decided to dine at Mama Kim’s, a Korean restaurant on King Street in the heart of Charleston. Known for its dedicated fan base and questionable sanitation, we decided to re-examine an old favorite of ours. The secret to their success: Mama Kim, herself. Often, she is seen behind the food counter working hard to earn her slice of the American Dream. One popular story recounts the time that Mama took an order over the phone, cooked the food, and delivered it with an extra side of miso soup for free. When the customer asked about the soup, Mama replied: “you sounded sick over the phone, sweety.” If that doesn’t make your heart melt, then a chicken bowl surely will. 


At the heart and soul of Mama Kim’s cuisine lies the famed Chicken Bowl: a teriyaki chicken dish served over brown rice. We sat down with Mama’s grandson, Brandon, to ask him about the popular dish. According to him, “our chicken bowls make up eighty to ninety percent of the food we sell… We make our own teriyaki sauce in house, and the chicken is cooked fresh daily.” Topped off with white sauce, the chicken bowl is a staple for high school and college students alike. For this reason, the restaurant is consistently filled with Cougars, Citadel cadets, and high school students on Friday and Saturday nights. You would be hard pressed to eat at Mama’s without seeing a familiar face.

After coughing up the pricey $13.32 for a chicken bowl and a drink during our review, we sat down and waited for only one minute and thirty-one seconds before our chicken bowls arrived. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. We were presented with two piping hot teriyaki bowls. A dash of white sauce and a few photos later, we were satisfied.

















Food Verdict: 8.9 (Davis) 8.8 (Jack)


Upon entering Mama Kim’s and going up to the counter to order, we were able to witness something pretty amazing. There was a couple in front of us ordering, and the conversation between them and the cashier went something like this:

Customers: “Hey, this is our first time eating at Mama Kim’s, what would you recommend?”

Cashier: “Our most popular dish is definitely the chicken bowl, and you really can’t go wrong getting a couple of those. Here are a couple of free drink cups on the house, so you feel a little more at home.” 

We were amazed. We knew that we were going to Mama K’s in order to write our next installment of the Restaurant Review series, but we were dumbstruck by this seemingly simple and yet perfect example of the quality service that Mama Kim’s has to offer. However, it didn’t end there. High-quality food often comes with hefty price tags and long wait times, but again, Mama Kim’s is a step ahead of the competition. Since we ordered at different times, we averaged the times it took for our food to be served: it ended up at 1 minute and 31 seconds. As service industry employees, we can both attest to how ridiculously fast this is. And, not surprisingly, this incredible ticket time doesn’t mean that they sacrifice quality. Mama Kim’s, as we have talked about, remains one of the best Korean eateries in the Lowcountry. 

Jack at Mama Kim’s

The famed photo wall

Service Verdict: 9.5 (Jack); 9.4 (Davis)



In total, we have collectively eaten at Mama Kim’s about fifteen or twenty times. And, with that as our experience, we can tell you that, when you go to Mama’s, you shouldn’t expect to be seated by a host and have your order taken. However, we can also tell you that when you go to Mama’s, the food is only half of the experience. Weathered red booths, styrofoam cups, traditional Korean decor, and, of course, the famed picture wall all fuse to create one of the most iconic Charleston restaurant settings you can imagine. Although we didn’t have time to look through the hundreds of smiling faces that line the walls to try and find ourselves, we were both confident that, at some point in our veteran Mama Kim’s experience, we had taken a picture with Mama herself that had ended up on the wall. Birthdays, family dinners, or even just friends hanging out all qualify the patrons of Mama K’s to have a chance to get in a picture, and if you’re lucky enough to see her, then you can know that you truly have had the full Mama Kim’s experience, and once you’ve had that, you can die happy. 

Setting Verdict: 9.7 (Jack); 9.2 (Davis)

Conclusion and Rating

Leaving the restaurant from our Sunday afternoon late-lunch, we were satisfied as always with the Mams Kim’s experience. Moreso, we were impressed by Mama’s story. With every chicken bowl, the American dream survives. 

Rating: 9.25


Scores (Davis):

Food: 8.9

Service: 9.4

Setting: 9.2

Average: 9.1667


Scores (Jack):

Food: 8.8

Service: 9.5

Setting: 9.7

Average: 9.3334