Santa Maria Sun / Biz Brief
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 22
Spotlight on: Cornerstone RestaurantEsther and Bong Kim, owners
BY JASON BANANIA
There’s a banner hanging above the front door of the Cornerstone Restaurant in Stowell Center Plaza. It reads, “World’s Best Hamburgers.”
The title was given to the restaurant’s owners, Esther and Bong Kim, by their most important critics: their customers—two, to be exact.
“Two weeks after our grand opening, there were two young guys who were here almost every day for two months,” Bong said. “Every time they came to eat, they would tell me that my hamburgers are the best burgers. One day they told me I should name my restaurant ‘World’s Best Burger.’”
A week later, they came in with the banner, and the Kims ran with the idea.
“I don’t know if we are the best hamburgers in the world, but we are one of the healthiest,” Bong said.
Cornerstone is a fusion burger joint combining Mexican, American, and Korean cultures into delectable burgers, tacos, and burritos filled with Korean barbecue seasoning and sold at an affordable price. Traditional hamburger lovers can enjoy Cornerstone’s old-fashioned homemade burgers, too, seasoned with Asian spices.
In fact, the Kims take pride in their home style and healthy approach to hamburger cuisine.
“People love hamburgers, but a lot of people don’t like the junk that goes into most of them,” Esther said. “When Bong decided to open up the restaurant, he wanted to make a healthy hamburger, and he researched the best way to do it.
“We don’t use pre-ground beef; the meat we use is very good quality, and we cut off all the fat by hand,” she added.
With 28 years of experience under his apron, Bong considers himself a “professional hamburger chef.”
The Kims moved to America from Korea in 1982. They settled in Simi Valley and vacationed at Pismo Beach to camp during the summer. Bong fell in love with the Central Coast weather, which he says is healthier due to the proximity of the ocean.
Shortly after their first vacation, they moved to Santa Maria, where they ran a deli at the Betteravia Government Center for many years. A little more than a year ago, they branched out and decided to specialize in hamburgers, focusing on taste and health.
According to Esther, one of the goals of their restaurant is to give working class people a hamburger that’s a bit healthier and not filled with fats.
“At my age, with a small business like this, I cannot get rich. It’s too late,” Bong said with a chuckle. “But I can still feel joy by watching my customers enjoying healthier hamburgers made by me.”
Cornerstone Restaurant is at 1579 Stowell Center Plaza in Santa Maria. For more information, call 347-9122.
• Buellton’s Alma Rosa Winery, owned by trailblazing Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir winemaker Richard Sanford, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 27.
The first to plant Pinot Noir vines in the Santa Rita Hills in 1970, Sanford also founded Sanford and Benedict Vineyards in Lompoc. In the bankruptcy filing, Alma Rosa lists six creditors, and claims between $1 million and $10 million in assets and liabilities.
In addition to Pinot Noir, Alma Rosa also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. The impact of the Chapter 11 filing on the company’s future production is unknown at this time.
For more information on Alma Rosa, visit almarosawinery.com.
• Following up its successful, sold-out Chardonnay Symposium, the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association is launching a revised wine map and visitor brochure.
Featuring 32 wineries with tasting rooms throughout Santa Barbara County, 14 restaurants and caterers, and hotels and shopping, the new brochure is available at Santa Maria Wine Country Association member locations and online as a PDF file.
To download the brochure, visit smvwines.com.
Intern Jason Banania wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Highlights were written and compiled by Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.
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