Hwaro Restaurants opening sushi and Korean restaurants in Denver

After selling his four restaurants in California last year, Jeff Lee packed his bags, moved to Denver and never looked back.

The restaurateur is about to start a new group of restaurants, Hwaro, in the Mile High City. He has already signed four leases, including that of Riverfront Park.

“Competition in California was strong, but it was mostly the rising wages, taxes and rents that pushed me out,” said Lee, who lived in Colorado Springs before California. “In Denver, you don’t see a lot of restaurants failing. So we hope to be one of them.

BusinessDen reported in 2020 that Lee and his partners rented 5,550 square feet on the ground floor of The Confluence apartment tower at 1441 Little Raven St. in Denver for Korean BBQ Hwaro. As is the norm for the genre, Hwaro – which is pronounced as if the word has no “w” – will have grills built into the tables, which customers use to grill the meat and vegetables they choose.

Lee said permit delays pushed back the opening, but he and his business partners Alex Lee and Doug Moh expect it to be ready for the public within the next four to five months.

The three, however, hope to open two more restaurants by then.

They’re aiming for an April opening for Moonbongri, a Korean restaurant focused on dishes like pork bone soup, at 2751 S. Parker Road in Aurora. It will be located near H Mart, the Korean grocery store.

And the trio also hope to open Hwaro Premium Sushi in April in 2,900 square feet at 2000 16th St. The corner unit at the base of the Millennium Bridge previously housed Chuey Fu’s Baja Cantina. Lee and his partners signed a 10-year lease.

Lee’s partner Alex, who shares his name but is unrelated, spent 25 years working with sushi and previously oversaw four restaurants for Los Angeles-based Octopus Restaurant Group.

“I was all about the barbecue. But when I brought Alex in and saw his passion and experience, we decided to take advantage of that,” Lee said. “He knows quality fish and we’re going to make all our sauces in house. So, I hope that sets us apart.

Last month, the partners signed another 10-year lease for a second Hwaro Premium Sushi location in Wheat Ridge. Lee said he plans to open the 3,600 square foot restaurant at 7333 W. 38th Ave. on the ground floor of West 38 Apartments this summer.

Hwaro is doing a custom build on the space, and Lee said they plan to spend up to $700,000, including adding neon lights and creating a modern nightclub atmosphere.

Zach Cytryn of Broad Street Realty represented Hwaro on all of his transactions.

Eventually, Lee hopes to open five Hwaro Premium Sushi and Hwaro Korean BBQ locations across the country, including Minnesota and Chicago.

“I want to bring some freshness to some of these more landlocked towns that have a more traditional dining scene,” Lee said.

Subscribe to our new food newsletter, Stuffed, to get Denver food and drink news delivered straight to your inbox.

Comments are closed.