ALAMEDA -- 88 Sports Bar & Korean Grill on Central Avenue, just off Park Street, has a new look, a new menu, new chefs and a new vibe.
"To me, 88 is a lucky number," said owner In "Jinny" Chung. "We decided to change the food and the feel of the place, so customers could hang out and mingle, talk with their friends and relax."
The bar used to go by the name Scobie's, and barbecue was served by Looney's, which leased the kitchen. In March, two Oakland residents were stabbed outside the bar. And in May, an El Cerrito resident was hurt during a large brawl.
"We were drawing the wrong crowd," Chung said. "We took out the DJ booth, painted the inside, added tables and redid other areas. I had realized that there's no Korean food in the area and wanted Alamedans to come try it out."
On a recent Monday night, when the Oakland Raiders were playing the Denver Broncos, customers filled the bar and many of the tables. Regulars ordered their favorite drinks and snacks, both Korean and American.
"It's really good here now," said David Meese, who tried the spicy chicken wings, grilled spare ribs, fried rice and pot stickers. "It's great to have a bar scene with really good food. I'm impressed. It's the first time I've been here since the change, and I'll come again."
There are plenty of Korean-seasoned meat dishes on the menu, along with fish, tofu, vegetable plates, hamburgers and Korean specialties like crispy seafood pancakes.
"We have traditional, original food made with fresh, organic vegetables and then fusion items like Korean fried chicken for younger people and others to enjoy," Chung said.
Helping Chung keep Lucky 88 up and running each day is her younger son Matt, an Alameda High graduate.
"I couldn't do this without him," the restaurant owner said. Chung's older son Aaron was born in 1988, served in the U.S. Army and is now taking college classes.
"I'm really glad a friend of mine suggested the idea of bringing Korean food to Alameda a few months ago," she said. "I'm working many hours, but I'm calm and relaxed. It's a totally different and better place now."
Some regular customers say they'd come to the Santa Clara establishment no matter what food it's serving because of the convenient neighborhood location and large number of viewing screens. Newcomer Levent Ertoz, however, said he just stopped by to try an item, and "I like it so far."
The 88 Sports Bar & Korean Grill at 2431 Central Avenue is open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. on Sundays, according to Chung, when patrons can order American breakfast items and watch the early NFL games.