K-Pop Up Brings Korean Inspired Fusion to Puerto Vallarta

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Dae Gee Korean BBQ Announces Mexico Expansion Plans Including PV

A new bar has popped up at 290 Ignacio L. Vallarta. K-POP UP brings with it a new take on craft slushy cocktails, and other craft drinks with a Korean inspired twist. The bar also has your favorite traditional drinks too.

Colorfully painted in red with eclectic white symbols overlain on top, and if you look closely in the design pattern painted on the exterior you’ll see the image of a pig, the unofficial mascot of this cool space. Located on the bustling corner of Venustiano Carranza and Ignacio L. Vallarta, it’s a hard place to miss.

Ulises Quijano, Bar Manager of K POP-UP. Photo by Oscar Almeida.
Ulises Quijano, Bar Manager of K POP-UP. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

I visited on an early July evening, and was cordially welcomed by Fer, the friendly and informative waitress. Enjoying the unique vibe, I warmed to the cultural expression that is an integral part of the K-Pop phenomenon. 

The establishment is being developed in two phases. The first being the bar, K- POP UP!, and the second, the restaurant Dae Gee Korean BBQ.

Dae Gee Expands Into Mexico

The restaurant in Puerto Vallarta is part of a 20-unit restaurant expansion into Mexico, led by Puerto Vallarta-based Restaurant Management Group (RMG), whose partners possess restaurant and franchise experience with such brands as Jamba Juice, Nathan’s Famous, Mark Pi’s, Taco Maker, and more. 

The group plans to develop their locations across various parts of Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City according to restaurant industry magazine FSR.

The Puerto Vallarta location will be on the second floor of the building that K-Pop is in, and will highlight a grand fusion of US, Mexican, and Korean cultures, a first of its kind in Puerto Vallarta. Named after an incredibly popular Korean barbeque, it will be infused with an Jalisco flair.

Joe Kim, who hails from a traditional Korean family, owns the Denver location. Their passion has guided the development of K- POP UP!, Dae Gee, and has also led them to create a market at Puerto Magico to expand the celebration of the K-Pop culture here in Vallarta. 

Dae Gee, which means “pig” in Korean, exposes customers to an interactive experience that allows them to cook their own meat on grill tops at their tables when they dine.

Customers have the option to choose from a variety of traditional Korean meats like Galbee (Beef Shot Ribs), Sam Gyeob Sal (Sliced Pork Belly) and Dak Bulgogi (Chicken), which are marinated in DAE GEE’s secret marinade. Each choice meat, as well as fish and vegetarian options, can be enjoyed in a bowl, hot stone pot, or tucked inside lettuce and eaten as a wrap. Entrees can be piled high with your choice of side or mixings, including rice, fresh slaw, spicy sauce and a variety of nine side dishes, such as kimchee, broccoli, radish and fish cakes.

Ulises prepares one of his craft slushys Photo by Oscar Almeida
Ulises prepares one of his craft slushys Photo by Oscar Almeida

K-POP UP! The Bar

The street level bar K- POP UP! captivates in every direction. Large video screens located on the outside of the building and inside the bar play continuous reels of K Pop, a modern mode of dancing with choreography indigenous to South Korea that has gained worldwide popularity. As K Pop videos brighten the darkening sidewalk, 80’s alternative hits juxtaposition seamlessly overhead. 

Entering the bar from Ignacio L. Vallarta, open air windows face Venustiano Carranza. The room is large, but inviting. High top tables are placed throughout, with the main attraction being the well stocked bar from which behind are an array of shiny bottles bookending a large video screen.

Brightly displaying the latest drink options are cocktails with inviting names such as the Matcha Tea Martini, Washed Rice Manhattan and Lemon Grass Spritz, to name a few. On top of the bar a colorful slushy machine is churning refreshing Korean inspired delights. You will fall in love with both the Chai Coloda and Aperol Spritz. Either of these delicious options are certain to reward the taste buds of their lucky recipient.

In front of the bar, three large columns resembling giant candy canes divide the room between a seating area that faces two large video screens streaming K Pop favorites. Opposite the columns, tables are placed at open air windows, facing Venustiano Carranza. Soft blue lighting filters down from above, along the back wall rainbow colored LED lights seem to dance along to the sounds of Dido, circa early 2000s. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Ulises Quijano, bar manager of K POP-UP!, who then cordially introduced me to Gerry, his experienced bartender.

Speaking of bartenders, Ulises is an award winning bartender in his own right, as you will promptly discover when sampling any of his delicious creations. He explained proudly that everything in the drinks are fresh, and made from scratch, even the syrups they use.

“The drinks we serve are a fusion of textures and colors from classic favorites, to the latest 21st century offerings,” he explained. “I want to bring back the cocktail culture to the neighborhood, to create that experience for our community.”

As I sipped my refreshingly complex Soju cocktail, I couldn’t help but notice how easily it mixed with the warm Jalisco night. I think it portends a bright future for K- POP UP!, and Dae Gee, as they fuse the cultures of different lands on this special corner in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Hours of operation may vary, so please consult KPOPUPPV on Instagram and Facebook. 

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