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'Egg King' pop-up draws huge crowds by blending Iowan, Korean cultures

Egg King debuted on the Des Moines restaurant scene last August. Though they don't yet have a physical location, they're a sensation wherever they go.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Booming music on the speakers, people dancing, lines that wrap around the building, and...eggs? Though most certainly unconventional, the nightclub-like breakfast experience is exactly the vibe Andrew Sayasane, aka Dru Soy, was going for when conceptualizing one of Des Moines' newest pop-up dining experiences, Egg King.

"That's what we were aiming for," said Soy, who prefers to go by his DJ name. "We wanted to make it a club-like environment."

Sunday morning, a line of people wrapped around the AC Hotel in the East Village, the latest location to host the Egg King pop-up. Iowans braved two-hour waits for an egg sandwich that's anything but traditional. Sandwiched between thick slices of Texas toast, eggs are topped with any number of accoutrements including bacon, avocado, Korean beef bulgogi ("fire meat"), and special Korean sauces.

Credit: WOI-TV

Soy and his brother, Arthur Sayasane, grew up in the restaurant industry in central Iowa. Their family owns a small chain of restaurants in Norwalk, Lacona, and Indianola: Winn's Pizza and Steakhouse. The Sayasanes, with partner Curt Wang (also a son of restaurant owners), started Egg King last August. Their experience and unique marketing strategy (chockfull of egg puns) quickly made it a local viral sensation.

"We just want people to get egg-cited about getting out and doing things in the community again," said Soy. "COVID had everyone locked up in quarantine, so we just wanted to do our part in helping local businesses bring people back out."

Credit: WOI-TV
L to R, Egg King owners Curt Wang, 'Dru Soy' (Andrew Sayasane), and Arthur Sayasane

Egg King doesn't have a physical location yet, though the owners are searching for one. Meanwhile, their strategy of "popping up" at venues around the Metro has benefited both the Egg King owners and their partners.

Sunday, they took over the whole first floor of the AC Hotel on Grand Avenue, home of The Republic on Grand. General manager Chris Steele said his whole staff was thrilled to see so many people after seeing slim crowds throughout the pandemic.

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"We knew there was going to be a crowd, but to be honest it's been so long since we've seen so many people out and about," said Steele. "Even knowing that it's going to happen, it's still a surprise seeing everyone in front of you."

The Sayasane brothers had the kitchen to test recipes and Wang, who is both Korean and Chinese, brought his knowledge of Korean flavors and sauces. Their social media has bloomed since their August debut on the restaurant scene.

But their virality isn't just luck. The owners bring their own photo booth and backdrop with them and encourage the hashtag "#neverskipeggday".

If you come for the egg sandwiches, you may just happen to stay for the special honey butter chips that you won't find at any local stores.

"We either get them shipped or I travel out of town to get them," said Wang. "Sure enough, they're the first things to sell out."

Wang, whose Chinese last name translates to King, helped inspire the restaurant's namesake, combined with the Sayasane brothers' lineage to Laotian royalty.

"My brother's and my family came here from Laos to escape communism," said Sayasane, adding his great-grandfather was the Prime Minister of Laos. "So we said, if we can't be kings in our own country, we might as well be kings in America."

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