Don't be put off by the standalone brick building and the vines so thick this time of year they obscure the windows and the "Open" sign. This 10-year-old restaurant serves authentic Korean specialties ranging from boiled snails to kimchi to stir-fried chicken gizzards to raw tilapia. There's also an abundance of chicken, beef, tofu and pork for the less adventurous.
When to Go: Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but Sunday, when the small, hard-working staff takes a well-deserved day off. Lunch and dinner time can be brisk, and seating is limited. The bottom line: There's no best time, so go when you're hungry.
On Tap: The Food and Drug Administration might have a problem with the health claims of Baek Se Ju, which means 100-year wine, named so because the herbs the wine is made with are supposed to help you live a century. Other drinks include Soju, a rice wine similar to, but sweeter than, vodka, and Bok Bun Ja, Korean raspberry wine. Bottles of wine cost $13 to $16. The bottom line: If you like sweet wines, try these. If you tend toward dry cabernet, skip it.
Blue Plate Special: That's a tough one on a menu as varied as this one. Fried rice is a dependable choice, served in stove pot dishes and with fried eggs on top as a main course. The seafood roots of a Pacific pensinsular nation are evident in the selection of spicy stews that include clam, crab, squid and caviar. The showpiece is Haemultang — mixed seafood in a hot and spicy sauce with veggies and tofu. It's $32.99 for two. The bottom line: Come with a group to taste as many dishes as possible.
The Scene: You don't come here for the ambience. The outside is stark, and the small, unassuming dining room has bamboo paneling and plain tables. A simple bamboo screen separates you from the tiny kitchen. The whiteboard with specials announces to frustrated vegetarians in red dry-erase marker that "We use beef broth for every soup." Water is poured from unmarked, plastic gallon jugs. The bottom line: You're here for the food.
The Crew: Efficient service with minimal banter. This is not a "Hi, I'm Jason, and I'll be your server tonight" kind of place. When founder Young Park isn't in the kitchen, she's often watching movies on her iPad at a table next to the cash register. The bottom line: They're fast and get the orders right. That's what service is for, right?
The Crowd: Often packed with Korean students from SU who chat with the proprietors in their native tongue. The bottom line: You feel like you're in a Korean family's kitchen.
The Deets: A welcome change from — and far superior to — the General Tso's chicken regime of many Asian restaurants. The food is basic but loaded with spices (the red chili icons next to the menu items help you gauge the heat level). It's a little pricey — the ubiquitious beef-broth soups start at $9.99, and dinner for two without drinks can reach $30. The bottom line: Well worth the money.
Profile by Glenn Coin