A friend of mine crashed at my place for a couple months earlier this year, and we started frequenting this place once a week or so. Since he's left, I have scaled back in frequency.
The place is an actual restaurant. It has its own signs out front. But the front door has been locked for as long as I've been going there. There's a piece of paper taped to the door blaming it on a "sneakthief." Do not let this deter you. The food is good and cheap. To enter, you must walk into the attached Korean market, turn right, and walk through some rice cookers.
There you'll find a dozen or so tables, a few customers, and no stack of Austin Chronicles. You order at the counter from a very small menu, and most everything there is a soup. Drinks come in cans, and there is no table service. The prices all include tax and are all between $5 and $8, mostly $5 and $6. This is a cash-only joint. If you need paper bucks, go to the Walgreen's next door, debit the cheapest thing you can find (or, if you're like me, something you should probably keep in the car for your passengers, like tissues), and get some cash back.
After ordering, you can go get yourself some banchan sitting in some metal bins on top of a bed of ice and protected by a sneeze guard. The typical kim chi is there, and it's good. Go pick yourself up a big jar of it in the market on your way out. They also have raddish kim chi, cucumber kimchi, and some things I cannot identify but are perfectly palatable and guilt-free.
Like I said, most of what you can order consists of soups. The kimchi soup is my favorite. Spicy red broth, kimchi, onions, green onions, tofu, and roasted pork. Each bowl is served boiling hot, and it continues to boil for about two minutes after you pick it up from the counter. These are served with a bowl of sticky sushi rice.
I have not tried the bulgolgi or the sushi bowl. The sushi bowl has tilapia on it, and that's sort of put me off. Next to catfish, tilapia seems like the goofiest sushi fish. Basically, I avoid anything there that does not mention 'spicy' in its description. My ex girlfriend once got a non-spicy ramen-looking dish that tasted like nothing more than $0.10 ramen noodles. I also made the mistake of getting the white beef soup many of you have had elsewhere. I think it's most often used as a meal starter. It's made from beef bones, which a Korean friend tried to shock me with once. And it has no taste at all. I'm not talking about a flavorful beef stock that has been spiced up with carrots and green things and garlic. I mean the soup, from what I can tell, is just beef bones boiled for a day. And I don't see the fun in ruining the ingredients for a good Jello-base.
That all being said, I want to see more of you people there. It's wonderfully cheap, and the portions are just right to not put you to sleep. I often feel bad about ordering pho, because I always have to finish it, and then I need an hour-long nap before I'm done. But a bowl of spicy kimchi soup here fills me up nicely, tastes fantastic, and only sets me back $5 after tax.
The end of the meal is one of the best parts. On my way out through the market, I like to stop by the drinks section and buy something unfathomable. Little energy drinks served in 150mL glass viles, for instance. The ingredients are often insane. Beet and cilantro extract, honeycomb chips, pomegranate skin, etc.
So let me know if you've been there and what you have to say about weird finds in the market and your favorite dishes there. And if the bulgolgi is good.
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