KBOP — the resident Dinkytown Korean bistro — opened late last year to rave reviews and heavy foot-traffic.
Throngs of college-aged foodies have talked this place into oblivion. I usually don’t listen to what I call the “Chipotle demographic” and their “meat-first ethos," but I thought I’d give it a try.
When you first look around the place you’re immediately struck by how busy it is. The impressive smell wafts onto the street corner, dragging you happily inside until you’re bombarded by long lines. (I’m impatient and irascible, but that’s not KBOP’s fault.)
I’d call the restaurant’s decor “Spartan” — there aren’t knickknacks or ornate wall trimmings. Instead, everything is simplistic with a cafeteria-like vibe.
Full disclaimer: I know a few things about Korean food. My neighbor (and first love) used to have her grandma make us various foodstuffs that I’ve long forgotten. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos on Korean barbecue.
As it goes, misremembering food from nearly a decade ago and watching three minute video clips make me more than qualified to discuss Korean cuisine. Let’s begin.
First — the bad stuff. The wait was one of the longest I’ve experienced in recent memory. I was told that this is because everything is cooked from scratch and made to order. I hope so?
Also, like the schlemiel I am, I fell out of my chair and onto the floor in front of the entire restaurant while waiting. The cashier asked if I was okay over stifled laughter. My face got all red.
Now for the good stuff, namely the food.
KBOP’s prices are more than reasonable. Everything is around $10 — lunch specials are $7.25 — and you get a ton of food. It’s also very easy to share.
The first thing I tried was kimbap — an unusual little Korean sushi roll that I’d never heard of. Apparently, it’s a popular street food in South Korea. It was fine.
Next, I got the sundae guk. Sundae guk is a pig intestine and beef tendon soup. I’ll admit I was wary because anything having to do with pig intestines and blood usually tastes really bad. This stuff, however, was incredible. The contents were slow stewed and it had a good mouthfeel.
The real highlight, and the thing that took absolutely forever to deliver, was the bulgogi.
Bulgogi is a classic South Korean dish that literally translates to “fire meat.” It’s meat marinated in a soy sauce and sesame oil mixture and then grilled with onions and peppers.
If a Korean restaurant serves bulgogi and it’s bad, they’ve failed at the whole “restaurant” thing.
I got chicken instead of the more popular beef option. It came with an array of sides like kimchi and a horseradish-like sauce.
Variety in any meal usually wins out; this was no exception.
Everything was cooked perfectly and tasted delicious. I even had leftovers — which were eaten cold and in a frenzy later that night.
The wait was torturous, but the food was truly great. I’d recommend going at a time when the place isn’t completely packed, otherwise you may have to wait just to order.
For the price though, it can’t be beat.