Authentic Korean at Cho Sun Ok
With all the popular Asian fusion restaurants popping up around Chicago, it's rare to find superb, authentic Asian cuisine. When we went out to Lincoln Square (Irving Park) to meet up with a friend for Korean food at the reputable Cho Sun Ok, it was definitely a treat! I was surprised there was already a short line outside at 5:30 pm. And that short line turned out to be over an hour long... But once we sat down to eat, that impatient wait was definitely worth it.
For over thirty years, this gem has been starting out their service with a series of banchan, side dishes that are served with steamed rice. The most well-known of all these is kimchi, fermented vegetables (usually cabbage) with a variety of seasonings. In fact, it's becoming a very popular "ingredient" in a number of Asian fusion restaurants throughout the city. But here, you still get to try it as a complimentary dish on its own.
If there is one thing that you MUST order at a Korean restaurant, it's seafood pancake. This crispy pancake will make you rethink how you should make pancakes in the mornings. It usually has a ton of seafood and a ton of scallions. Dipped into some of that sesame soy sauce, it's a perfect starter.
Here, you must do Korean BBQ, which is done in a stone pan in the middle of the table. We had the beef and octopus, which was delectable. That special sauce they marinated everything in was out of this world, but I really wished they had put in some more octopus!
The most disappointing item we had was the pan fried dumplings, which were such a let down due to their shape, their flavor and their thick dumpling skins. I wouldn't suggest ordering these, but I do suggest ordering the pork and kimchi stir fry.
And I definitely had to order the bibimbap because it's one of my favorite Korean dishes. However, here at Cho Sun Ok, they serve the "cold" version, i.e. not in a stone bowl that crisps up the rice. Yet, this bowl of mixed vegetables, rice and and beef was a refresher after some heavier dishes.
Cho Sun Ok is delicious, cheap and quick after the initial wait. It's really a great place to share a bunch of dishes with friends and get stuffed!
- Cho Sun Ok is BYOB so bring some drinks to share with friends! There's a Jewel nearby (on the walk over from the Irving Park Brown Line stop) so you can go get drinks there.
- The short line outside the door is pretty deceptive - you'll be waiting A LOT longer than you expect, even if you show up at 5:30 pm on a Saturday.
- They take credit cards (YAY!).