Seoul Taco

***** (5 stars)

If there’s any cheaper way to have a tasty meal in River North, I haven’t found it.

The Tacos make up in spiciness what they lack in size. The tortillas are cooked to order, so everything is hot and fresh.

The other entrees are larger, but I thought the taco was just right. And I added (for just two bucks) the kimchi fried rice, which is almost a meal in itself.  

For less than $5 I left stuffed.

Seoul Taco
738 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 265-1607
http://www.yelp.com/biz/seoul-taco-chicago-2

Parachute

***** (5 stars)

Some of the most creative cooking in town is happening in this small, bustling restaurant. While some of it is Korean influenced, it is by no means a Korean restaurant, and the influences range far and wide.

The menu is divided into small plates and main dishes, and everything is designed for sharing. Our server recommended our party of two order two small plates and four main dishes.

Stuffed sesame leaves came wrapped around black rice with a vinegar dipping sauce. A really tasty way to start for just four bucks.

Baked potato bing bread tastes just like a loaded baked potato, especially when dipped in the sour cream butter.

Cured hiramasa (yellowtail) was our least favorite dish. The flavors didn’t really stand out or mesh.

Grilled swordfish was by far our favorite, a stellar combination of flower buds, crunchy greens, ginger, almonds and butter that would have been incredible even without the nicely cooked swordfish. I’m not sure that what we had really matched the description on the menu, but I want more of it!

Chicken with artichokes and mushrooms featured a nicely crisped skin.

We finished with their famous take on dolsot bi bim bop. This is the most Korean dish on the menu, but nearly every ingredient had been substituted with something creative. I wasn’t that anxious to try BBQ tripe and nettles, but they turned out to be great. I highly recommend rolling the dice on this one.

An extensive, eclectic wine list is comprise almost exclusively of wines and varietals you’ve probably never heard of. They’ve been chosen to go well with the food. There are also some nice selections by the glass or carafe, and a few interesting cocktails.

Although the space is crowded and there’s a pulsing soundtrack, it’s still easy to talk. Service is friendly and knowledgeable, and driven by an enthusiasm for the creative food they’re serving.

Parachute
3500 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 654-1460
http://www.yelp.com/biz/parachute-chicago

Beewon Korean Cuisine

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to this place for years and always enjoyed it. It recently changed hands and I’m happy to report that any changes have been positive.

Perhaps they are advertising or have found a way to connect better with the local market, because it is much busier than it used to be. And since much of the clientele is Korean, that’s a good sign.

I always have the same thing, Dolsot Bi Bim Bop, which is served in a stone bowl heated to very high temperature. The rice in the bottom cooks, and you control how crispy it gets by whether you mix it. The rice is topped with veggies, meat, and an egg. This version is just as good as the best I’ve had in Korea.

Meals are accompanied by an assortment of kimchee, which is fun and delicious. Service is fast and friendly. Highly recommended.

Beewon Korean Cuisine
5100 Dr Phillips Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 720-8223
http://www.yelp.com/biz/beewon-korean-cuisine-orlando

Ahjoomah’s Apron

**** (4 stars)

Very good service and food at this Korean restaurant that faces Chinatown. We started with the Seafood Pancake, which was quite large, an appetizer suitable for four or even six. For entrees we had the Dolsot Bibim Bop, which is served still cooking in a stone bowl, and the Kalbi, slices of beef with the rib bone attached, grilled with a sweet Korean barbecue sauce. Both were very good. Service was super attentive. I think everyone working in the place came by to check on us at least twice! A great choice for Asian food when near Chinatown.

Ahjoomah’s Apron
218 W Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-2800
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ahjoomahs-apron-chicago

527 Cafe

**** (4 stars)

Cafe 527 is a new Asian place that had the nerve to open next door to the popular Joy Yee’s Noodle Shop. The plan seems to be working, as 527 was packed when I was there for lunch. The atmosphere is bright and the counter service is friendly. The Korean BBQ taco I had was delicious, filled with bulgogi beef, kimchee, rice and cilantro, and served on seaweed rather than a tortilla. The miso shrimp salad was also tasty, although the shrimp was the least interesting part. The crunchy lettuce and cabbage mixture was enhanced by green peppers, scallions, and edamame. It went well with a miso based honey mustard dressing. There are lots of choices posted on makeshift signs, so be sure to check out the offerings not on the “official” menu board. Definitely a great new Asian option for Evanston.

527 Cafe
527 Davis St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 332-2233
http://www.yelp.com/biz/527-cafe-evanston