We recently spent an unseasonably cold day warming up with some Korean home cooking at Cho Sun Ok (4200 N Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL) with some friends who are real Korean food aficionados (unlike us!). Usually, when we are at a Korean restaurant we like to indulge in BBQ, but this time around, we were going for something different. Cho Sun Ok, a small corner BYOB restaurant, has been around since 1980 (and was voted favorite Korean restaurant in 2015 by the Chicago Reader) and is known for its stone pot cooking, done right at the table. They are also known for their unusual buckwheat noodles, naengmyeon, chilled noodles in cold broth, traditionally known as a Northern Korean dish.One of our favorite parts of many Korean restaurants is that your meal comes with a vast assortment of small plates to share aka panchan/banchan. Cho Sun Ok’s banchan offerings included spicy rice cakes-ddukkbokki, picked daikon, seaweed salad, pickled cucumber, kimchi, potato salad, bean sprouts, and tofu, among others. Just when you think you have banchan figured out, we always encounter a new one! I think one of our future post will be a guide to banchan (for our own sake).For mains, we ordered a seafood pancake – Haemul Pajeon, sweet potato noodles stir fried with beef and veggies – Japchae, mixed fried rice and veggies in a stone bowl – Bi bim bop, and of course also we had to try some naengmyeon for a taste of North Korean cookery. We went with the bi bim naengmyeon variety, buckwheat noodles in a hot and spicy sauce, a perfect warm-up for the chill. The japchae was full of beef and mushrooms, and had a great, delicate sesame flavor. The shrimp and squid-stuffed seafood pancake and the mildly-spicy bi bim bap topped with an egg were also delicious and faithful renditions of Korean classics. We had a hard time picking a favorite (L liked the japchae and M the naengmyeon), but everything was delicious and we snacked happily on the banchan between our courses.
Cho Sun Ok delivered an an amazing amount of the food for the price. We had heard in advance that the service could be brusque, but we had no issues, and as an added plus, the ventilation at the restaurant is pretty good, unlike some other BBQ places we’ve visited. Overall, we like their selection of unusual and traditional dishes in addition to the classic Korean BBQ selection. Moreover, they have one of our favorite versions of japchae in the city. Definitely give Cho Sun Ok a try for some Korean home cooking, or if you want the chance to try a classic North Korean dish.