By Mike Lintal
Traveling the globe in search of culinary delights is nothing new. Foodie travel has been going on since the Vikings. Unfortunately, I can’t devote the appropriate time/energy/resources to explore the homelands of some of my favorite cuisines the way I’d like. That’s why it’s nice to have local options that are close enough approximations of their international equivalents to take you away, however briefly.
Living in Chicago, I can circumnavigate the globe many times over without ever boarding a plane. My most recent “journey” was to Korea, by way of a few local spots.
Joong Boo Market (Avondale, 3333 N. Kimball Ave.) is a crowded, fragrant, occasionally noisy passport to northeast Asia. A Korean grocery featured recently a recent installment of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America, Joong Boo is home to a delicious steamed-dumpling heaven populated with wang mandoo.
Similar to Chinese baozi (if that’s any help), wang mandoo are steamed dough balls filled with sweet or savory options. I can’t get enough of the spicy kimchi dumplings, but they also offer a milder pork option for the heat-averse.
After waking from a dumpling coma, it was off to another Avondale spot, Parachute, where husband-and-wife chef team John Clark and Beverly Kim are doing some incredibly thoughtful small-plate, Korean-inspired dishes. The food/atmosphere/service are the same – dedicated. You know you’re in for a treat starting with the bread plate, a potato bread laced with cheddar, chives and accompanied with a sour-cream butter. You’ve never had a loaded baked ‘tater that tastes as good as this – and it’s just the stuff you nibble on waiting for the real food to arrive. Dish after dish, the food delights and enchants to the point of disbelief.
Not to be outdone by the food, Parachute’s wine list is wonderful, bursting with incredible options from around the globe. Thanks to the wonders of internet research I was able to experience a new “brew,” Slow City Makgeolli. A sweet, milky alcoholic beverage native to Korea, this version is from its first domestic brewer, Baesangmyun Brewery in Niles.
I was happy to sleep in my own bed and not a Seoul hotel room after this eight-hour journey to Korea, but not entirely. These little backyard “journeys” make waiting for my next trip a little easier; at the same time, if they have potato bread, wang mandoo, and makgeolli in Korea, you know I have to go there.
If you were a Viking, you’d understand.
Mike Lintal is an avid beer hunter, seeker of tasty treats and Event Coordinator at The Chopping Block in Chicago.