Chicago: Cho Sun Ok

For my roomie's birthday, we planned a wild Korean night out. Everyone knows that a proper wild Korean night out requires MEAT. Korea BBQ meat to be exact.

Which is how we ended up braving the freezing wind and the ice-paved sidewalks to reach Cho Sun Ok:

According to my friend, Cho Sun Ok is THE place for Korean bbq in Chicago. As she's a local Chicagoan and a Korean to boot, I'm going to take her word for it. She's been going to Cho Sun Ok with her family for years, long before "white people discovered it" (her exact words).

It certainly was a busy night. Reviews online weren't joking about getting there early:

Thanks to typical Chicago traffic, we didn't get to Cho Sun Ok until close to 7:00pm. By then, the line was already at the door. There actually wasn't really a line, just a lot of people crowded by the door inside the restaurant, watching the lucky seated people eat. Those unfortunate enough not to score a standing spot inside the restaurant had to squeeze in the tiny space between the door to the restaurant and the door to the outside.

God was looking out for us though. Because we had such a large party (7 people), we were seated immediately after finally getting to speak to the hostess. Booyeah.

There were 2 Koreans in our group, so we just let them handle the ordering. The rest of us just goggled as plate after plate of panchan were set on the table:

One of our friends wanted her own entrée, but the rest of us wanted MEAT. (I can't help but write MEAT in caps. Deal with it.) So for the remaining 6 of us, we ordered chadolbaegi (thinly sliced, un-marinated beef):

I think we ordered 5 servings worth. My Korean is a lot rusty, so I'm not entirely sure what went down between my Korean friends and the server taking our order. But never mind. Take a look at that mountain of MEAT. So magnificent...I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

Every table comes with its own grill:

We were all pretty excited about grilling our own meat, but I guess we weren't doing it quickly enough because every time we picked up the tongs a server would come over, snatch it from our hands, dump a chunk of beef into the pot, and do it for us. Not only did they grill our meat...they also served us. Apparently we weren't grabbing meat quickly enough either. I never had to ask for meat or serve myself. Meat just appeared on my plate magically. Totally not complaining.

There wasn't any lettuce for wrapping, so we devoured the meat by dipping it into the sesame oil and salt concoction and then eating it along with these vinegary greens (green onion?):

The chadolbaegi mountain was demolished before we knew it. That had to be the fastest bbq I've ever been a part of.

After all the meat was gone, one of the Korean ahjummas came by to prepare our fried rice. Leftover panchan was dumped into the pot:

Then a bowl of rice was dumped on top:

And voila! Instant fried rice in a pot:

The rice was really good. I wish there was more of it though. One bowl of rice is simply not going to cut it for a group of 7. Despite all that panchan, beef, and rice, we all left Cho Sun Ok full, but feeling like we'd be hungry again very shortly. Which we were.

The service at Cho Sun Ok can be a little intimidating. We definitely all felt rushed throughout the meal, so we purposefully took our time enjoying the sake one of the girls brought (BYOB, yo). Or everyone else enjoyed it...I sort of just grimaced as I downed the shot.

Our experience was probably a little better than others since we had two Koreans on board. It shouldn't make a difference, but trust me, in many Asian restaurants it really does wonders to have someone who speaks the language. Borderline rude service is often a given in Asian restaurants, so I'm not fazed by it. If I ever get the chance, I would definitely come back.

After dinner we continued our wild Korean night out by rocking the night away at Lincoln Karaoke. Overall, a fabulous night in celebration of a fabulous individual. Happy birthday, roomie!

Cho Sun Ok
4200 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 549-5555


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