School Food Serves Up a Korean Sushi Spectacle
The proof that I love Korean food can be traced back to day one of Midtown Lunch. When I launched the site four years ago in NYC, I extended the boundaries of “Midtown” a few extra blocks specifically so I would have an excuse to stuff my face in Manhattan’s Koreatown (on 32nd btw. B’way+5th). I love it all- from Korean BBQ to Korean fried chicken (natch), bi bim bap to kal gook soo (knife cut noodles), jjajangmyeon (Korean/Chinese food) to kimbap (Korean sushi). But the one thing I haven’t come around to is the modern Korean fast food chain.
If you’ve ever eaten in Kyochon, you know what I’m talking about. I love the chicken- but the cheesy music, spotless decor, and shiny white walls with inspirational sayings I could do without. With crappy frozen yogurt I suppose it makes sense, but when it comes to Korean lunch I’d choose the atmosphere of Myung Dong Kyoja over Isaac Toast every time. But Midtown Lunch isn’t about decor. It’s about food. So when I heard that School Food, a popular Korean chain that specializes in kimbap and topokki, opened a location in Koreatown- I couldn’t help myself.
And after trying their giant combination roll platter for 3, I’m kind of glad I did. Bad decor and all.
The first trick to School Food is finding the damn place. It’s hidden at the very top of this new, under construction, and completely empty (except for School Food) mall on the west side of Western just North of Wilshire (there’s a free parking lot just to the left of the steps leading up into the mall.) There seems to be a movie theater being constructed, but other than that the place is completely desserted. And as you walk up the (not moving) escalators you feel like you’re entering some sort off-limits construction site. Don’t be discouraged though. On the third floor, nestled in the SE corner is the shiny and spotless School Food.
The menu is divided into 5 sections filled with the kind of food that apparently is eaten as an after school snack by kids in Korea (hence the name). They have cold and hot noodle dishes, rice dishes, and a few kimchi stews. But the two specialties of the house are their rolls, and topokki (rice cakes, usually served in a sweet and spicy red sauce.)
They have 11 different “rolls” to choose from, ranging in price from $8-$9 but we couldn’t help but order the “combination roll”, a $22 big mama jamma with 7 different rolls on it.
Hello! From left to right… stir fried kimchi, spicy anchovy, tuna, spam, smelt eggs, squid ink with teriyaki squid, teriyaki beef, small anchovy, and stir fried garlic and bacon. (Sorry, no spicy tuna or california rolls here!) It probably would have been more prudent to order one of the smaller combination rolls, but I’ve had my fair share of kimbap, but I’m by no means an expert. I’ve had mostly the prepackaged fast food kind, so compared to that, these made to order rolls were awesome. They’re smaller than most kimbap as well, making one biters easy to pop (kind of dangerous.) Don’t know how these bad boys stack up to other options in the area- but the spectacle alone is worth the trip.
Couldn’t leave without also trying the topokki. It’s served in a number of different ways, but we went with #14- topokki with ramen ($8.99). This is another dish that I’ve mostly had as a fast food item in NYC (at Woorjip, on 32nd btw. B’way+5th) so clearly a version like this going to be far superior. It was also better than a version I had at Ma Dang Gook so- but beyond that I can’t say whether it’s one of the best in Koreatown. The one thing I will say is we ordered the wrong version! I didn’t realize it at the time, but you can get the original topokki as a combination with soon dae (Korean blood sausage) for $9.99, or a with soon dae, fried dumplings and hard boileds for $11.99!
Next time, that will be the play. Me + 3 co-workers + combination roll + tok-su-nee = a great Midtown lunch.
- Giant platter of kimbap FTW!
- I love trying weird Korean fast food chains
- I work near Wilshire and Western and like places like this (but I’m sick of Caffe Village)
- I’ve been to the original in Korea and love it!
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- There are better versions of all these dishes to be had in Koreatown
- Hate the sterile atmosphere of places like this
- I’m not a Korean teenager, so I feel out of place
- The music is terrible
- Anchovies? Spam? No thanks. I’ll stick with my california rolls.
School Food, 621 S. Western Ave. (3rd Floor), 213-380-3663