Oleego by Park’s BBQ is the Early Standout in New Fig at 7th Food Court
There are few things in life better than a great food court, especially here in L.A. where co-workers’ taste can range from “fat IT guy who will eat anything” to “fat IT Guy who doesn’t eat meat or gluten”. In other words, finding a place that is suitable to all of your friends is damn near impossible in this city, which makes food courts the best. Everybody gets what they want, everybody is happy. Plus, there is never a shortage of (my personal favorite) shitty Chinese food. What I’m saying is, I love food courts. And chances are you love them too- unless, of course, you’re some kind of communist.
So when I heard that DTLA’s new food court inside Fig at 7th had opened I was pretty excited. Food courts have been getting progressively better over the past few years, either by incubating interesting new gourmet concepts (like Century City) or bringing in delicious transplants from ethnic neighborhoods (like the Fox Hills Mall). Fig + 7th seems to be doing a little bit of both. But deciding what I wanted to eat proved a little bit easier than I expected.
If you work downtown you’ve probably had Saffron before. This place looks a bit more “modern” (to use their parlance), but really how much different can it be from the original? Also, they’re not firing up those beautiful looking bread ovens on the right until Friday.
Fancy grilled cheese? Thanks but no thanks. When this place first opened last month, the lines were absolutely insane. It’s died down a bit, and I was surprised at how reasonable the prices are compared to other fancy grilled cheese sandwiches around the city (you can get out of there for under $6, and the sandwich comes with chips.) But if push comes to shove, paying for grilled cheese sandwiches really isn’t my thing.
Juicy Lucy, the new cheese filled burger concept from Paul Shoemaker. Don’t know who that is? Who cares. Did you hear what I said? CHEESE FILLED BURGER.
The signature “Jucy Lucy” burger is a whopping $10, and doesn’t come with anything, making it a bit pricey for a food court lunch. Not to mention the brioche is terrible, and the piled high toppings make it next to impossible to eat.
But I’ll be damned if that well charred, nicely cooked burger wasn’t super tasty. And that crazy cheese gush in the middle just puts it over the top. Replace that damn bun, and cut back on the lettuce, and we might have a contender for one of the best burgers in L.A. They’re in soft open mode right now, so there’s reason to be hopeful.
But the real winner of the food court from day one is Oleego, the new fast food concept from Park’s BBQ. I was most excited to try this place, not just because I love Korean food, but because Park’s is widely considered the best Korean BBQ restaurant in L.A. And this would be my first chance to try anything even related to Parks during lunch for less than $10.
Right now the menu offers a number of different proteins served over your choice of four different kinds of rice (white, brown, egg fried, kimchi fried) or noodles (sauteed udon).
Bulgogi will likely be the most popular choice, and for $8 you get a really large portion of meat served atop what ever starch you picked. No kimchi. No veggies. Nothing else. Just meat and rice (or noodles).
If you want banchan, that’s an extra $1.50.
And you only get to choose two, a fact that would normally anger me to no end. But if they charged $9.50 for the meat, rice and your choice of two banchan I wouldn’t bat an eye. And that’s what you end up paying if you combine the two, so I’m willing to let it slide. (You’re welcome, Oleego.)
Now, if you’re the kind of person who would gladly give up some of your meat for some veggies than bibimbap is your move. It’s only $7, and the default order doesn’t actually come with any meat. But if you ask, they’ll put a little scoop of bibimbap on top… and the best/strangest part about it is, they don’t charge you any extra. Not sure how long this menu loophole will last, but right now the bibimbap is the best deal on the menu (provided you ask for the meat!)
Mix it all up with the gochujang (red bean paste) and you’ve got a great lunch.
The most expensive item on the menu is the kalbi, which at $12 is a bit more than I’d like to spend on lunch at a food court (especially if it doesn’t come with anything.) That being said, this was the best, most tender kalbi I’ve ever had from a fast food Korean place. Of course, considering that this food court counter is owned by Park’s, that will probably surprise nobody. How does it compare to the real deal? I have no idea… I can’t afford that place for lunch!
There’s also spicy pork, which is solid, plus chicken bulgogi, shrimp and tofu which I didn’t try.
But my favorite might have been the dduck galbi, a seasoned hamburger patty made up of ground short rib that lives in that perfect dreamworld somewhere between hamburger and bulgogi. It’s the kind of patty you hope for every time you order a “bulgogi burger” at some weird L.A. fusion place. The kind of patty that might have saved Kalbi Burger (RIP). And all the meats come served on top of grilled onions that you will definitely want to eat.
As for starches, the egg fried rice is definitely better than the white rice (duh- it has egg!) But if you’re hoping for a good K-Town style kimchi fried rice you’ll be a little disappointed by their kimchi fried rice. It’s more fast food, sitting in a steam table kimchi flavored rice than what most people would think of as kimchi fried rice. That being said, it’s still better than most food court fried rice. But the big surprise is the noodles, which is not japchae (the typical Korean glass noodle dish that you get at most places like this) but udon noodles sauteed in soy. It might not be particularly Korean, but if you’ve ever eaten at a Mongolian BBQ spot in a food court you will be into this option. I think my ideal order would be noodles + that burger thing, plus banchan. $9.50 and done. Sorry Juicy Lucy!
On the other side of the food court is George’s Greek, which has been modernized a little bit, but is mostly still the same place that’s seemingly been in this food court since the 1700s. They’ve also promised a Mendocino Farms, a Loteria Grill (the Mexican place in the Farmer’s Market), a Flying Pig, and a Sprinkles (for all you cupcake fanatics.) But in the end, I can’t see anybody dislodging Oleego as my go to spot. After all food courts have always been about asian meats and noodles for me. And with Panda Express gone, what other choice do I have?
The Taste in Fig at 7th
Parking entrance on 7th or 8th (just off Figeroa).
Validation available at Target (which is also now open).