Pass on the Strip Club, Pass on Chili’s and Pick Koreana for Lunch

Today, Nick from My Inner Fatty is a giving us another report on Korean food in University City. Click ahead, his gorgeous food porn photos make me feel like I am eating with him!

After last week’s visit to KOJA, more than a few people have suggested that I pay Koreana a visit, and for good reason, their food is absolutely fantastic.  Inside the restaurant it’s a bit cramped, a bit beat up, and certainly not the fanciest of interior design jobs, but I feel like it adds an element of charm, like an ode to being more about food than appearances.  Basically it’s an oasis of cheap Korean food in an area otherwise inundated with sandwich and Chinese trucks.

On the surface, you’d probably think that there’s absolutely no reason why anyone would randomly take a right turn into a parking lot behind Chili’s (unless of course you were planning to visit the gentleman’s club located next door, in which case you might be reading the wrong blog).  If you dig a little deeper though, you’ll find that there’s a steady flux of people who filter over to this undeniably shady spot everyday at noon and after work, but why?  Because located behind that poorly situated Chili’s is one of, if not the most legitimate Korean restaurants in the vicinity of University City.

The menu is pretty extensive, and covers most of what I expect from Korean restaurants.  Every single dish is under $10, so there’s no limit to the ML rule.  Like I said, value driven should be the primary point to take from here.  So what was good?  You really can’t go wrong with dol sot bibimbap, which translates to ‘stone pot mixed rice.’  At $9.75, it’s the most expensive thing on their menu, and yes, it’s dine-in only (for obvious logistical reasons), but honestly it was worth it.  If you’re not familiar with what what this dish comprises, basically an uber hot stone pot is filled with rice, a fried egg, an assortment of vegetables (bean sprouts, spinach, carrots, tofu, etc.), and thinly sliced marinated beef.  It comes to your table crisping the rice at the base of the bowl, where you’re supposed to blend in a gochujang paste and mix everything up in a giant red mess of spicy flavors.  Essentially, you go from the above to this:

The traditional flavors were all there.  The meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful, with the vegetables being well prepared, none overpowering any of the others in terms of presence.  Considering the size of the bowl and the reasonable cost, I can’t imagine anyone having any complaints.  If you like your bibimbap spicy enough to make you cry though, you might be ever so slightly disappointed.  Even after dumping the entire vat of gochujang into the mixture, there was more sweet than heat present.  I guess that appeals to the masses, and it’s not a deal breaker in any sense of the word.

Also tried the jap chae bap, which is glass noodles w/rice.  If you’re a fan of oily noodles, which I am, you’ll love these.  Delightfully smooth, this dish possesses the magnificent flavor of vegetable and beef stir fried in sesame oil.  The taste was terrific, and while some of the noodles did end up sticking together in spite of the oil content, you have to consider the fact that for $7.25, you get a massive heap of starch noodles and an equally filling pile of rice.  In summary?  Just like the bibimbap, for the cost, and for the amount of food you get, it works out pretty well if Korean food is what you’re after.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • The amount of food you get is pretty substantial
  • About as authentic as you’ll find on this side of the Schuylkill
  • Menu is pretty extensive, so there should be something for everyone

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I’m not sure I want to eat at a small dingy restaurant
  • But wait… isn’t KOJA just down the street?  Isn’t it cheaper?
  • I thought Korean food was spicy?

Koreana, 3801 Chestnut St (@ 38th St), 215 222 2240



  • I love Koreana, but for Jap Che I prefer Koja. Huge portion at Koja for $6. I’ve had many of the dishes at Koreana and I particularly like the humongous, brothy Korean soups. Best bang for your buck there.

  • Forreals? I only got Koja’s twice, but it was kind of clumpy (worse than Koreana’s at least), so I’ve stayed away from theirs. I guess that’s what you get from a truck, it’s kind of hit or miss.

  • My opinion is mainly based on portion size. Half the Koreana plate is covered in white rice, whereas Koja’s Jap Che is all Jap Che.

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    I stumbled upon this place one Tuesday as I went all the way out to UC to find out Sitar India wasn’t open. Not a bad substitute at all IMO.

    • If you were looking for Sitar and it was closed, why not go for New Delhi instead?

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        Actually they were BOTH closed. It was a while back, so it might have been when ND was doing their major remodeling. I don’t care for the other place on 40th at all, so I didn’t even think about that option and instead just walked through the parking lot to go back to the El and that’s when I discovered Koreana.

  • Please don’t ask me to choose between strip clubs and Korean food. I’ve already watched this movie once when it was called “Sophie’s Choice.”

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