My friend and I have decided to retract any future invitations to join us at the restaurants. For all the food we ate at San Soo Gab San, a truly authentic Korean barbecue style restaurant at 5247 North Western Avenue in Chicago’s North Side, you would sit in amazement watching us. I think the linebackers-size guys sitting across from us were even shocked at how we handled our business of eating so much food. It may be entertaining to onlookers, but eating as much as we do is so wrong on all levels — so equivalent to gluttony, us so full of life and good food. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, but it’s so good at the same time.
San Soo Gab San has enclosed booths for allowing patrons to do their own barbecues without disturbing other patrons. In the middle of the tables are holes where the cooks bring out these hibachi grills filled with coals. Here is where you cook your own meats. For appetizers, we had this huge seafood pancake stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and clams. We ordered this ridiculously large plate of seasoned beef and another equally monster plate of marinated chicken that we cooked on the grill and ate in silence, except for some smacking — while occasionally wondering how much more food the servers were going to keep putting on the table. They brought out all sorts of vegetables ranging from broccoli to green onions to crunchy snap beans to kimchee. I had never had kimchee in such an addictive, spicy sauce. Those were the vegetables that we could recognize and pronounce. The bizarre stuff and water vegetables were likewise appetizing, but I could not begin to tell you what all we chewed and swallowed that the servers brought us from the kitchen because they kept coming with more and more little servings. Now, not that it was cold and cold weather warrants soup, we both had liberal sized bowls of soup, filled with vegetables and tofu swimming in a pleasing Korean broth. Belch! As wide as the table was where we sat, the servers managed to fill up every available spot with food and they were so efficient that they saved room for the unagi, the fresh water eel. My God, that eel was so good that it was electrifying. [No, the eel did not shock us, but I was shocked that we did not put in another order for some more.]
Usually we have some dessert after stuffing our jaws, but there were none at San Soo Gab San. They stuff you to capacity such that trying to put anything else into your stomach is like putting ten pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. It just will not work. Besides, Koreans enjoy great tea after dinner, so in like spirit, my friend and I decided to go for some tea. He has a car much like the Knight 2000, complete with a GPS navigation system. Say FM95.9 and the car tunes to station FM95.5. We asked for nearest teashop and the car gave a listing of teashops. Can you say Argo Tea, boys and girls? Now, can you say mint chocolate tea? In preparation for doing a restaurant of an ethnicity starting with “L,” we asked for nearest Lebanese restaurant. The car responded with Kan Zaman, not that we were going to Kan Zaman after we had wobbled out of the restaurant, having bested the two Paul Bunyan lumberjacks sitting across from us. I said, “Find me a wife,” and the Molly responded with, “Fool, what do you think I am? A dating service?” I at crouched in my seat, silent all the way to Argo Tea.
San Soo Gab San is a 24-hour restaurant. If you have a hankering at 2:00 in the morning, you can load up the car and head to the restaurant for your barbecue of choice. The good thing is you won’t go broke unless you overindulge ridiculously. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I’m going back. But you probably knew that already.