I have come to the realization that Mother Nature has a twisted sense of humour. Just this past Sunday we had temperatures in the 80’s. It was perfect. Then the temperatures dropped overnight and it was quite frosty the following Monday. I had sniffles, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. because of the waffling in the temperatures The one thing that Mother Nature may forget, while she is teasing people with warmer weather and then sending her lover Jack Frost to mess up the merry work, is that soup cures those nasty symptoms that come along after the body cannot adjust to temperatures in flux. And I, food addict Gino, know of a great Korean restaurant that has some splendid soup to help me rid my sniffing and sneezing.
The destination was Hyde Park, 1603 E. 55th Street to be more precise, for some Korean rapture at Cafe Corea. A good friend and I had decided that we would catch up with each other once a week after work. Because I had been in constant celebration mode, this being my birthday month, the week had almost passed before I sat still long enough to say that I was going to try yet another Korean restaurant. We had been to San Soo Gab San on Chicago’s North Side, had way too much fill of food, and loved it that much more. We also had been to Crisp, one of the small Korean cafes in Lakeview. And now it was time to head south of downtown into Hyde Park where education and culture are hip.
Cafe Corea is very much a hole-in-the-wall. The seating area is relatively small. The kitchen is right there in eyeing distance of where you may be seating. The charm is in the limited English that the owners speak because not only do they get the orders right on point but they also give off this “Make yourself at home” feeling that always go over well with me in small establishments. But where they really shine is with the food. Granted this is not one of those Korean barbecue restaurants where a hibachi is placed before you with smoking coals so that you can grill your own meat, the traditional dishes cannot be beaten. I think that the presence of several elderly Koreans in the restaurant was a testament to the food being authentic and the best.
We received complementary side dishes. These were cucumber salad, kimchee, potatoes, and bean sprouts. Because soup was the main dish that I wanted, I had yukgaejang. This was a spicy soup of scrambled eggs, bamboo shoots, translucent noodles, and shredded beef. Yes, I had a little bit of meat in the diet for this evening. And after a few sips, my nasal passages began to open, I could breathe without taking small gasps, and I was quite a satisfied man on this particular frosty Thursday evening. My friend had beef bulgolgi, or rather fire beef if translated in English literally. I thought he was going to have jap chae since that is the main dish we would always order at San Soo Gab San, but he opted for something different and gobbled it up in silence.
It had been years since I had gone to Cafe Corea, mostly because my departure from the South Side was bitter. I had missed going to the many ethnic restaurants in Hyde Park as a result. It was great going back and immersing myself in the whole scene. A welcoming environment. A fantastic mix of cultures. Some of the best food. All of the ingredients that keep me running around outside to some eatery while Mother Nature and Jack Frost plot how to make the temperatures go up and down and mess up your body dynamics. Well, that soup did the trick to stop my sneezing and droopy feeling, Mother Nature. Take that!