Kogi—the L.A. food truck juggernaut that created the Korean taco—spawned a trend so widely recognized it inspired a New York Times article this summer. Mentioned in that article was Lincoln Park’s Del Seoul—a full five months before it ever opened its doors. Getting name-checked as a clone of a tastemaker like Kogi can be great for business, but tough for inevitable comparisons. Luckily for Del Seoul, most Chicagoans haven’t eaten the legendary Kogi tacos, which pack a complex punch that’s hard to forget.
Judged on their own merit, Del Seoul’s versions are tasty little things, the soft corn tortillas piled with soy-marinated beef short rib; grilled pork carrying the spicy, earthy flavors of gochujang; nicely charred chicken hunks; or plump shrimp rolled in panko and fried. Dressed with diced onions, cilantro and a slaw of greens in garlicky, chile-spiked sesame vinaigrette, it’s Korea-by-way-of-Mexico indeed. But the $2.50 price tag stings for a three-inch taco with only a couple tablespoons of meat.
For value, there’s a solid bibimbap for $8. And there are dumplings, $6 for eight, though any savory porkiness gets swallowed by the blah mush of noodles and tofu. And then there’s the kimchi fries, a tower of cheese fries topped with sour cream, scallions, thin bits of pork belly and a kimchi “salsa.” It’s an American-Korean-Mexican mash-up that might just become Del Seoul’s signature, partly because it rings familiar to the college kids who flood the place and partly because it’s the one thing on the menu truly charting new territory.
2568 N Clark St (773-248-4227). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Diversey; Red to Fullerton. Bus: 8, 22, 36, 134, 143, 151, 156. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $6.