KorFusion

Restaurants, Korean River North
3 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Proof that good food can exist where gas is pumped, KorFusion offers flavorful Korean-inspired bowls, burritos and tacos.

Rarely do we order food inside, adjacent to or—let’s face it—anywhere near a gas station with total confidence. That’s because our choices usually boil down to something bagged and salty or a wrinkly sausage plucked off a warmer and slathered with questionable cheese sauce.

Korean joint KorFusion is making the exact opposite of gas station food in a tiny storefront adjacent to the Mobil station off Halsted and Division Streets. This no-frills spot nails quick-service fusion where similar concepts fall short, combining a highlight reel of expert preparations with worthy vehicles (burritos, bowls, bao and tacos).

First, though, you have to conquer a whole lot of decisions staring you down from flat-screen menus above the long prep counter. Bao, burrito, tacos, rice/noodle bowl or bibimbap? Grilled pork, pork bulgogi, beef, chicken or tofu? Raw, cooked or pickled veggies? Egg? (Yes, please.) And, finally, sauces that range from Japanese (teriyaki) to Korean (gochujang) to American-ish (Korean ranch).

It doesn’t help matters if you’re ravenous—or planning to order at least half the menu—as my ladydate and I were when we arrived on a quiet weeknight shortly before the 8pm closing time. Thankfully, the friendly staff was quick to make suggestions.

My advice? Go for the burrito. We filled our soft flour tortilla with garlicky chicken bulgogi, addicting kimchi fried rice, pickled cucumbers and lettuce. Tangy, spicy mayo rounded out this edible incarnation of Korean-Americana. I kept nibbling at it long after I was full, mentally plotting subsequent orders (next time with chile-laced pork bulgogi, always with kimchi fried rice).

The semi-traditional bibimbap delivered another satisfying meal-in-one: mild, sweet strips of beef bulgogi neatly arranged on toothy rice alongside little piles of pickled and fresh veggies (we went with the traditional six: pickled radish, shiitakes, steamed spinach, squash, bean sprouts and carrots). Capped with a sunny-side up egg and streaked with spicy, crimson gochujang, the pretty display begged to be jumbled to delicious ruin.

Perched on barstools as we surveyed views of car wash signage and gas pumps, we chased the meal with tangy-sweet Korean Milkis sodas. I liked the yogurt flavor; Ladydate said the melon variety reminded her of Juicy Fruit gum.

On the snack front, skip the mandu. Despite a pleasant, crunchy-meets-chewy exterior, the fried pork-filled dumplings lacked the flavor and freshness I appreciate so much elsewhere. On the other hand, pillowy bao overflowed with charred morsels of grilled pork and bracing pickled radish, with a welcomed sticky sweetness from Hoisin sauce.

As we ambled outside into the last bit of sunlight, I announced plans to find the nearest Divvy station to bike off the glut of gloriously spiced meats wrapped in carbs that I’d just inhaled.  

“I’m gonna get gas,” Ladydate replied.

Vitals:

Atmosphere: Minimalist-industrial, counter-service space with friendly staff cooking and serving Korean-inspired fare in 10 minutes or less.

What to eat: Don’t miss the burrito with savory kimchi rice. Traditional beef bibimbap and squishy bao are also great options.

What to drink: Venture beyond fountain drinks into the interesting lineup of Japanese and Korean sodas.

Where to sit: With just a handful of counter seats and two-top tables, grab whatever’s open or take the travel-ready food to go.

By: Maggie Hennessy

Posted:

Venue name: KorFusion
Contact:
Address: 1234 N Halsted St
Chicago
60642
Opening hours: Mon–Sun 11am–8pm
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