Anyone who lives or works in the South KC/Overland Park area knows all too well that it very difficult to find good authentic ethnic eats in the area (no, Jose Pepper's and Pei Wei do not count!). As someone who works in South KC, I am always eager to try new authentic ethnic eateries when someone tells me about them. I have done a blog post on the Caspian Bistro already, and am always looking for good (reasonably priced, if possible) ethnic food in the Southland.
All of that being said, this post is about two awesome ethnic eateries in the Southland: El Fogon (Mexican Deli & Taqueria) and Choga (Korean).
First, we will visit Choga, an authentic Korean restaurant. I have never been to Korea, but the food is just like the food that the grandmother of one of my childhood friends always made for us. It also came highly recommended by a Malaysian coworker of mine, and when we got there we ran into a number of Korean co-workers. All of that being said, I am fairly confident in labeling it authentic without ever stepping foot on the continent of Asia.
The lunch menu at Choga offers smaller portions than their dinner menu, at more lunch friendly prices. I went with the Yang Nyum Kalbi (grilled beef short ribs marinated in Kalbi sauce), as it came highly recommended. The short ribs came off of the bone (as shown in the photo in the lower right) and they were quite tender and very tasty. It may not appear that there is much meat on the tray, but the serving size is actually quite satisfying. I would definitely recommend this to someone going to Choga.
Every lunch comes with: Kimchi, steamed white rice, house salad, Japchae, fresh fruit, and two pan fried beef dumplings. The Kimchi (traditional Korean, fermented cabage) was not quite as spicy as I am used to, but still had very good flavour. It was also slightly different that all sides came on your tray, except the Kimchi, that came on one dish for the whole table (but sharing is the Korean way). The steamed rice was perfectly sticky-icky. The house salad was made with fresh greens and a nicely flavoured vinaigrette. The Japchae (stir fried sweet potato noodles) was new to me and did not taste anything like sweet potato, as I had expected, but was more like a traditional rice noodle that had some added pigment. The fresh fruit that came with my lunch was watermelon, as it was in season at the time. The two pan fried beef dumplings were fantastic.
My coworker had been to Choga for dinner and was telling us about the newly installed in-table grills and vent hoods, the concept of this is somewhat lost on me, I believe it is something you have to experience to fully understand. It sounds like a Korean hybrid of hibachi and fondue, I will have to go sometime for dinner to get a better understanding of it. I will surely post pictures after I do, but as you can see, they are brand spanking new.
El Fogon is a deli style restaurant, in that you walk in and walk up to the counter to place your order. I loved the Mexican decor, Spanish music playing over the speakers, and soccer on the TV. It seems like it is a family operation and the whole menu looked great! I went with the tacos, they offered 5 different varieties (Carne, Pollo, Chorizo, Barbacoa, and Al Pastor), and at only $1.50 each I figured I could afford to try them all. The tacos were very good, not the best I ever had, but that is not at all an indictment on the tacos and more of a statement of the amazing tacos that I have had in my life.
I had the Jamaica, a traditional Mexican drink made from the leaves of the Hibiscus flower, to go with my tacos. It was a tad sweet for my taste, but was the closest to the Jamaica that I had in Mexico that I have been able to find this side of the border. This is most certainly not the last lunch I will have at El Fogon!