Walking into the dimly lit bar with not much of a decor, some bottles of alcohol on the shelves, nothing better than you'd find at Jewel, a poor beer selection and bottles of wine I might have bought in high school because of the pocket change price point, and of course PBR in a can, it's Logan Square after all, this seemed to be no more than your typical Chicago neighborhood dive. I sat in fear as a douche bag with a leather Harley Davidson skull cap muscled over to the jukebox. I knew we were in for some screeching rock music of no taste and inaudible acoustics. My niece and I smiled and giggled when it happened, thinking the same thing. But here's the catch, we came here because I was told by a friend who has mostly vegan and raw eating practices that this dive has an amazing Korean Vegan Buffet on Thursday nights. I did a little research and went. We walked past the outside twice wondering if that was it for certain and a small erase board assured us it was.
Some of my favorites meats are not meats at all. Some might think it's taboo that being I chef I should articulate such blasphemies. How despicable, an abomination to the culinary world! Well, I'm absolutely in love with Uptons and Soul Veg. I eat at least one to two of their prepared wraps a week as a quick lunch when I'm shopping at wholefoods. They now carry Uptons at Provenance Food and Wine and at Green Grocer too. That being said, I was excited to eat Vegan Korean. I love Korean food as I've mentioned before. So I'll give you a little run down.
Aside from the douche, there was an eclectic bunch, me looking like a lumberjack/farmer, my friend Jeff smart and funny, well-dressed, my niece who as Mick Jagger would say, you make a grown man cry, and some business types, regulars, and hipsters. Pretty scant overall. The buffet was to begin at seven but it'd didn't start till about seven thirty when the bartender announced, "she's ready for you." We went up to the kitchen window and paid the adorable little Korean woman dressed like a cafeteria worker, 13.50. Once everyone was paid she stood at the front of the line and ladled rice on plates and handed them to us one by one. The buffet was set up on a folding table and was full of so many of my favorite treats: homemade kimchi, bebimbop accoutrement, royal fern (my favorite), spicy pickled cucumber, kimbop (Korean vegan sushi), pajun, and Korean miso soup which seems to have the traditional base and tofu with the addition of zucchini and cabbage. I was in heaven. I had three servings and she made sure to come up to us when she saw our plates low and told us to get more. My niece was tickled. She had Korean for the first time when I took her late night to San Soo Gab San (another blog). And she was so excited to have it buffet style. Afterwards I asked her what she thought and she said it was like having all of her favorite dishes in one sitting. Jeff was very happy too. He has a mostly vegetarian eating practice but will eat meat occasionally if I cook it for him and when we go to places like Alinea and Schwa. He was impressed and full.
When she came up to our table to urge us back to the buffet she also mentioned that we should spread the word. She has had ebbs and flows of business and it is really dependent upon press and that I understand. She told us to yelp if we could but I don't have one of those accounts but I knew I was going to write about The Dragon Lady Lounge before I even stepped through the doors. There is no lack of quality. It is home cooked Korean, beautiful, fragrant, solid and soul nourishing. Thursdays 7-10pm, $13.50, 3188 N. Elston. She's the kind of lady you want to be your friend.