Dong Yang vs. Hoban: Bulgogi blowout

Categories: Food Fight

Hobanbeef.JPG
Amy Dahlin
Beef bulgogi at Hoban


To paraphrase noted poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of grilled meat." While Minnesota lifers know another snowstorm is not inconceivable, burgers, brats, and juicy steaks on the grill are just around the corner. If you haven't scraped your grill clean, dusted off your charcoal, and tied on your apron yet, then this week's Food Fight is here to help. The Korean barbecue dish known as bulgogi offers a taste of summer while the thaw continues.

See also:
Tilia vs. Blackbird: Fish sandwich fisticuffs

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Amy Dahlin
Dong Yang spicy pork and pickles

The Venue:
If your only experience eating in a grocery store is at the healthy self-service counter in Whole Foods, allow Dong Yang Oriental Food in Columbia Heights to fix that. Dong Yang has a tiny restaurant in the back of its Asian grocery, and on weekends, a charming, all-business old codger -- part busboy, part informal host -- keeps watch over its 25 seats. They don't have a menu; just look at the pictures above the cash register if you don't know what to order. In contrast, Hoban is a sunny, much larger restaurant located in an Eagan strip mall right off Highway 13.

The Weigh-in:
There are a number of Korean joints in town, but this week's match-up is an exercise in dramatic contrasts. Do you want informal or formal ambiance? Would you like to see a twelve-item menu or a longer, more diverse one? Are you in the mood for a quick grab-n-go or a more relaxed dining adventure? Do you want to eat with wooden or metal chopsticks? With its more extensive menu, better booths, and leisurely paced meals, Hoban definitely has the advantage.

Round 1: The pickles
As you'd expect, both places serve small side dishes of pickled vegetables called banchan. These offer a bright, crunchy contrast to the sweet, savory, and tender main dish. At Dong Yang, the seaweed and pickled cucumber distinguish themselves from the more typical kimchi, egg, and potato sides. Hoban offers lightly pickled broccoli, amazing shredded daikon, and two types of spicy hot kimchi with their bulgogi. These four stand-out sides helped Hoban win this round.

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11 comments
thao0056
thao0056

fine print: dong yang is run by a soup nazi. they will yell at you if you use the wrong condiments, utensils, and if you don't bus your own table. guessing whether or not you'll get yelled at actually makes the experience more unique :D

Joshua Michael Erickson
Joshua Michael Erickson

I want to try dong yang. So far the best bulgogi I've had is from mirror of korea on hamline. I've had it at ~7 restaurants in 3 states, and MoK definitely takes the cake! Especially the dwae ji bul go gi (spicy pork)

Julie Yang
Julie Yang

The Korean Restaurant in Minneapolis! Waaaayyyy better A little hole in the wall. But, the best Korean in mn

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