Soju is a semi-casual Korean spot in Garfield where you'll find Korean barbecue dishes, classic bi bim bap, and a few other tasty surprises like poke bowls and chicken katsu. Throw in some great happy hour deals as well as creative and surprisingly delicious cocktails, and it's easy to see why this place nearly always has a line out the door.
Don't Miss Happy Hour at Soju
We checked out Soju for dinner during happy hour and naturally had to start with some cocktails and soju. During happy hour, select soju shots are $1 off, some bottles of soju are $10, certain beers are half off, and there is a rotating $6 cocktail special.
On our visit the cocktail special was the Soju Punch, a delightful blend of soju, Maggie's white rum, mango, pineapple, pomegranate, ginger, yogurt, and soda. The yogurt certainly had us puzzled, until we tried the cocktail – it was very fruity and almost sweet, but balanced by the tanginess of the yogurt and the strong soju and rum flavors.
Another inventive cocktail was the Waikiki Spam Jam, a Spam-washed soju with fruity pineapple juice. The combination was a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors.
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Other cocktails of note were the Cachaca Sangria (cachaca, passion fruit, lime, and malbec) and the Seoul Manhattan (bourbon, vermouth, rose tea jelly, gochujang, and bitters). We really liked the Manhattan as it was slightly spicy but also floral.
Korean Staples Not to Miss
There is an excellent selection of appetizers on the menu here ranging from typical Korean street food to nori french fries and soups. We had to stop ourselves from ordering one of everything! But we settled on the kimchijeon, one of our go-to dishes we always get when we try a Korean spot, and mandu dumplings.
The kimchijeon was a thin, savory pancake with chopped up kimchi in the batter, served with a spicy vinegary dipping sauce. The slightly tangy, funky kimchi was a great foil to the richness of the pancake.
For the dumplings, you can choose either kimchi and tofu or pork fillings; we ordered half and half. The kimchi and tofu filling was an interesting blend of creamy mashed tofu and spicy kimchi, while the pork was a pretty standard but perfectly seasoned sausage filling.
We knew we had to try the Korean BBQ combo platter for one of our entrees. This dish combines kalbi (beef short ribs), bulgogi (beef filet), and dwaejibulgogi (pork tenderloin), served alongside rice and banchan. The meats were all equally tender and covered in a sweet and savory marinade, but our favorite was the dwaejibulgogi.
The banchan sides included their house made kimchi which was nice and fiery, and house made pickles which had a ton of fermented goodness in their flavor.
The chicken katsu curry was our other entree choice; this one was a panko-crusted and fried chicken breast served in a Korean curry sauce with potatoes, carrots, and rice. The breading on the chicken was light and ultra crispy, contrasting nicely with the creamy sauce and tender veggies. The sauce was a brown gravy flavored with curry powder that had a pleasant heat that snuck up on us.
The service was a bit slow but still helpful and attentive. We appreciated recommendations on cocktails and entrees, as well as a complimentary sample of one of their house-infused sojus after our meal. We tried the lapsang souchong version, but they're constantly experimenting and trying new infusions.
As Soju doesn't take reservations, come early or be prepared to wait a bit for some flavorful Korean food and Korean-influenced cocktails!
Soju is located at 4923 Penn Avenue in Garfield.