Downtown Johnson City’s been undergoing some exciting changes of late. As some of the “Old Reliables” either remodel, relocate or close, there are new businesses moving in to take their place. One such new (since September) arrival is the Korean Taco House.
Located in the building formerly occupied by the Mecca tavern, this restaurant has a lot going for it. Their location at the corner of Buffalo and East Main Street means it’s an under 10-minute walk from just about anywhere in the downtown area. (As for you Mecca patrons, don’t worry; they moved to larger quarters just around the corner.)
Since the restaurant seats just 16 patrons at any one time, it’s wise to get there early if you and your dine-around friends want a seat. If you can’t stay, don’t worry. They do a lively take-away business and there’s plenty of convenient parking nearby. My friends had decided to join me for lunch there this past week. We showed up early and were able to find seating with no trouble.
The Korean Taco House menu is as compact as their storefront; just nine entrees, (12 if you include the kids meal selections) but each one is a Korean cuisine classic. I chose the Fried Rice ($6.75) done Korean style, meaning the fried rice (marinated pork and veggies in my case, but you can get beef or chicken instead) is the filling in a fresh two-egg omelet topped with a sweet Asian chili sauce drizzle. I also got three side orders: julienne daikon radish, raw potato done the same way, and a bowl of spicy kimchee cabbage.
My dining partner chose one each of the namesake Korean Tacos, getting beef, chicken and diced marinated pork. These were combined with Korean veggies and either the sweet or the spicy chili sauce, all for just a buck-75 per taco.
The Carnivore ordered the Gimbap ($4.50) Korean beef rolls while the Dieter picked the Bibimbap ($7.50) but minus the fried egg add-on.
We each shared some of the other’s meal and were very pleased with our choices. My partner’s tacos were just that, three floured tortillas each filled with beef, chicken or pork. The result tasted great, though I’d give the edge to the pork taco, especially when paired with the sweet chili sauce.
My Fried Rice omelet was very good. I recommend it as a good light lunch, and make sure you include the side orders, especially the kimchee.
The Dieter’s Bibimbap arrived at the table correctly served in a hot stone bowl, rice on the bottom and a delicious Korean vegetable mixture on the top. Be sure to stir the bowl up, both to cool the heat of it and also to make sure that everything gets properly mixed. Eat this dish slowly, as its spicy sauce can surprise you. Use sips of water to cool your taste buds off; it does a better job here than soda.
The Carnivore’s sushi craving was ably served by his order of Gimbap. Two foot-long rice rolls each as thick as your wrist were wrapped in dried seaweed. The filling was strips of marinated thin-sliced beef and a selection of Asian vegetables. The roll was then sliced into sections and arranged attractively on a sizable platter. You can use both the sweet and spicy chili sauce for dipping, which my friend did with gusto.
There was enough Gimbap here for each of us to have a slice without the Carnivore’s usual growling response. Mine was excellent; ingredients superb and the sour taste of vinegar-laced sticky rice was replaced here by rice coated with sesame oil, a very pleasant change indeed.
All told, lunch for the four of us was just more than $28, tip and drinks included. The restaurant does daily specials, and their side orders and ingredients can vary according to what’s currently in the larder.
Korean Taco House offers excellent food and fun dining at accommodating prices; just what Downtown Johnson City is looking for.
Korean Taco House
101 Buffalo Street
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4-9 p.m.
Sat. 12:30-3 p.m., 4-9 p.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards welcome