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Vit Goal Tofu Restaurant (Korean)- Durham

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I find myself compelled to put in a good word for my current favorite local comfort food place. I love Asian tofu dishes. Ever since discovering Vit Goal a couple of months ago, it has become a weekly habit. Despite being located in a little strip mall off 55 near 54, the place has charm. The servers are lovely and the tofu soup is delicious. They also have a few beef dishes, a seafood pancake, pork dish, and octopus (we haven't tried these yet), but if you don't like tofu, I don't know if I'd make a point of going. We've tried the tofu soup with vegetable dumplings (yum), with mushrooms (enoki, shitake and mystery mushroom)& w/beef and kimchee (meat is minimal, more for the flavor). The dumplings and mushroom are my favorite so far. The (literally) boiling soup is served with an odd cold soup on the side, a Korean iced tea (both an aquired taste, I think), rice and a few small dishes (Kimchee, either bean sprouts or potatoes, cucumber). It's a fairly new place. There's a nice Korean grocery store next door. Give them a try if you are a tofu fan like I am. Oh yeah - the medium spicy is plenty spicy. Our 12-year-old gets the mild. The flavor is very good and not too spicy.

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  1. Hey Suse;
    I'd eaten at a korean tofu place in ny so this sounds just great. And a grocery! for take home tofu bliss...
    Logistical problem, which strip mall is this? Are there any other restaurants there. I have to figure out the route As I take the bus...;
    but totally cheers,

    1. http://www.tagzania.com/item/22985 (includes a map; it's just south of the 54/55 intersection


      I'll have to try this, it sounds interesting. How are the vegetarian options? You'd think a tofu place might have lots of veggie choices, but not necessarily with Asian restaurants.

      1. Rory - It's walkable from the 55/54 intersection. I don't know where there's a busstop, but going south on 55, it's the next light after 54. Turn left at Rudino's Grinders and go up the little hill. It's across from the Dog Haus. Rough without a car around here, isn't it?
        Statolith - Not sure about the veggie options. When I ordered the mushroom tofu soup, the waitress asked me if I was a vegetarian (the past couple of times I had ordered the veggie dumpling tofu soup). I expect they have a non- beef broth option, but I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure the regular broth is meat-based. good luck.

        3 Replies
        1. re: suse

          For a total international experience you could then walk over to Mithai and have some Bengali sweets for dessert. It's puja week so they should be putting forth their best effort.

          1. re: bbqme

            Mithai recently relocated to Cary. :-(

            1. re: Tom M of Durham NC

              I knew they were opening a store in Cary but I thought it was a second location. So they closed the one in Durham? Dang it!

        2. Hey Suse;
          thanks for the info, called the TTA & got it, its near Taco Bell that sounds like the Spice & Curry mall where Chosun Ok is?
          I only found 100% Asian veg food at Buddhist restaurants, but I'm not ultra fussy when I go out.

          I only miss a car to go to Cary, for Udipi Cafe - the best & I want to try Suchi, Hyderabadi food has great biryani.
          thanks guys

          1. Rory - Vit Goal is down the street a bit from Chosun Ok. If the TTA stops there at the Taco Bell, walk down to the next light South on 55 (not 54!) - not far - Look for Rudinos on your left. Vit Goal is behind Rudinos. If youre not too fussy about broth, you should be just fine. TRy the soup with veggie dumplings. Bon Appetit! BTW, even with a car, Cary is tough to get your head around. I have yet to try Udupi. Crazy, I know.

            1. Well Guys,
              now it seems I'm making the trip as a fellow ex-New Yorker told me about Jamaica Jamaica which must be at the same mall. He says it is the real thing with the best patties like he used to get on Fulton St & hot sauce.Have you tried it?
              So now how do I split my lunch up;-)
              cheers, Rory
              ps just had dinner at Tallulah, had all veg mezze, it was absolutely 1st class.

              1. Just returned from my weekly tofu soup fix at Vit Goal. Rory, it's just a bit past the Jamaica, Jamaica strip mall - NOT in the same mall, but to make matters more complicated, there's another restaurant in the Jamaica, Jamaica mall that has South American food. I can't remember the name, but the time I went they had arepas and huge portions of delicious food. The atmosphere is not a big draw - cafeteria-like. I agree with you about Tallulah's - I've had one or two not so fantastic meals there, but the rest have been great...and the atmosphere is just so nice. I spent a month in New York once and tried a Turkish place there, only to be sorely disappointed, but there's just so much great food in NYC and you can always try out something new. There's good food here, as you have clearly discovered, but once you've found everything, that's all there is until something new opens up. Have you tried Patio Loco in Ch. Hill? It's divey (which I love)- They have good lentil enchiladas with tomatillo sauce. Okay, so that's not particularly authentic as far as I can tell, but so what!

                1. Suse;
                  thanks for the tip. I'll do a Jamaica/South American (patties, peas'n rice, jerk & empanadas) with my friend & then another trip to Vit Goal. Amazingly this was the lastest thing in korean food in nyc when I was there in March - fresh tofu. Really the food here is better; fresher. Does Vit Goal have good bim bop? Love it.
                  You've got to get to Udupi Cafe. I cook regional Kerala dishes & never thought I'd get better than Dosa Hut in nyc & this is better. The restaurant is very nice, service great & the food has large portions, & the cost is low for gourmet quality. You will love, love, love it; Have potato stuffed dosas & iddly & the chickpeas...
                  I'll give patio loco a try, I don't care if a place is divey one bit if the food is good, even untraditional. Now Queen of Sheba is on the back burner, bother, I love Ethiopian food, can't make injera at home.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Rory

                    Rory - No babimbop at Vit Goal, alas. They do have it at Chosun Ok, which has more variety, but I like the Vit Goal soup better. I make a better babimbop at home. Really easy - you just need the gochijiang (red Korean hot sauce)to mix into it when you've got it all together. I know what you mean about wanting food you can't make at home. I just don't want to pay too much money for it. This is what makes me crazy about local Thai food (have found okay Thai food, but not great and definitely too $$$). Pad Thai should be cheap - it's mostly a bunch of rice noodles. Cheap! I'm sad about the Blue Nile. I love Ethiopian food, too. Why is Queen of Sheba on the back burner? I haven't been there.

                  2. PS Rory - try the yucca fries at Patio Loco.

                    1. Hey Suse;
                      gochujang, great idea. Can I buy it at the shop next to Vit Goal? I can't find fresh galangal so I don't make Thai food or go out for it. Bad pad thai- ugh like sesame noodles...
                      Queen of Sheba is back-burner as I can't get anyone to go with me & I don't eat enough to make it worth while;-)Unless any Chowhounders want to go.
                      Yucca chips; that's new, thanks for the tip!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Rory

                        Rory- the shop has gochujang galore. My Korean friend mixes is with a shot of coke (cola) - gives it a bit of sweetness. Wierd, but yummy. One of these days when I've settled into the semester i might be up for a Queen of Sheba outting.

                      2. Ooh, excellent., Suse. The last time I bought gochujang, I was diving into a giant freezer in Dublin. I love the red kind. Coke, well hey I'll give it a try. Thanks for the tip.
                        When things are calm just post here. I'm always ready to go for Ethiopian food!

                        1. Wanted to chime in to say we had a lovely meal at this place Friday evening. $8.95 for a very satisfying bowl of seafood-tofu soup--you can't beat this place for value. Between here and Chosun Ok I am in heaven--we've gone from zero good Korean eateries to two in a very short period of time. Durham dining is in ascent!

                          1. I tried that once, but there was only one guy there making some stuff who told me they didn't really do much of the selling there. They only had one item. Apparently, they're going to be closing that one and stick to selling their products at the Cary location (too far for me)I was so disappointed. I did find some Mithai sweets at the Indian grocery near Pier 1 in Durham.

                            1. I've eaten at VIT Goal a few times. I work close by.

                              The hot soups are delicious and very, very hot (temperature wise). They come out in stone bowls and are at a rolling boil when delivered to the table. The basic tofu soups seem to have the same base, with your choice of add-ins and spice level. My favorite is the oyster and tofu, one notch down from max spicy.

                              As we have a vegetarian friend who sometimes joins us for lunch, we asked about these menu options. Language was a slight barrier, but they did indicate that they offered a second, vegetarian base that could be used in their soups. We've not tried it, but once the add-ins and spices were applied, I doubt you'd note much difference in the underlying base.

                              There is a nice ritual to the service with drinks and a series of shared side dishes coming out first. This is followed by entrees and a turning out of rice from a communal bowl.

                              The little side dishes vary, but are a nice touch. I'd agree that the Kim Chee flavored cold drink is unusual, but I'd say very pleasant once you become accustomed to it.

                              With the heat of the soup and all the little dishes it is a meal to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The decor and friendliness of the staff make this a pleasant experience.

                              Thanks for the tip on the mushroom variant of the soup. I'll have to try that next.

                              1. Can anyone provide more detailed directions on how to get to Vit Goal? I don't live here even though I've been consulting work here for over 4 years. I ventured out last night looking for Vit Goal but found Chosun OK instead. Aren't they right near each other? I"ll be coming from the University Drive area of Durham. Thanks!

                                1. They're close to each other, but to get to Vit Goal - drive through the 54 intersection on 55 away from I-40. At the next stoplight (there will be a Rudino's on your left), turn left. Vit Goal is up the little hill on the left, right across from the Dog House.

                                    1. Hey Suse,

                                      We finally tried Vit Goal, and we loved it! Got the tofu 'shroom soup, beef bbq shortribs, and the seafood pancake. Oh, and we got veggie dumplings for the baby. Everything was very good. The dumpling sauce is not very pungent, but maybe that's typical for the cuisine. We ordered the soup maximum spicy, and it was very hot, but not knock-your-sox-off hot. Shortribs were very tender, much more meat than bone, and had lots of smokey flavor. We ordered take-out because it was late and we didn't think the little one would make it through without a meltdown. If you're dining in though, you'll get treated to soup that's served in a bubbling bowl, and entrees served on sizzling platters. Despite the strip mall location, I thought the interior was actually really charming. The wait staff was nice and efficient, and the place had an exceptionally friendly, neighborhood sort of environment that seems wasted on NC 55. Service took about 40 minutes (it was 7:00 on a Saturday night). If I made a "Top 10" list for Durham, Vit Goal would earn a spot somewhere in the middle of the list.

                                      1. I have just ate in there this weekend, the taste are ok, but the protion just so small, 4 of us have to order 7 items from the manu or we will leave hungry.The worst is their beef noodle bowl, its only has ONE piece of beef in it!!!
                                        so if you are not hungry and just want to try new thing that maybe the place to go, but if you are hungry and looking for some hearty bites, they are not for you.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: sophya

                                          Wow, that's about the last thing I would say about it. I've only had the tofu soup, but each time it has nearly enduced a food coma. Tons of food and too good to stop eating it = nap time.

                                          1. re: sophya

                                            I'm with Detlefchef on this one. Beef noodle bowl? I haven't seen that on the menu. Is this new? There is not much beef in the kimchee beef tofu soup, that's true, but it's more for flavor than anything else, and the tofu certainly provides plenty of protein. If you want beef, get the bbq. I'm totally addicted to this place. For the record, if your little side dishes aren't enough, they'll always bring you more, free of charge. I actually like this approach - it's less wasteful.

                                            1. re: suse

                                              They've been gradually adding stuff to the menu, initially via construction-paper signs hung on every available surface. They must print 20,000 menu/placemats at once, and they don't want to toss 'em, I guess, so once or twice over the past 9 months they've reprinted & added stuff to the actual menu. Having said that, I don't currently recall what they've added in the way of noodle dishes, but I think that just means I know where I'm going for lunch today . . .

                                              1. re: rossgrady

                                                Funny, i was just thinking i needed my weekly fix today. If you're there around noon - come say hi. I'm sure my husband and i will be the only caucasian couple in there. I'll be the one in the black tshirt eating the mushroom tofu soup, no doubt. Or maybe i'll actually try something different this week....bon appetit!

                                            2. re: sophya

                                              I think the portions are just enough. I didn't find myself overly stuffed or needing a to go container. The food is so flavorful and so tasty that enormous portions are not necessary. We need to get out of the "cheesecake factory" style, 10 lb of mediocre food is one serving mentality, IMHO.

                                              1. re: sophya

                                                I too have been satisfied with the serving sizes at Vit Goal. The quality and portions are just great. Of course many people equate quality with the size of the doggy bag at the end of the meal (ie: Maggiano's is very busy considering their food is average at best). It's the super-size mentality. I would hate to see VG increase the size of their portions only to lose the soul and quality of what they are making currently.

                                                1. re: sophya

                                                  Did any of sophya and her group order the tofu soup bowls? That's really a set meal because it comes with a bowl of rice and a selection of Korean pickles/salads. As well as the tofu soup bowls, I've had the scallion pancake which is about 10" diameter and that's more than enough for two as an appetizer. So, I'm puzzled as to why she? thought the portions were "so small". Maybe sophya's group picked mostly appetizers.

                                                2. I have eaten lunch at Vit Goal several times over the last few months and enjoyed it, even recommended to a few folks.
                                                  While googling for a web site to send to a friend, I found a comment on another site about customers being harassed over the amount of tip left.

                                                  Imagine my dismay when I witnessed a similar incident last Fri, Feb 29, 2008. The couple eating next to us paid and rose to leave. A male staffer stopped them at the door and began to berate them loudly about the amount of tip. His voice level was just short of shouting, but the space is small, so we all heard. His tone was very nasty.

                                                  Last time I checked, the amount of tip left, in fact, leaving any tip at all, is voluntary and at the discretion of the customer.

                                                  I won't go back there again. The man's behavior was appalling. Too bad, really, as I like the tofu soups.

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: ediemac1

                                                    I've found the service at Vit Goal there to be less than friendly also. I've been glared at, asked "are you sure you want that?" after ordering something, and been made to feel uncomfortable on various visits there. I prefer going to Chosun OK, where the waitresses are smiling and make me feel right at home. They generally have a wider selection of banchan as well.

                                                    1. re: ediemac1

                                                      So odd to read this. I posted this originally, have been time and time again and have never had less than friendly service. Bizarre.

                                                      1. re: suse

                                                        Hi, Suse
                                                        I've eaten there several times too, and really liked it. After I posted here, I found 2 more similar stories from Feb posted at indyweek.com.

                                                        Wonder if there's been some change in ownership or staff? I was truly amazed by what I witnessed last week. I imagine they lost as customers anyone else who was dining there. Probably cost them more in the long run than they managed to harass out of that couple!

                                                        1. re: ediemac1

                                                          It's probably been since January since I was last there. I have to check it out sometime soon. If it's just a matter of a nutbar waiter, let's hope he's outta there soon. Out of curiosity (because of tipping habits in various countries) were the berated customers Asian or caucasian? Not that anything justifies that kind of crazy behavior - that's just a big bowl of wrong.

                                                          1. re: suse

                                                            Interesting question - they were neither. It was an African-American couple.
                                                            I too wondered if this was a culture issue.

                                                          2. re: suse

                                                            They are rude there. My wife and her family speak and understand Korean, and they were were rude on more than one occasion. Most recently, my brother-in-law asked for one raw egg for his soup, then added one more for his friend, and the waitress said in Korean, "you know, it's not good with egg in it." Koreans usually eat the soup with egg in it. I bet they were especially nasty to the african-american couple because of their race.

                                                            1. re: Shag Waits

                                                              Very strange. I've always been treated very politely there.

                                                              1. re: FuzzyT

                                                                I was just in durham this weekend and went there for dinner on saturday. First off, the interior was was much nicer than I expected and the service was much nicer than I expected. I went alone and didn't get any rude attitude for taking a two-top table when the place was packed. My waitress was even nice when I decided to upgrade my original order of tofu soup to the combo with shot ribs. Overall, very polite.
                                                                Food was amazing. Enjoyed every last bite and am glad I made the wandering trip from downtown to find it (I did get lost a few times). I will go back for sure when I'm visiting durham again. But, someone tell me, what is that drink they give you- it kind of looks like water but more yellow and has a taste like sweet rice. Anybody know?

                                                                1. re: charlottecooks

                                                                  It's barley water/tea, or what's called bori cha, a common Korean drink.

                                                                  1. re: charlottecooks

                                                                    We went for lunch again yesterday and had a nice meal. The waiter even brought us some complementary green tea in a lovely teapot at the end of the meal. Having read these recent posts, I did find myself wondering if they might not have been encouraged to pay special attention to the service.

                                                          3. I have been there several times. The tofu, BBQ, and seafood pancake are all good. Unfortunately, I think they changed ownership or staffer half a year or a year ago. Since then, the service there is less pleasant and the number of side-dishes has been reduced. Especially, the only male staffer is rude. After several tries and the bad personal experience this weekend, I won’t go there again. I would prefer the other Korean restaurant (Chosun Ok) just down the street, more choices and nice service. I was curious to see how other customers feel about this restaurant, so I did an internet search. No surprise, I see several stories about their bad service. I just want to share mine here. By the way, I am Asian and I usually give good tips. We went to the restaurant this past weekend with my in-laws for lunch. We ordered tofu, beef BBQ, seafood pancake, and bimbabop. Less than one minute later, we decided to change the bimbabop to fried rice. I went to the counter to talk to the male staff; he unwillingly changed it but said something like “make up your mind”. When I stepped back, my wife heard I ordered beef fried rice and suggested me changing it to shrimp since we already have beef BBQ. I was reluctant but decided to talk to that guy one more time. This time, this guy said something like “what is the problem with you”, I replied “I just want to make a change”, and he finally did the change with additional words. I was mad. I would have left immediately if not with my in-laws, who don’t speak English. My wife calmed me down and we finished the lunch. I paid in cash and left no tip, the first time in my whole life. Just as we stepped out of the door, the guy chased us and asked for tips. My wife told him that your attitude was rude and we did not forget the tip but just chose not to give any. This guy finally turned back with additional words we just could not hear.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Jimlee

                                                              The first time I went to Vit Goal was in 2009, which was probably after the ownership change mentioned by Jimlee, and I would rank it okay food, no service. However, I was pleased to find it impressively improved when I re-visited this Monday on Feb. 15th. We still got 5 small dishes yet with distinct characteristics. We were very happy since it's been so common to encounter different pickled vegetables in the same hot sauce with limited flavors.
                                                              There were a bunch of noticeable changes, the big two are more generous in quantity and more skilled in flavoring. I found these applied in both the entrees (we had bimbimbon and pork kimchee soup) and the small dishes. I'm really glad to see this and was wondering if it's under another management again. Does any one know that?

                                                            2. Wow... I love this place and am really bummed to read all the horror stories about the service. Actually I kind of liked the "hands off" attitude of the staff, but I can also see where that could cross the line into rudeness. The story about the waiter berating the couple about their tip is outrageous.

                                                              Still... the food is amazing! My sister swears by the seafood soup.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: RTPMary

                                                                I haven't been in awhile, but I used to love this place. I found the owners quite charming, and I loved the family-owned feel of the place. It would be a shame if that has been lost.

                                                              2. Long time lurker, first time poster. I felt compelled to shed a little light on this post when I came across it.

                                                                I am a (minimum) 1-2 per month eater at Vit Goal, so I can confirm basically most of the comments here re the food (Veg Dumpling Tofu Soup is unparalleled, and I've tasted every variety of the soup) and the service (good and bad, but more later).

                                                                I've eaten at both Chosun OK and Vit Goal but in my opinion, Vit Goal is far better for basically 2 reasons: Chosun doesn't offer near the selection of Tofu soups (at least 8 or 9) as Vit Goal, and the Kim Chee (homemade) at Vit Goal is far superior. I only use those 2 reasons b/c the BBQ ribs are really the same and both are good. Both serve Bibimbop(sp?) and both are okay. Basically, they offer the same items and are probably equally as good to one another with the exception of the 2 reasons I state above that make Vit Goal superior.

                                                                Now, some background as I know it (I have no affiliation, not related, not personal friends, etc etc, so take it with a grain of salt). The rude male server, is exactly that, RUDE! I dont think I've met anyone (server) who is as rude as he is. He doesn't even look you in the eye when you order! He is very short and lacks the overall pleasant demeanor that should be required of a server. Here is the kicker, I am probably 99% certain, he is the OWNER. One time, I wanted to take one of their cheap paper menus to keep with me as I am a constant customer, he told me I couldn't, even unfolded it (as I folded it up to put in my jacket pocket) and placed it back in the same box as his 1000s of other paper menus. God forbid he doesn't account for one of them!!

                                                                However, the very pleasant female server- I believe is either his wife or his sister, but they are undoubtedly related somehow. I love her! She knows my order as I order the same thing every time, very pleasant, and even acknowledges and asks about my extended family when they visit from out of town. When my family comes into town, Vit Goal is a 2x per week outing for us as my parents can't get enough of the Tofu soups. The sweet female server and their food is good enough for me to ignore the rude owner.

                                                                BTW, there is no affiliation between the restaurant and the grocery next door. Actually, I get the distinct impression, Mr. Rude is somehow trying to buy the space so he can open his own grocer and maybe expand the restaurant as it is on the small side. Yes, sometimes I do engage him in small, very short conversations. This is how I know their Kim Chee is homemade. You can actaully buy a container of it for $5. I've purchased it since not even the Kim Chee from the grocer next door is even close to being as good.

                                                                Sorry for the long post, but Vit Goal is on my short list of must have/try in theTriangle. I do hope that the owner will somehow learn to be a bit more pleasant in his dealings with his customers as he has a gem in his hands and I would hate for it to fail due to his disposition. Foodies can sometimes make or break a place and service is defintely one thing that can sway someone from frequenting a place.

                                                                Vit Goal
                                                                2107 Allendown Dr Ste 101, Durham, NC 27713

                                                                1. The place is brilliant. As long as you don't veer to far away from the place's DNA -- it's a Tofu joint after all -- you'll be just fine. I try to do it at least once a month if not more often. Really good stuff.