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Cafe Soo in Raleigh

If you've been jonesing for Korean fried chicken, you can now get it in Raleigh. If you've never had KFC, now is a great time to try it. Cafe Soo opened about 3 months ago on Hillsborough St. across from the bell tower a few doors over from Schoolkids Records.

The menu is Korean-Japanese. The Japanese selection is not surprising: tempura, udon, gyoza, teriyaki, and tonkatsu. Go for the Korean. First off, they have Korean fried chicken. If you've never had it before, this is what every chicken hopes to be. The chicken is double-fried, shatteringly crispy, hot, juicy, and coated in a sticky delicious napalm of a sauce. Cafe Soo offers 3 sauce choices; sweet, soy garlic, and hot & spicy. The soy garlic was on the very sweet side with a little kick of ginger. It's offered here in whole or half chicken and, in what I guess may be a concession to American eating habits, popcorn chicken and tenders. It's served with a side of pickled daikon, similar to the Vietnamese daikon served on bahn mi.

They also serve samgyupsal (grilled pork belly). If you're not Asian you may be asked if you know what you're ordering. Order it. The meat is served simply grilled, meant to be rolled in lettuce leaves with ssamjang, rice, and grilled garlic. There is a dipping sauce of sesame oil, salt, and pepper which cuts the heaviness of the fatty meat beautifully.

There are rice bowls which include galbi, bulgogi, tangsooyook (a Korean version of Chinese sweet and sour), and bimbimbap. They serve assorted ssams, including bossam, by special order. The even have hwedubbab (Korean sashimi salad).

The decor is minimal, to say the least. This is a quick serve, not fine dining. The couple who own the place are very friendly and concerned that you enjoy your meal. They moved here recently from Flushing and are still adjusting to the different pace of life here.

If you're familiar with the Bon Chon or Kyo Chon chains, the chicken here is a little different but still quite good. If you live close enough to do take-out this is the perfect food for the game. All in all, a welcome addition to the local scene.

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  1. I love Korean fried chicken. It's a great introduction to Korean cuisine for the uninitiated. I think galbi is too. Galbi or kalbi is a rack of beef ribs cut across the bones. The thin pieces of beef are then grilled and brushed with a sauce of ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. We've served this dish few times for company and it's always a hit.

    1. I got a takeout order of 1/2 chicken (consists of 8 pieces) today with the soy garlic sauce. Really delicious!

      Chicken was made to order and took about 20 minutes. The take out order didn't come with the pickled daikon. The sauce wasn't sweet - had a pleasant hint of bitterness and a mild kick. This chicken is unbelievably crispy. The only negative was the torture of having to wait for it to cool down enough to pick up the pieces! Left overs were still crispy when I put them in the fridge at home an hour and a half later.

      For those not familiar with the area be aware that parking can be tricky! Very limited number of spaces in front of the restaurant.

      1. Sounds awesome! Thanks for the heads-up!

        1. Next time I'm going to Raleigh area solo and need a good lunch spot I'm checking it out.

          1. I'm posting this here since I haven't tried them but I'm hearing good things about another new Korean place in Raleigh called Kimbap. They try to source locally, e.g., pork from Farm Hard. Anyone tried them yet?

            http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/video?id=...

            3 Replies
            1. re: bbqme

              I haven't been, but from what I've read and heard from a friend who lives nearby, it seems to be kinda Korean for hipsters. It may still be good though, for all I know.

              To add a little follow-up to Cafe Soo - I tried the bulkogi there yesterday. Don't bother. It tastes mostly like a sweet stir fry. The bibimbap isn't too bad, but is much better at Seoul Garden. I'll still stand by my recommendations of the KFC and samgyupsal, though.

              1. re: bbqme

                It is run by a lady named Kim (thus the name in this case). It is in Seaboard station.

                1. re: bbqme

                  My friends that live in the neighborhood behind Seaboard went to Kimbap last week and really liked it, but I'm not sure what they ordered, though.