Nestled in a back parking lot off Memorial Drive, Revelator Coffee Company in Grant Park has hosted Korean pop-up “Anju” since Jan.11. Named for the Korean term for small dishes served with alcohol, Anju brings a pleasant scent of stir fry instead of the coffee-ground smell that’s typical to a coffee shop.
The pop-up, open Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m, offers a limited menu, including a handful of Korean entrees and seasonal sides. A long drinks menu offers traditional Korean drinks, like the fruity saduchi citrus-flavored colorless liquor Soju, alongside trendy, coffee-inspired cocktails, such as the Irish coffee.
For dinner, I ordered japchae and a side of white rice. The japchae consisted of thin sweet potato noodles, beef and stir fry vegetables. With only six dishes offered, the menu surprisingly includes both vegetarian and meat options. I ordered at the counter and filled up a complimentary water cup before I headed back to my seat amid the wood tables and benches spaced throughout the shop.
The japchae and white rice both arrived almost immediately in small, nondescript bowls. The heavenly aroma that had greeted me by the door engulfed my senses once more as I looked down at my dish. Beautifully messy, the japchae boasted a wide variety of color and textures. The thinly-sliced beef lay atop the glassy, flimsy noodles, which were soaked in a bath of sesame-flavored stir-fry sauce. The dish was on the spicy side, as it contained jalapenos, and while delightful to the taste buds, the dish was small for the price I paid. The side of white rice was slightly crunchy but appropriately sized for the price.
My friend ordered the kimchijeon, a savory kimchi pancake served with apple soy sauce. She loved her dish, but she was disappointed when her meal included one small, thin pancake instead of a few. My other friend ordered the bibimbap, a mixed rice bowl served with vegetables and gochujang sauce, and had to make frequent trips to refill her water cup because the gochujang was so spicy.
Overall, Anju offers a casual, mouthwatering late-night dinner opportunity. The restaurant, which is far from any street lights, bears a dark exterior. Dim string lights are the only signs of life as you approach the coffee shop. Sparsely populated, the long farmhouse tables boast a generous amount of space. Patrons order at the counter and sit wherever they want throughout the restaurant until a waiter brings them their food.
The Grant Park location may be a bit inconvenient for the typical carless college student, but the flavors of the food make the trip worth it. The subway-tiled, chalkboard-laden and dim ambiance of the hipster coffee shop paint an odd background in which to eat Korean food, but also provides a serene, tasty experience different from the options near campus. I recommend visiting Anju with reservations, as you should keep in mind that the delicious food tends to be served in smaller quantities, which may leave you wanting more.