Annandale, VA boasts one of the US’s largest Korean-American communities and choosing where to eat there can be overwhelming, given the large number of choices. Luckily, I have a work colleague who is very well-acquainted with Korean food and who recommended To Sok Jip, a tiny hole in the wall spot that serves up authentic and delicious Korean food to a mostly Korean clientele. My friend recommended that I order the Budae Jjigae, or army stew, a mix of ham, sausage, baked beans, and kimchi that arose just after the Korean War as a consequence of Korea’s being flooded with army surplus food.
Alas, I was alone and Budae Jjigae is a massive amount of food (I saw it on other tables and while it looked fantastic, I can’t eat that much). So I ordered the bulgogi, the classic korean BBQ beef dish. It was on-point and it, along with the rather spare decor, reminded me of a delicious bulgogi meal I had somewhere in the countryside between Seoul and the demilitarized zone on a visit there with my father and grandfather, a Korean War veteran. While Annandale is a trek for those living in the District proper, a place like To Sok Jip offers an authentic experience that one simply cannot find in DC. And it is inexpensive and friendly, to boot.
To Sok Jip is located at 7211 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA.
Kochix is a small Korean fried chicken carryout located at 400 Florida Ave NW. Kochix provides a cool Korean twist on the classic DC carryout. Like typical carryouts, Kochix offers an eclectic mix of food: chicken wings, drumsticks, Asian food, fried seafood, cheesesteaks, and more. But in this case, instead of being doused in mumbo sauce, the fried chicken comes with honey spicy, honey spicy hot or soy garlic sauce. And instead of Chinese food, Korean options like bibimbap and bulgogi are on offer. Otherwise, the typical carryout atmosphere is there. There is no decor, and just a couple of stools and a very small counter to sit at. I wasn’t super hungry so I ordered the three piece drumsticks with one soy garlic drumstick and two honey spicy drumstick. They were messy but delicious, and I certainly enjoyed the option of drumsticks instead of wings, since I prefer meatier drumsticks to more meager wings.
Yellow Vendor is a Korean food truck. Yes, you heard that correctly. I assume the name comes from the fact that the truck is yellow and wasn’t intended to be a politically incorrect joke, but either way I can’t help but chuckle. You can find their location on their Twitter. This is one of the most solid food trucks out there. They serve delicious Korean classics like bibimbap relatively quickly and always with a smile. At $9, the filling and delicious Bulgogi Bibimbap is a good deal by the standards of this city’s pricey food trucks, and offers a relatively nutritious, balanced lunch. Unlike many of the other food trucks, the owners of Yellow Vendor are actually Korean, and are an adorable older couple at that. Highly recommended.
Maki Shop is a food truck that primarily serves large sushi handrolls. You can find the food truck’s daily location on their Twitter, and they also have a brick and mortar location at 1522 14th Street NW, near Logan Circle. I ordered both the beef short rib handroll, as well as the salmon handroll. I enjoyed the salmon more than the beef short rib, since cold ribs inside a sushi roll aren’t nearly as tasty as ribs served hot. They were essentially going for a handroll take on Korean galbi, by pairing the short ribs with kimchi, romaine and carrots. It is worth noting that the handrolls are not made to order while you wait. Instead, they are pre-wrapped with the seaweed separate from the rice and other contents in order to keep the seaweed crisp and fresh. This definitely has a time advantage in that you will get your food right away, without the interminable wait at other food trucks. On the other hand, it means it’s less ultra-fresh than rolls prepared while you wait. I also ordered the mochi ice cream, which was pretty small for the price. If you enjoy handrolls and want to grab something super quick, Maki Shop will get the job done. That said, I’d rather get my rolls made fresh at Buredo.
Far East Taco Grille is an Asian fusion food truck, whose locations can be found on their Twitter. They also have a brick and mortar location at 409 15th St NE, but I haven’t tried it yet. They have two taco trucks and a burrito truck, which are all delicious, but this review is primarily about the taco trucks. There are tons of possible combinations for their tacos, since for each one you can choose a protein (pork, beef, chicken or tofu), pick from a wide selection of sauces, and finish by picking a style. I especially like the “Kimchi-Lime” and “Banh Mi Craze” styles. The 3 tacos for $8 deal is excellent for food with such great flavors. Last time I went, I ordered a pork taco in the “Banh Mi Craze” style, a beef taco in the “Volcano Fajita” style and a chicken taco in the “Kimchi-Lime” style. They were all delicious, though the “Volcano Fajita” was a bit less special since it lacked the Asian fusion element that makes Far East Taco different from the average taqueria. I usually order my tacos with the sweet and medium spicy #15 sauce.
Top: veggie dumplings. Bottom left: kimchi egg roll. Bottom right: kimchi pancake.
Mark’s Kitchen is a local, no-frills, eatery with a delicious blend of Korean food and American comfort food located at7006 Carroll Ave in Takoma Park, just across the DC-MD line. The place has no decor, but you won’t care because the food is excellent and the wait staff is very friendly. I went for lunch and got a trio of appetizers dim sum-style, including fried veggie dumplings, a kimchi fritter and a kimchi egg roll. All three were awesome, especially the dumplings which were some of the best I’ve ever had- crispy and fried to perfection. This place is a gem and a local institution and worth a detour. It’s great for vegetarians (vegetarian and vegan places in Takoma Park and Takoma are a legacy of the Seventh Day Adventists- Takoma Park used to be their world headquarters) but Mark’s Kitchen has plenty of meat options as well for the carnivore.