When you open the door to Chicago Kalbi in Albany Park, you know you're in the midst of some serious barbequing. The thick smell of burning wood chips and sizzling meat consumes you. The ventilation units hanging above each table do little to mask the scent, and that's a good thing.
Chicago Kalbi specializes in Korean-style barbeque served in a distinctly Japanese environment. Order the kalbi (short ribs) or one of the 12 other meats on the menu, and cook it yourself on the grill in the middle of your table. It takes just a few minutes for the meat to go from cooked to burnt, so keep a close eye on it. After you've charred it to perfection, wrap it in lettuce and enjoy.
You'll need to order at least two servings to take advantage of the do-it-yourself barbeque, which allows you to supplement your meat with a side of vegetables or one of the combinations, which include side dishes, soup, rice and ice cream for about $30. Kalbi also offers a selection of soups, noodles and other dishes that you don't have to cook yourself.
The brightly-lit dining room with tile floors, wooden tables and potted plants feels casual and homey. Grab a seat in one the private booths near the back of the restaurant. Kalbi only takes reservations for groups of six or more, and on busy nights, the wait gets long. You’ll be happy just to get a table...and a whiff.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Aimee Hall