Eating at this no-frills North Park restaurant feels a bit like dining inside an infomercial: You keep expecting the waitstaff to call out, “But wait, there’s more,” as they load your table with cups of tea and small dishes of pickled veggies, fish fillets and hardboiled eggs. The main difference, of course, is that after you give in to temptation, you won’t feel suckered—you’ll feel oh-so-satisfied.
Though So Gong Dong Tofu House serves a killer dolsot bibimbap (julienned veggies, chewy beef and caramelized rice served in a sizzling stone bowl), the place is famous for its sumptuous soups. Eight varieties of guk (soup) and chi gae (stew) make up the bulk of the menu, including ginseng, seafood and a knock-out version with pork and kimchi (pickled cabbage). If you don't dig right in when the big bowl arrives, the waiter may take matters into her own hands and crack the raw egg into the sizzling stew, stirring it aggressively until little bits of just-cooked egg pop to the surface. The simmering mix of veggies, meat, egg and chewy bits of tofu make for a hearty meal, and its heat will make you sweat.
Order appetizers before you’re full-to-the-brim with soup. Tender steamed dumplings burst with bits of chewy beef, vegetables and kimchee, and come served with a scallion sauce so delicious you’ll consider smuggling it home. Linger around after your meal, and your waiter might reward you with a little metal bowl of sikhye, sweet rice water that’s perfectly refreshing.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood