It wasn’t that long ago in the CapNY where you would either have to have a Korean friend or personally know a Korean family to enjoy Korean Food in Upstate NY. ..(no longer)!
Photo: Bon Vivant Photographe, Seoul Korean Restaurant
They’d invite you over for a sit down style family meal consisting of white rice, kimchi, and all of the other favored Korean dishes that are served in almost every Korean home. The classic bulgogi dish, or a kimbap roll were not always mentioned between friends looking for a place to meet out for lunch, or in the office discussion as a food option for a group order for delivery.
I was born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in a Korean home with a Korean mother making the most delicious Korean food I’ve ever had… and of course no one makes food the way your own mother does. Going to the market place in Seoul as a child, I still remember the smells of the food being made by street cart vendors and the aromas coming from the restaurants as we walked for blocks and blocks shopping while looking for a place for my family to eat dinner at.
I first moved to Upstate NY when I was a teenager, and since then I’ve always longed for this region to embrace and appreciate Korean food. Today, you can easily find about a half dozen Korean food restaurants offering traditional and newer Korean style foods to CapNY.
NAMU | COLONIE
The first Korean BBQ grill restaurant in CapNY. Namu has been offering guests the upfront and close experience of having their dinner grilled at their table right in front of them since 2014. The owners of Namu had the vision for this interactive dining experience in CapNY when they opened their restaurant eight years ago. With 30 tables in their dining room, each with its own grill in the center, the large and spacious restaurant still allows for an intimate dining experience with those sitting near you. This is a great date night place and invites engagement and conversation, and it is a good place to bring the family while the kids watch their food being cooked on an open grill.
The menu here caters to the more traditional Korean palette, while dining in a more contemporary atmosphere, with modern western decor and k-pop music playing in the background.
SON OF EGG | ALBANY (and just recently opened a second location in Rensselaer)
Bringing Korean influence to Albany in 2020, Mincho Ko and her son & co-owner, Justin Ko, opened Son of Egg around the corner from Lark Street. The narrow cafe and wall counter seating reminds me of my visits to K-town in NYC, as we walked to different restaurants and grabbed a quick order of mandoo to eat on the go. Son Of Egg offers one of my favorite Korean foods, a traditional kimbap roll. A small roll sells for $2, which I grabbed two of, and jumped back in my car and ate them on the way home. They offer a more contemporary menu with Korean inspired flavors and ingredients, fused into a street food concept that you can eat in-house or while walking around town. They’ve switched up Korean family meals a bit with their Bulgogi Burger… and the Tornado Potato, which is a deep fried spiral cut potato on a bamboo skewer served with a variety of sauces on the side.
As a small locally owned business that cares about their community and those in it, Son Of Egg created “The Good Egg Initiative”, which allows you to purchase a meal in person or online for a homeless individual in need of a meal. The meal tickets are left in a designated location and made available for the homeless and or those with food insecurities to receive a free meal. At any time during business hours, this individual can discreetly come visit, grab an available meal ticket, and present it to the cashier. Meal tickets are $9.
IG: @son_of_egg | web: sonofegg.com
BESPOKI BOWL | TROY
An authentic Hawaiian & Asian eatery in the heart of downtown Troy, the Bespoki Bowl started in the Troy Kitchen in 2016, and opened around the corner on 4th Street in 2017. Paul Park, owner of the Bespoki Bowl, has artful murals covering the walls around the dining room, and asking thoughtful questions such as “how do you feel?”
Making their own kimchi in house, and mixing their bulgogi marinade from scratch, you will absolutely find authentic Korean flavors in the Korean foods served in this neighborhood restaurant. You can order traditional bulgogi & rice here, or get a more modern Bulgogi Taco. The Spam Musubi, spam on rice with teriyaki sauce wrapped in a nori sheet, is one of my favorites here and sells for just $3 each. Whether you grab a bulgogi bowl to go, or sit and enjoy a plate of spicy pork and rice, you’ll experience a taste of Korea each time.
SEOUL KOREAN RESTAURANT | LATHAM
One of the longest operating Korean restaurants in CapNY, Seoul Korean restaurant offers authentic traditional Korean foods as well as street foods. Opened in 2013 in Latham, was purchased three years ago by Mijung Kim and her husband, both from Seoul. You’ll walk past shelves of Korean pantry items and products as you enter the restaurant leading you into a large dining area, which accommodates bigger parties and families looking to dine out together.
The foods and flavors at this restaurant remind me of downtown Seoul and the many family meals of my childhood in Korea. Their traditional Korean food makes this restaurant appealing to anyone looking to be introduced to authentic Korean foods for the very first time or who is in town looking for a good Korean meal. The extensive dinner menu ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy. You can enjoy unique asian bottled sodas for the kid in all of us, and a variety of Soju, Plum wines and asian beers are available for the adults.
SUNHEE’S FARM AND KITCHEN | TROY
Jinah Ahn came onto the downtown Troy food scene in 2016, opening her Korean restaurant with a big vision and a huge love for her community. Sunhee’s is a farmhouse style restaurant with a small shop in the back offering some shelves filled with Korean market items, stationary products, and a small fridge with jars of their homemade kimchi for sale. Wooden farm tables, rustic pitchers & glass vases filled with dried wild flowers welcome you to sit in their dining room. In addition to the Troy location, Sunhee’s operates a small family farm in Cambridge, New York, raising chickens and ducks while cultivating a mix of organically grown Korean and domestic vegetables.
Serving traditional Korean favorites such as Bibimpap and Japchae, Sunhee’s goes above and beyond the delicious Korean cuisine they serve by also offering free English classes for adult immigrants, from beginner to advanced via zoom or in person in downtown Troy. Classes are open to all immigrants, and all are welcome.
Written by: Nellie Ackerman-Vellano
Nellie Ackerman-Vellano is a freelance brand development professional, food writer and photographer who writes for a variety of periodicals including 518 Profiles Magazine. IG: @FeedMe518 | @BonVivantPhotographe