Korean snacks at the Americana Center in Glendale.
Could I say that I was willing to walk a thousand miles for the food at Ahn-Joo? Not really. But I did walk 1.4 miles to get there, and was very happy to do so, and will happily do so again.
Now, I’ve mentioned Ahn-Joo in the past. It started off as a Food Truck, in fact, its very restaurant DNA still feels very food-trucky, but its gotten a brick and mortar place now in the Americana Center.
It’s a Korean Snack place, taking the ingredients and flavors of Korea and melding them into more familiar shapes. (Well, familiar to folks who have never tried Korean food.)
The basis for the stuff I tried was the Rice Cake. Now, I’m not talking about the cruddy, flavorless, cardboard-like…thing your Doctor guilts you into eating in order to loose weight. The rice cakes I’m talking about are more like what you’d find wrapped around a good piece of mochi. They’re pounded, gooey and sticky sweet in and of themselves.
So imagine them…say…fried up, slathered with gooey cheese, and covered in a sublime mixture of Soy raised Pork and a Kim chi Salsa?
Well, that’s Ahn-Joo in a nutshell. It’s a different take on Korean Food. It’s everything you recognize: Fried Chicken, Nachos, BACON…but given a Korean topspin. It’s really a lot of fun. It takes a cuisine I already have a good time with and kicks the fun quotient up a notch.
Now, is this a good introduction to Korean food? Maybe. If I lived in a world where the word Kim chi terrified me? I still get the feeling that you appreciate what the folks at Ahn-Joo are doing if you’ve had Korean before. The Koreans are a people proud of their food, and justifiably so. If you feel the need to wade into concepts like Banchan slowly, this is the place for you. If you’re comfortable with the traditions of Korean Cooking, but still feel like a change-up every now and again? This is the place for you.
UPDATE: Feburary 17, 2012: Ahn-Joo is indeed closed, both the Food Truck and Americana Center location. But a Twitter communication with the owner has revealed that Ahn-Joo will be re-opening, with an announcement to come in the spring.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, that’s just an impossible question isn’t it? I started off with the Bacon Wrapped Rice Cylinders which are to die for. I followed that up with the Korean Nachos (described above). In the end, the Bacon Wrapped Rice Cylinders surprised me more than the Nachos. The Kim chi salsa, while nice, was a dumbed-down Kim chi…in other words, it wasn’t spicy at all.
It’s okay, Ahn-Joo…show me you fastball, I can take it.
I was also tempted by the Fuji Apple Eggroll, Mama Lee’s Meatloaf, and the Korean Fried Chicken.
Now that I think about, I got visits two, three and four planned out, don’t I?
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: I’m not particularly happy about this, so this is a bit of a downer for me. But the place Ahn-Joo replaced was a Jody Maroni’s, one in a chain of pretty good Sausage Stands. The reason I felt Jody’s ultimately folded was that the fact that when I went to have lunch there, usually Monday through Friday, there would be one dude working there. One…dude. He would ring up your order then go in the back to fry it up. It would take fifteen minutes time to get yourself a danged fast-food hot-dog. So when that one Jody’s folded I was not sad, even though I liked what I eventually got.
Seems that Ahn-Joo is doing the same thing. During the Lunchtime rush on a Wednesday, there was one guy back there, taking all the orders, doing all the cooking. Granted they cut the time to ten minutes, and the food was much, much better…I’d still feel better if there were two people back there. Then again, I have no idea what Ahn-Joo’s expenses are, so…
PARKING: This is the easy part. You’ll just park in the Americana’s massive structure. And if you’re in and out of there in an hour, you won’t be charged anything. If you want to linger, you can always park in the free Galleria lot and walk. And if you really need the exercise, you can just hoof it all the way from where you live.
The Americana at Brand
688 Americana Way, Ste FP5
Glendale, CA 91210
Phone: (818) 242-3793