Korean food does not have a very high profile in Minnesota. This is not because there are very few Koreans in Minnesota. As of the 2010 census, the numbers were not so far below the Vietnamese and the Twin Cities are dotted with Vietnamese restaurants. On the other hand, in the metro area there are very few Korean restaurants worth comment. This is probably down to the fact that despite decades of immigration, Korean food remains on the fringes of mainstream American consciousness—well behind Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and even Vietnamese. Unless you’re in Los Angeles or New York or the Bay Area, you’re not going to come across a concentrated Korean population with an ecosystem of restaurants catering to in-culture diners; and for whatever reason, awareness of Korean food remains low elsewhere in the US among those who don’t habitually eat outside their own cultural comfort zone. So it is in Minnesota, even though the number of families here with Korean connections via adoption is quite high relative to most of the US.
Hoban in Eagan is probably the best of the restaurants in the Twin Cities metro and it’s just about passable at best—we only eat there before or after visits to their adjoining box karaoke business (I should probably review them at some point anyway). They now have a dedicated Korean bbq restaurant in Minneapolis as well but we haven’t yet made it there. Beyond the Hoban mini-empire is the eatery attached to the Dong Yang market up in Columbia Heights and that’s not really worth getting very excited about either. The Rabbit Hole in Minneapolis is nominally Korean-American—though it is in fact really a pan-Asian place (it’s also not, in our opinion, so very good).
Not surprisingly, there aren’t very many Korean groceries around either. The two established businesses are the aforementioned Dong Yang and Kim’s Oriental on Snelling in St. Paul. For most of our time here so far these were the places we’d go to for our Korean food shopping. A couple of years ago, however, we learned of the existence of Hana Market in Bloomington and it’s become our Korean market of convenience. Herewith a look at what you can expect to find there. Hana is the place I was referring to, by the way, when I said a couple of weeks ago that I’d have a report soon on a Korean market in Eagan. Frankly, I’m never sure where the boundaries between the various south metro suburbs are, but Hana Market’s address is in Bloomington. It’s most easily reached (for us anyway) by getting off Cedar Avenue/77 at Old Shakopee and going about half a mile or so. It’s quite a bit closer to us than Dong Yang or Kim’s and that makes it very convenient despite the fact that the selection, especially of produce is a bit smaller than at either of those places.
The big sign out front says “Oriental Market” but it’s a Korean market through and through. All the basics of the Korean pantry can be found here—though, again, the produce is pretty limited. Also limited is the selection of prepared banchan or side dishes but we don’t tend to buy much of that stuff anyway: neither the price nor the quality recommends that stuff even in the more established Korean groceries in the Twin Cities. But unless you’re a very hardcore Korean cook you can probably find what you need here. And if you’re not a very hardcore Korean cook at all you should know that the people at Hana are friendly and will be happy to answer any questions you have.
My next market report will probably be of another South Asian store, probably in St. Paul. I have more local Southeast Asian restaurant reports on the docket as well. If you’re a local and not interested in whisky, check back next week for more on those.
My favorite however is Kim’s Convenience.
You neglected to mention the massive Korean presence in the Chicagoland area. Plenty of Korean markets and restaurants around town. San Soo Gab San is a personal favorite.
My apologies to the great city of Chicago and its satellites. I was looking at density rankings and it appears Chicagoland is not near the top of the list in terms of percentage of overall population—perhaps because the population is spread out?
Yes I think the population is spread out primarily to the northern suburbs. I’m not sure about the validity of the data here https://goo.gl/TP2kLZ but it seems accurate, I went to school in the area.
We enjoy Hoban for a few of their dishes but overall have enjoyed Sole Cafe on Snelling much more.
Regarding Korean markets, have you shopped and Seoul Foods ever by Kings Restaurant? Dong Yang is closer to us but we like the kimchi that Seoul Foods makes in house so we make the extra drive for that
We have not actually been to Sole Cafe, and it’s possible we never will. This is because it is apparently being sold: though I didn’t include the picture in the slideshow, there was a flyer on the window of Hana Market listing the sale.
Have not been to Seoul Foods. Dong Yang is already far enough!
As a Korean person Along with many American friends we love to dine out but every time when I ask where we should meet to dine out for the day majority of the time they say, “KOREAN”. So here is the rundown based on many Korean restaurant we have tried… Starting from OK to BEST…..Can’t list them all but here it goes…
Tofu – (UM) University of Minnesota
Hoban – had MANY ups and downs
Bistro – (UM) but nice employees
Dong Yang – so so
Korea – (UM) university Minnesota
Was the best till CHG cooks
Mirror of Korea – Good
Kings – Fridley (was Kings Buffet but due to Covid no longer king buffet)
THE MAJORITY HAS IT THAT THE BEST ONE WOULD BE…
Sole Cafe.. VERY AUTHENTIC
Even though it may be little far to drive, it is so worth it! Plus theirs little korean grocery store across the street..
My review of Sole Cafe is here.
Gyros Cafe is quite good, but I am a mere peasant. :)
Will give it a go the next time we’re at Hana!
Does Hana market sell Soju? If not, is there any good places you’ve found in the metro area that does?
I don’t think regular groceries in MN can sell any kind of alcohol—right? At any rate, have not seen it there. I’ve also not looked for it anywhere else but Surdyk’s would probably be the most likely bet.