My wife Rochelle went to graduate school in Chicago, so I’d often visit the Windy City while we were dating. Our go-to late night hangout was a small Korean bar called Dancen, legendary among restaurant circles for its excellent late-night food, loud K-pop tunes, and a colorful interior that all together make for memorable post-shift meals.
I’m headed back to Dancen in this episode of K-Town; joining me are Rochelle, her grad school roommate Kristina, and Eater Chicago senior editor Ashok Selvam, the lucky Chicago dweller of the group. My visits to Dancen almost always included an order of chijeu-buldak — a cheesy, super-spicy Korean fire chicken that fills the place with a smoky chicken aroma: It’s finished on an exposed grill in the dining room, and covered with a layer of molten cheese. It’s arguably the star of the show, but there’s other Korean bar fare that Dancen does really well, including crispy pork belly, stir-fried chicken gizzards (that Koreans affectionately, or accurately, call “shit-houses”), and stir-fried spicy squid.
Dancen is a blessing because it’s open late night, but the enjoyable drinks and knockout Korean bar food make it my favorite place to spend any evening in Chicago.