New taco restaurant might not meet all expectations


Emma Trone

TASTY TACOS. Seoul Taco is opened this year at 1321 E. 57th St. and its hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Soeul Taco is an Korean and Mexican fusion restaurant. Seoul Taco has multiple locations around the Midwest, they are most well known for their Seoul sauce.

Nicky Edwards-Levin, Midway Reporter

At the busy corner of 57th and Kimbark, 1321 E. 57th Street has come to be known as a “cursed location.” From Edwardo’s Natural Pizza to Packed Dumplings to Cemitas Puebla, no restaurant that arrives here seems to last very long. As of December 2018, the space has been occupied by Seoul Taco, a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant with five other locations across the Midwest. 

Casey Master, Seoul Taco’s regional manager for Illinois, thinks Seoul Taco is here for the long haul. In fact, Master said that the Chicago River North location had also been “cursed.”

“At first, when we were in River North, everybody told us, ‘You aren’t gonna make it,’ every time something went wrong, and here we are, three years later, still there and thriving,” Master said, “so I’m excited to see what happens here in Hyde Park.”

Though Master said the campus clientele is very different from that of River North, he is confident that everything will run smoothly.

“I’d say we are confident in our success, given the quality we put out — it’s unique, it’s something you don’t see around, Korean and Mexican fusion,” Master said.

But the food I tasted didn’t quite live up to Master’s description.

For starters, it’s never good when the best part about a restaurant is the soundtrack. Seoul Taco does features a charming space with a fun, lively atmosphere (and a wonderful, ‘90s hip-hop playlist), but the food, greasy and over-salted, doesn’t measure up.

Given that the St. Louis-based chain is called Seoul Taco, it seems fair to expect a great taco. Each comes with a choice of protein — bulgogi steak, chicken, spicy pork or tofu — plus a sesame vinaigrette salad mix, green onion, crushed sesame seeds, “Seoul sauce” and lime wedge. 

This might sound plentiful, but the “sesame vinaigrette salad mix” was just a few measly leaves of lettuce, and the green onion and sesame seeds were practically non-existent.

The best part of the taco was the Seoul sauce. Sweet at first, it leaves a spicy aftertaste. But all three meat options were thoroughly underwhelming. 

The bulgogi steak was too salty and, in a word, floppy. The spicy pork was barely seasoned yet saucy to the point of syrup; the flavor was hardly memorable. The chicken was very fatty and fairly rubbery. 

In each case, it was difficult to identify a clear flavor with the salty meat, spicy sauce and bland lettuce all vying for attention. Each taco — and, for that matter, menu item — relies on the Seoul sauce, but the sauce can’t make up for the underwhelming meat.

Though the tacos are nothing special, Seoul Taco’s service is fairly efficient, the food is fairly tasty and the prices aren’t outlandish: $2.50 per taco and $8 for a burrito.

 If you crave a taste other than Medici or the cafeteria during your lunch break, Seoul Taco can provide a quick taco or burrito fix. But unless you are going for the music, don’t expect anything special.