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How to spend 24 hours eating Korean food in Annandale

When Jonathan Lee opened Korean Bakery in Annandale in 1989, he even made his bean paste from scratch. He didn’t have a choice. “There was no supplier,” he says. “When I opened this business, it was the only Korean bakery in the Washington area.”

Twenty-nine years later, nearby shopping centers are home to countless Korean restaurants, and Annandale has become a must-visit dining destination not only for Fairfax County, and its dense Korean population, but also for patrons across the area. In fact, there are so many compelling places to try that you could literally spend an entire day bouncing among them.

Follow along with this chef-approved Korean dining itinerary stretching from morning until late night, which allots a few hours per stop, and you’ll understand what David Chang, the celebrity chef behind the Momofuku empire — and a Northern Virginia native — means when he names the biggest misconception about Korean food: “that it’s just barbecue and kimchi.”

One of Washington’s buzziest dining destinations isn’t in the city — but it’s worth the trek


Breeze Bakery Cafe, 7 a.m.

Your Korean dining extravaganza begins with pastries, coffee and tea at this inviting two-level cafe (complete with outdoor dining upstairs). Wire baskets are provided for shoppers to load up on all sorts of baked goods — think sweet pumpkin cake rolls ($5.50), chestnut bread loaves ($4.50) and mocha buns ($1.99). Adorable animal cupcakes peer out from the glass pastry case. The cafe menu is wide-ranging: You can get a nitro coffee — and a bulgogi quesadilla with marinated beef and mozzarella. 4125 Hummer Rd.

Siroo, 10 a.m.

Don’t miss the juk, a comforting Korean rice porridge, at Siroo. Chef Danny Lee — who owns Mandu, in Northwest Washington, along with his mother, Yesoon, and co-founded the buzzy Barracks Row destination ChiKo — is amazed by the varieties of juk offered, including ginseng chicken ($10.99), spicy kimchi — a side dish and staple of Korean cuisine, made with fermented cabbage and other vegetables ($8.99) — and abalone ($12.99). “They have 20 different versions of this juk that are all cooked in different broths, and all have different proteins and different produce in them,” Lee says. “It’s really a cool thing to see, and it’s delicious.” 4231 Markham St.


Cheogajip Chicken, 1 p.m.

Bonchon is arguably the biggest name Washingtonians might know when it comes to Korean fried chicken but there’s another huge franchise from Korea making inroads in the Washington region. Cheogajip, which translates as “mother-in-law’s home,” slathers on spicy, soy garlic or sweet sauce on its fried chicken, all while keeping the drumsticks extra crispy (family size order, $16.85). Not in the mood for chicken? The small carryout also offers an intriguing pizza topped with yellow sweet potatoes.
4300 Evergreen Lane.

Gom Ba Woo, 3 p.m.

Bone-broth devotees need to try the soups and stews at Gom Ba Woo, says chef Rob Rubba. Rubba — whose wife, Deb Rubba, is Korean — often cooks Korean food at home and showcases the cuisine’s flavors at his globally inspired restaurant, Hazel, in Shaw. But when Rubba’s looking for a warming soup such as sulrung tang (a beef-bone broth with rice and noodles), he heads to this cozy spot. “The way they do [the bone broth] so slow with the marrow bone, it just looks like you’re eating a bowl of warm milk,” he says. “It’s just the best beef broth you’ve ever had.” Stir scallions and hot chile paste into your bowl ($7.95 at lunch) until you get the spice level just right. 7133 Columbia Pike.

Hazel review: Global flavors at a neighborhood hot spot

Tous Les Jours, 5 p.m.

You might not guess it from Tous Les Jours’ nondescript exterior, but the spacious Annandale outpost of this popular French Asian bakery chain is all soaring ceilings, polished concrete floors and exposed brick walls. Wooden display cases are stocked with such Parisian desserts as croissants stuffed with strawberries ($3.25), along with other specialties: kimchi croquettes ($2.75), soft milk bread buns ($2.50) and chewy, orblike doughnuts stuffed with a spoonful of sweet pumpkin filling ($1.75). Grab a lavender milk tea latte ($3.25) with a pastry, or cool down with a bingsoo, a Korean dessert stacked with toppings — ice cream, red beans and fresh fruit — on a mound of fluffy shaved ice.
7219 Columbia Pike.


To Sok Jip, 7 p.m.

It can be tough to get a table at this tiny restaurant, which excels in seafood stews such as daegu maeun tang, a spicy codfish soup ($15.99) and bo ssam, a build-it-yourself, seasoned-pork-belly dish with cabbage leaves, kimchi and seasoned radish. Also of note, a favorite of Rubba’s: budae jjigae ($31.99), or “army base stew,” a hearty red hot pot inspired by the surplus food from American military bases eaten during the Korean War. The portions are generous: The dish — bubbling with hot dogs, kimchi and dried instant ramen — could easily feed four. 7211 Columbia Pike.

At To Sok Jip, a bold taste of Korean cooking

Choong Hwa Won, 9 p.m.

David Chang may be one of the most famous chefs in the United States, but his dad still calls the shots when they’re dining out in Annandale. “He calls in the orders” in advance, Chang says. “I don’t recall ever looking at a menu in my life.” Their destination is often Choong Hwa Won, where they go for the jjajangmyun. An order of the Chinese-Korean dish brings a giant helping of fresh, chewy, wheat-based noodles with pork, vegetables and black bean curd sauce ($6.99 at dinner), which servers can cut with scissors for easier slurping. The no-frills restaurant stays open until midnight — and has a karaoke room, too. 4409 John Marr Dr.

Kogiya, 11 p.m.

Order one of the all-you-can-eat options at Kogiya, and the meat will keep coming until you admit defeat. (Dinner starts at $23 per person.) Diners sit around an open flame grill while servers cook brisket, pork belly, short ribs and more before your eyes. The stainless-steel table will also be packed with banchan (an array of gratis side dishes that traditionally arrives with each meal, including kimchi, seasoned soybean sprouts or cucumber salad), rice, a steamed egg dish and soup. Don’t worry: Kogiya has a ventilation system above each table to keep the smoky meat aroma mostly contained. (For another classic Korean barbecue experience, there’s Honey Pig. The local institution has expanded with locations in Northern Virginia and Maryland, but its Annandale home base still packs in diners for kalbi beef rib grilled to the thumping beat of K-pop.)
4220-A Annandale Rd.


Jangteo 7080, 1 a.m.

At this after-hours haunt, where posters of throwback Korean musicians decorate the walls (hi, Cho Yong Pil) and bottle caps hang from the ceiling, the order is soju or makgeolli. The former, Korea’s most popular spirit, is often distilled from rice, and the latter is a sweet, traditional rice wine. Pair drinks with bar food fit for a crowd, such as the intensely fiery, cheese-covered crazy chicken ($20.95).
7118 Columbia Pike.

Yechon, 3 a.m.

The doors never close and the menu goes on for pages at Yechon, a dinerlike Korean and Japanese restaurant. Day or night, grab a table at the wood-paneled spot, and servers in traditional hanbok dresses will bring out sushi rolls (prices vary), mul naengmyeon (homemade buckwheat noodles, vegetables, beef and a boiled egg in a cold broth, $12.95) or kimchi dolsot bibimbap (the traditional Korean mixed-rice dish served in a hot stone bowl, topped with marinated beef and vegetables, $13.95).
4121 Hummer Rd.

To Soc Chon, 5 a.m.

The menu highlights at this 24-hour spot include dakdori tang (a steaming-hot, spicy stew with potatoes, carrots and chicken) and handmade, knife-cut noodles served in the broth of your choice (think clam or chicken, $12-$13). But To Soc Chon is best known for one dish, and it’s a big reason the restaurant is open at all hours. “They make sundae guk, which is like a stew or soup where the base is Korean blood sausage,” says Danny Lee, the chef. “It’s pretty much known as hangover soup.” Sounds like a necessity after a full day of kimchi, bulgogi and soju. 7031 Little River Tpk., Suite 21D.

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