DragonLady Lounge: Vegan, Korean, All-You-Can Eatin'

April 23 2010 - 5:35 PM

Just around the bend from Kuma's Corner and down the street from Urban Belly is a dark, understated storefront that you could easily pass without a backwards glance. Except, the sign features a most arresting juxtaposition: vegan/vegetarian Korean bar food? Perhaps that warrants a closer inspection.

Indeed, many who stumble inside DragonLady Lounge are people looking for a distraction from the lengthy wait at Kuma's. But the buzz has quietly been building about this bar converted to a Korean restaurant, and plenty of people return for its ecofriendly, heavy metal-free charms. In particular, Thursday nights feature an all-you-can-eat buffet of vegan Korean food. This seems to attract an eclectic collection of vegetarian women wearing handknit shawls, plaid-shirted hipsters and nostalgic Asians.

Let me make clear that this is very much a bar atmosphere, with dim lighting and tall bar chairs for seating. The interior is decorated with a mish-mash of magazine cut-outs of puppies, a large painting of a fish, and handwritten signage directing you to pay first and kindly do not waste food at the buffet.

The Thursday night buffet costs $13.50 including tax, and you can get cans of PBR or Miller High Life for $2.50. Hot sake is also available. The buffet runs from about 7-9 pm, and started a bit late on the night that I was present. Much like International Night at Map Room, a silent dinner bell is rung, and suddenly the entire room forms an orderly line snaking through the bar. If you are at the end though, fear not, as there is ample amounts of food.

This includes a variety of pickled and stir fried vegetables, such as string beans, Chinese water spinach, chayote squash, cauliflower, bean sprouts and daikon radish. Many of the dishes were similar to banchan items served before Korean meals. A basket of crisp, piping hot mandoo potstickers was a strong crowd pleaser, along with the scalloped potatoes with red onion. All in all, this is solid, homestyle Korean cooking, with emphasis on simple preparations and the flavors of the vegetables. I certainly went back for seconds. Don't forget to grab some water with the provided plastic cups, emblazoned with the logo for Four Brothers. (Remember that movie? Yeah, me neither.)

If you are looking for a quirky, hole-in-the-wall dinner experience, DragonLady Lounge has more character than a Chinese dictionary. Come for the mandoo, stay for the people-watching.

DragonLady Lounge
3188 N. Elston (near Belmont & California)
(773) 866-2450