Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Waba Korean Restaurant (and Karaoke Bar)
Neighborhood: Lincoln Square
5100 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60686

Spoiler Alert!
I hated this place. If there is anything, anything you can take out of my rants it is this, do not under any circumstance go to Waba!

I am going to get raped. Where the fuck are they and why this far west?

I was standing outside of Waba waiting for Candice and Jennifer. They were driving from the suburbs and were stuck in traffic. I didn’t want to go inside by myself. The building was a giant purple box. The doors opened to a small room which you had to open through in order to get inside. On a functional level, it made sense. Create another barrier for the wind and cold. But there is a major problem, if you are going to create some sort of tunnel into your bar, don’t have it lined with mirrors, making it look even sketchier!

So I had three alternatives, wait outside, wait in the Joker’s hideout, or wait in the restaurant – a Korean Karaoke bar by myself. Each had its pitfalls. Waiting in the mirrored tunnel of death made me nervous. If there were bullets, glass would shatter, and I would be fucked up. Waiting in the restaurant by myself – I am not a Tong. Plus I don't have long finger nails, and my hair is not in a qui. Waiting outside, I would still be shot, but it is cold, so maybe my blood would congeal as it oozes out. Sophie had an easier choice. I decided on waiting outside, at least I could keep an eye on my car.

Reaching for my phone, I thumbed nervously and clumsily for Jennifer's phone. I felt like a bovine with Mad-Cow. Scrolling through my directory, A - Adam, Alex, Amy, Annie (damn it)! With a swoosh of my finger I get to G - Gary, Gwendaline (who the fuck is that?). Forward to J --- Jennifer! I caledl, and after a tense 30 seconds somebody picks up. It is Candice. she tells me that they are on Milwaukee Avenue and heading south. I responded with a curt "There is plenty of parking."

Shit it is cold. I could have gone to law school in California. Why did I have to come to this tundra? The seafood is better. The coffee is superior. And the mos, the mos like Asians there. Well at least they have a karaoke bar here. there hasn't been a shooting yet, so it already beats the ones on Western & Sepulveda. God it is fucking cold. I bite the proverbial bullet. I go into the hall of mirrors and wait.

As I open the door, I hear a metal clang. Oh my god, I just triggered a metal trap! I look up expecting the ceiling to come down on me. Instead what caused the noise was some garish Asian windchime. It was a spinning Buddha. I look at my phone, and thought to myself, "Well at least pretend you are doing something." So I go on Yelp and decide to look up the entries of Waba An average of 3.5 stars. People complained about service, which is understandable because it is a Korean Bar. I know this is offensive and I will be reported to Blogspot, ACLU, St. Peter, but Korean & Service, do not really run parallel together. Sure there are the exceptions, but those tend to exist in tony areas. 5100 N. Western, is not one of those areas.

I see two shadows approach the door. My heart skips a beat. The mental calculus was running. Did I give my brother a Power of Attorney on Healthcare decisions? Would Warren take custody of the cats? Who gets my shoes? I am not ready to shed my mortal coil!

Instead of Asian hoodsters, a pretty buxom black girl, and an equally pretty white girl opens the door. I have never been so happy to see Candice and Jennifer. Of course I always fear that good things would be be taken away from me, so I never show much enthusiasm for the subject matter, "OMG, do you see where we are in."

Jennifer and Candice just laugh. They are always so cheery. I should be like them. Unflumoxed they walk through the second set of doors. Are they unaware of the den of death that we walking into?

Two Korean boys greet us in an interesting form of English. Candice looks at me as if I could translate. Sorry I am not a Rosetta stone. Jennifer politely tells them "three" and they tell us to go through ANOTHER hallway! We walk a good 60 feet into a huge empty room.

Mildly relieved that there are no drug deals occurring, "Wow it is hopping in here."

Candice laughs, "Yea it is pretty dead in here."

Out of nowhere the Korean greeters pop out and says "Anywhere you like?"

What the fuck? Was there a trapdoor? Jennifer walks to the booth at the end of the dining space. The booth is too far away from the table, which is one of my greatest peeves. If they are not all that busy at least move the tables closer to the seats. Of course, it would take the strength of Hercules to move one of these booths. It is hard to describe the booths. They are actually good looking. Tall, dark wood, heavy as hell. But the rest of the dining room almost gave me epilepsy. The walls were inlaid with garish metal. And while the booths were sexy as hell, there were eight tables in the middle of the room. Each one of them could seat six. The tables were rather generic, but the chairs looked like they were out of a Chinese restaurant in the 80s. The bar was worse, like many of the bars I have written about it is U-shaped but surrounded by 18 red-stools. These were not sexy red stools. Whenever I listen to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" I have visions of patrons sitting on these ugly, dated, ragged stools.

I sigh and we open the menus. They looked like a child's homework project. "Are these written in crayon?"

Candice laughs, but she has a furrowed brow. I notice her apprehension, the first two pages are in Korean. Smudged characters in florescent pink, blue, and yellow - but definitely Korean.

Being the sagacious one, Jennifer tells us that the next page is in English. Relieved, I hate asking non-native speakers to describe a dish. One of the two boys who greeted us brings over warm water and a dish with honey roasted peanuts and pretzels. I was thinking well if there are honey roasted peanuts, it can't be that bad. Candice inquires to the warm water. Jennifer gives a sociology lesson about ice being an American thing and we attempt to decipher the menu.

Dear Reader, I think I lost two lines of vision. First of all, I hate menus written in some sort of stylistic font. I hate handwritten ones even more. Sure sometimes it can be portrayed as quaint - but I am not one of those customers. But what I hate more then crayons, are inexplicable items. Can somebody please explain what the fuck "CHEESE EGGROLL" means? Or here is another item that probably requires an epistle "Lonely Tiger in Cage with Kimchee." I have a headache, I don't even want to look at the entries because my imagination has been working overload. I just suggest that we order a few appetizers.

We order the salt and pepper squid, Korean seafood pizza (I presume it was hamul-paijon), potstickers, and the "firecracker chicken." Hoping that it was literally an eggroll stuffed with brie, I asked about the "Cheese Eggroll".

The waiter whom I will affectionately name as Wai Lung said "It is like a cheese omelet."

"I don't understand is it wrapped in a wanton wrapper."

Wai Lung says "No cheese omelet."

"OH! Cheese egg - roll." Jennifer just looks at me as if I was retarded. "Well can we get more peanuts. Oh, and we need to order drinks!"

Candice orders a "Sex on the Beach." I order an "OB" and Jennifer order a Miller Lite. We chastise her for her choice, but she defended herself by stating it was an "appetizer." Five minutes later, the drinks come over. We could smell the alcohol in the "Sex on the Beach." I wanted to throw up. But that was not the most startling drink, what was mind boggling was the OB. For the uninitiated, OB is one of the dominant beers in Korea. Apparently these also come in supersize at Waba I immediately ask for three glasses, what the fuck? Did Wai really think I was going to drink straight out of three liters of beer?

Half an hour later, and still an empty room, the food comes out (sans squid). I immediately notice that they all have several similarities. They all came out in white dishes, and all the items are served with shredded cabbage covered in this thick pink mayo. I understand the pink mayo is ubiquitous in Korean and Japanese food. In fact many people are rather enamored with the concoction. I am rather ambivalent towards it, but contrary to the bathroom walls, I hate thick sauces. But screw it. I look down on my watch and it is almost nine, I am starving.

I wish I ate beforehand. We dived into the hamul paijon, and we all noted that it was quite good. Candice in particular was quite partial to it. It was crisp, and actually well made. But, the seafood inside was actually quite disgusting. You could tell the seafood was frozen, and that is not a per se point of critique. I have been reading that people should only eat seafood that has been flashed frozen to reduce the chances of foodborne illness. The problem is the method in thawing. The shrimp and mussels in the paijon were mealy. Immediately I thought, "Microwave." This already set off red flags. Seafood should be defrosted under cold water and stored in a receptacle in the walk-in or prep counter. If the place needs to defrost in the microwave, the inference is low volume (let us not even mention the possibility of food poisoning).

Candice finished her "Sex and the Beach" and she said she was "done" with the alcohol. I was surprised she did not fall over. I pored her half of the OB (which by the way is a decent beer). I started picking at the pot stickers, and initially I thought they were pretty good. I tell Jennifer to try them (she is particularly partial to pot stickers), but at the second one I noticed that they were cooked unevenly. It was cold. Like a stepchild, I casted it aside to the periphery of my dish. Shit we were out of napkins. I looked for Wei Lung and his brother. They were missing. I started thinking that these kids were wearing Dolce and Gabbana. Which is emblematic of the problem of Waba. First, when working at a restaurant, and you are involved in front of the house, you can't wear couture (unless you are an owner, or working exclusively as a server), it is impractical because of stains, and you run the risk of creating resentment with the customer. Second, and more importantly, it is evidence that the kids were running the show. Rich kids running a restaurant is akin to invading Russia in Winter.

I flag down the waiter for more napkins and Candice actually lets out a surprised amount of delight while eating the chicken. I fork a piece into my mouth. I will admit, it was well cooked. It was crispy, and dry enough that it removed all the moisture out of the meat. Little nuggets of crispy delight. I know my description makes it sound like dessicated pieces of flesh, but there are moments when chicken can be fried to a point where enough moisture is removed that the flesh is firm but not gamey. This was the case, and the sauce was actually quite delicious. Unfortunately, it was served along five heads of cabbage and a jar of that obscene sauce.

The squid did not come out yet. But it is good company, and we keep talking. Candice could tell that I was not particularly happy with the food and she noted with a voice of encouragement that if we were in downtown, the food would be much more expensive. "The pizza would be like $18 on Michigan Avenue."

We hear some noise, could it be, would other people share in our misery? Actually I was hoping for a shooting so we could leave without paying for this garbage. The room is rather large, so it is hard to make out people from what looks like a mile away, but it was quite obvious what they were, Korean teenagers. I look at Jennifer, she just laughs.

I mutter "This is a frat party."

The squid comes out, and now I really want to throw up. To put all this in retrospect. Squid should be cooked one of two ways: cooked in a short amount of time, or stewed for a really long time; otherwise, it becomes really tough. Frying in a frier is not a technique that requires a particularly long amount of time, so this thing took at least an hour. Well it smells like the violation of several Levitical laws. What adds to the obscenity - they were entire tentacles that looked like the remains of the Kraken. At the very least, cut it up! Maybe the line-cook did not want to handle the squid. I think we each ate three to four pieces and we were done.

I was in Korean Karaoke hell. But then it dawned on me, "Where the Hell is the Karaoke!" I asked Jennifer and Candice and they gave me an equally puzzled look. It is called Karaoke Bar, and I don't see any underage Korean girls singing anime. We sit waiting for the check and then we hear the college anthem "CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG!"

Appalled Candice goes to the bathroom. I talk to Jennifer about our culinary Hindenburg. Candice returns and asks us about the logistics of a bidet. The check comes. It came out to $25 a person, we leave while walking through a throng of teenagers. As much as I feared it, I think a shooting would have been preferable.

On a scale of 1-4 with 4 being the best:
Quality: 1. The highlight was 4 ozs of chicken and honey roasted peanuts.
Service: 1. We were the only table, I shouldn't have to flag you for napkins.
Atmosphere: 1. If you want to have a quiet date, sure go ahead. Of course, I could just go to a cemetery.
Hotness of clientele: 1 if you are like me. If you like them young get thee to Waba.


  1. LOL - I almost want to say it was worth going just to read this blog review. But it wasn't worth it, and I would read your 'blogings' anyways because they entertain me so.

  2. Lol, Eric, you do realize that you were on the northside, right? That is one of the safer sides of the city...let me take that back, the safest side of the city. Even though it's Western Ave. ha. I'll say it again, you sure do know how to entertain. So where are we off to next? :-)