- Décor is like WaBar in Korea
- Interesting cocktails
- Fusion tapas, the good and the so-so
- The best soju in town – *seriously*
- Brings the spirit of mashing up cultures, similar to the best bars in Korea
- Menu at bottom of page!
Korean Cowboy opened its doors just last week (written Sept.24.2014), on a Friday, but thanks to some good research between a friend and I we were able to get in a day earlier for the soft open. It was invite only (more like reservation only) and if you were lucky enough to know about it, you were already in. For the soft open everything was 50% off, and this meant for the first time in Soju Wave history you could see most of the dishes on the menu! We ordered a ton of food and drinks, and only paid $35 between five people. How? Read on!!!
Korean Cowboy is located in the heart of midtown, quite an odd place for a Korean bar but also the right place for one. With so many language schools and businesses close by, it offers a change of scene with enough of a sports bar appeal. Get off the subway and walk a few minutes north on Yonge and you’ll see the big western styled sign on the 1.5 floor of the building. It’s one of those odd buildings with the half basement level shops.
As you step in you’ll notice this isn’t your typical Korean bar. The bar is decorated with a large mirror spelling the name of the bar in white, setting you in some theatrical western. For my lack of a vocabulary, the chairs and menu also spell w-e-s-t-e-r-n. It reminds me of WaBar in Korea (not the one at Yonge & Bloor). It’s just comfortable, well designed, and modern but not too modern.
We started off with their interestingly named cocktails. Some of these are NSFW…or anywhere for that matter. I got the Shiba Dog when means something very very bad. I had to though, with a name like that. My girlfriend got the Screw Bar thinking it might be like the popsicle and my friend ordered a Korean Mule. We’re all germ free so we got a taste of each, and of the three, the Korean Mule was the favourite for my friend and I. It was just the right level of tangy and salty while still giving way for the soju and vodka to come through. The Shiba Dog disappointingly tasted just like grapefruit, and I hate grapefruit. It also really kills the taste of sake. The Screw Bar was the interesting one though, and my girlfriend chose it as her favourite amongst the three. I thought she had picked a loser, because how could it possibly be like the popsicle? It’s just a name. I was so wrong, the darn drink came with a popsicle in it! Screw Bar is a Korean popsicle and a favourite for many. I remember it being quite sweet.
- Shiba Dog – $8.49
o Sake, Grapefruit
- Screw Bar – $9.99
o Soju, Tonic, Screw Bar|
- Korean Mule – $9.99
o Soju, Vodka, Ginger Syrup, Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime Juice $9.99
As part of our first round of food to accompany the drinks we ordered Kimchi Fries, Cassava Fries, Sawdust Chicken, Mocha Pork Belly. In the picture you’ll see a Steamed Bun Burger but I don’t think we ordered that. Their first day, we got a lot of stuff we didn’t order, but with half off who can complain?
Lots of places claim they can do Kimchi Fries but they really can’t. I haven’t had the ones infamous in California so I wouldn’t be able to compare, but I can tell you they are a lot better than the Kimchi Fries I had at an all you can eat sushi place. I like hot kimchi, and this settles that urge. The fries are not the large cut as they are a lot thinner and seem very similar to the ones you buy as snacks. Being cooked with Kimchi and a few other garnishes it was hard to tell because it’s becomes a little softer. All together it’s a must try for those wanting a little spice, sauce, and just good bar food.
The Cassava fries were surprisingly more expensive than the Kimchi fries. I thought it’d be harder to make the kimchi fries but I guess the ingredients make it costly. I wouldn’t necessarily get this again because it’s just parmesan, cinnamon and parsley on some snack fries. This is when I realized the Kimchi fries were also thin.
The Sawdust chicken is where it started getting interesting. Its chicken, covered in sauce, with sawdust. The sawdust is actually flakes, like the ones you’d find on tempura. It adds a little bit of flavour but it really puts you in the old west where everything was made with wood. Otherwise this tastes like Kampoongi. Sawdust chicken is great because it goes with the beer they serve so well. Again, good bar food.
The Mocha Pork Belly was the favourite amongst all of us that night. We love Samgyupsal, and to have a refreshing twist on it was…..refreshing! (Someone buy me a thesaurus.) What genius they did with this was cook it with coffee and cocoa to create that nice brown color and sauce you see here. You get the pork belly taste, with a little bit of tang and sweet all at the same time. They give you the ssamjang to dip it in which helps if you like it a little spicier. The Mocha Pork Belly is just a bunch of flavours rolled into one. If you like pork, coffee, and chocolate, you must get this! It was so good we had two more orders of it.
The rest of the food we tried was the Hot-Dog stir fry, Basil Pork and the Beef SSAM. The hot-dog stir fry was made especially well, but this type of dish comes free with combos at other places. It was good, but you could do better with the other stuff the menu has to offer. The Basil Pork’s story is the same. This little piggy was just normal. The SSAM was good, and it’s served in threes on a plate that my friend says they found before making the dish. It somehow exactly fits three wraps. It’s a good break in-between the fried and heavy foods.
- Mocha Pork Belly – $4.99
- Kimchi Fries – $3.99
- Sawdust Chicken – $5.99
- SSAM (Lettuce Wraps) – $8.99
Ya why not?
- Cassava Fries – $ 5.99
- Basil Pork – $4.99
- Hot dog Stir-fry – $3.99
To end, I’ll say that Korean Cowboy is one of the most Korean bars you’ll find in Toronto. Despite the fact that it puts a western flare on everything, it really is of Korean style. It might be because they had Charm Soju that brought me back to times in Gyeongju, but it was also because they are trying to innovate in a much needed time. In Korea you’ll always find fusion restaurants, or western food joints that have to in some way appeal to the massively Korean population in metropolitans like Seoul and Busan. These were always the most interesting places as you see how bar owners mash up cultures and bring them together. I found this same spirit in Korean Cowboy. Plus it looks like a place to largely drink beer and watch a game.
2368 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4P 2E6