Often I have to pass Mama’s Korean Restaurant on the city’s Eastside when I’m trying to reach a destination.
I passed it for years, but the name always caught my attention. For most Americans of non-Korean ancestry, when we use the term “mama” in the same sentence as “food” we think of good ole’, down-home cooking or some great soul food.
After all, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I want some Korean, the way mama used to make it?”
One recent day curiosity got the best of me, and although there were a dozen items on my agenda, I decided to see what Mama’s was all about.
The restaurant is located in a shopping center near Pendleton Pike and Post Road, so there is more than enough parking for patrons. Inside the atmosphere is what you would imagine in a place called Mama’s – quiet, cozy with the type of traditional wooden table and chair sets found in dining rooms at most homes.
Servers are very friendly, patient and gladly answer any questions first time customers may have.
Mama’s has become an Eastside favorite among the lunchtime crowd for its specials. These specials, available between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are all $5.99, and served with several dishes of various vegetables and other side items.
Traditional Korean staples are offered, such as Bulgogi, which is sliced, tender prime beef marinated in a soy-based sauce, kimchi soup and Bi-Bim Bap, a variety of vegetables served with beef and egg with a special hot sauce.
You will also find the popular Korean pancake, an interesting pan-fried mixture of pork, bean sprouts, scallions and kimchee combined in a special batter.
However, Mama’s also has unique dinner selections, which are a little pricier than the lunch, but are fulfilling and come in servings for either one or two patrons.
Some highlights include Wang Kahl Bee, or large short ribs that have been tenderized and marinated in Mama’s special Korean sauce for 10 hours; Samgae Tang (Cornish hen stuffed with boiled ginseng, dates and rice and Seng Daegu Maeutang, which is cod fish, clam meat, tofu, onions and radish mixed and boiled in spicy seasoned broth.
Those seeking a little adventure can try the seaweed roil, the squid sauté or the Seolleong Tang (beef tongue and ox bones in rich broth.)
I went for the chicken sauté, which is basically boneless chicken and a variety of stir-fried vegetables in a unique, spicy sauce. Yes, it was as good as it sounds, and a great, uncomplicated dish for anyone new to Korean food.
Green tea or mango flavored ice cream is available for dessert, and drinks range from regular sodas, coffee and ginseng tea to beer and imported Korean herb or rice wine.
At Mama’s, as in most Korean restaurants, patrons have the fun option of ordering a table top Korean barbecue, where a large dish of sliced meat (beef, chicken or pork) is brought to your table with vegetable sides, and you place it on a charcoal grill next to the table. You prepare it yourself until it is cooked to your satisfaction.
Korean entrees are worth a try if you’re looking for something that is different, healthy and flavorful. Many of us have tried Korean-made products – from hair care supplies to Hyundai and Kia cars – so why not give Korean food a shot?
Mama’s Korean Restaurant
8867 Pendleton Pike