Giwa: Satisfying Korean Food for Winter Days


When we lived in New York City, I went to school and worked at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School and University Center, more commonly known as CUNY Grad. One of the nice things about working there, which offset the constant annoyance of tourists (the Grad Center is on the opposite corner of The Empire State Building), was that the area is filled with really good Korean restaurants. They vary in price from cheap to very expensive. Our favorite was Mandoo Bar, which served up wonderful dumplings and noodles. I hadn’t really had great Korean since we moved to Philly– until Giwa opened up down the street from where I work.

For just around ten bucks, or a little less, you can get consistently good Korean food in Center City. Sarah prefers the Dol Sot Bibim Bob, a mix of meat and vegetables served in a sizzling stone pot. Traditionally, a server cracks an egg into the bowl for you to mix in. At Giwa they do it for you, which robs you of one of life’s little pleasures, but the quality of the dish is great. One little secret is that while you eat, the rice on the bottom of the bowl turns into a nutty-flavored, golden crust. This adds texture and flavor to an already great meal.

I go to Giwa more than Sarah does, since I work a couple of blocks away. My standards are:

-Bulgogi: slices of ribeye over rice. As a side note, I just had the pork variation, Dae Ji Bulgogi, and it was excellent.

-Soon Du Bu: a spicy tofu and seafood stew which is wonderful on a cold winter day.

-Galbi: prime beef short ribs over rice. The steamed dumplings (mandoo) are very good as an appetizer as well.

One other thing which is a must-have, again, particularly on those cold January days, is the ginger tea, made fresh daily with pieces of sliced ginger at the bottom of each cup. You can feel the ginger in the back of your throat and in your ears. Totally invigorating.

Giwa, like Korean food in general, is very friendly to a gluten free diet, if you are careful to avoid soy sauce. Most of their food is dairy free as well.

The confines are small and not that exciting, and it is counter service only. But ambience and service are not what Giwa is about. It is about the food and they do it well.

[where: 1608 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103]

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4 Responses to “Giwa: Satisfying Korean Food for Winter Days”

  1. Naveen Says:

    I love Korean food. Bibim bop is awesome. Not sure if I’ve had the Bulgogi but a small Korean store on Organe St. in New Haven makes the best Korean marinated steak — the best steak in the world… I’m drooling thinking about it.

  2. mbjesq Says:

    Korean food is synonymous with “comfort food” as far as I am concerned. In winter, yuk kae jang or soon tubu jige. In summer mool nyang mien. And kalbi with tenjang and lettuce wraps all year long.

    Want a perfect example of seriously comforting comfort food when comfort is in desperate short supply? Korean Airlines (far-and-away the best airline on the planet) serves bibim bap on its flights over the Pacific and from Seoul to Mumbai. I like to fly Korean between San Francisco and India, where my menu consists of bibim bap, mool nyang mien (at the one hour layover in Seoul), and bibim bap. It makes for quite a tolerable long-ass trip.


  3. therealpotato Says:

    Damn, that sounds infinitely better than the greasy pretzel-soy nut mixture I was served on the way home from Atlanta the other day!

  4. flight deals Says:

    Really cool blog. I found it on yahoo. I am looking forward to read more posts.

    Can anybody tell me whats the best hotel in Paris for my honey moon? I going to married next month..

    Thank you

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