Kimchi Tofu House (Minneapolis, MN)

This spring, I had another opportunity to visit one of my favorite low-key destinations, my graduate alma mater of The University of Minnesota. Between the various work events I was attending, I had a chance to explore a lot of the surrounding area, which has changed a lot over the 20+ years since I had lived there. While some stalwarts (like the excellent Al’s Breakfast) remain, much of the area, especially in the Stadium Village area SE of campus, has been almost completely torn down and been rebuilt. One of the building exceptions to that is on Oak Street. Oddly, it was one of those “cursed” restaurant locations when I lived there: I think in the years I lived there and since, it’s been almost a dozen different places, but for the last decade or so it’s had a tenant that seems to be able to persist: Kimchi Tofu House.

Like my favorite Al’s (which I did visit twice on this trip), Kimchi Tofu House is cozy: it’s small footprint is mostly dining room, with 22 seats and a small waiting area for tables or to-go orders: while they turn tables quickly, if you’re eating in, expect a short wait. In my case, it was about a 10 minute wait as they turned about half of the tables, with my ending up at a nice little two-top by the front window. Looking over the menu, there’s a pretty compact menu: a series of silken tofy stews, ramen, bulgogi, and bibimbap. One notable item that features strongly on the menu is combo plates, so I ended up choosing a combo of silken tofu and bibimbap.

One of the things I love about Korean places is the tradition of banchan, small side dishes of usually pickled vegetables to garnish your rice, and they have a nice selection at Kimchi Tofu House: some kimchi, some kongnamul muchim (pickled and spiced sprouts), and eomuk bokkeum (fish cakes).

First out of the kitchen was my sundubu jigae, as spicy pork and silken tofu stew, served in the classic Korean stone bowl. Unlike a lot of times where I’ve had things served hot, here it was still actually boiling, which was a nice touch. I cracked the provided egg in, and then sampled the (very hot) soup: a nice rich spicy peppery broth, nice lacing of both the silken tofu and the egg, and a rather nicely spiced amount of pork. Eaten with some spoonfuls of the provided rice and banchan, this was quite flavorful and steamy treat.

The other half of my combo was pork bulgogi, and this was a generous serving of freshly-seared and crisped pork, served up with a nice, bold gochujang sauce. This also combines nicely with some rice and kimchi from the banchan.

The thing that impressed me the most was that everything I had for this meal, a veritable feast that completely filled me and satisfied me, was served up for only $16. I’d definitely be a regular customer here if I still worked at the University, it’s a nice little gem, and it’s good to finally see a restaurant with some staying power at this spot.

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