When my mom comes to visit, we try to show her a good time. We let her relax. We feed her well. And we take her someplace local for an experience she can't get at home. This year, we took her to The Honey Pig in Ellicott City.
The Honey Pig is a 24-hour Korean barbecue restaurant located on Route 40. It has a sparse, warehouse look inside with corrugated steel siding and posters for other Korean businesses. It is such a cultural experience that walking through their front door feels a bit like leaving the U.S. As near as I can tell, they are always busy. And why wouldn't they be?
They do the traditional table-top grill and offer a variety of spiced beef, pork, and organ meat that is cooked at the table and served with the usual accompaniments of kimchee, sliced fish cake, picked daikon, spicy green beans, and sliced raw peppers and garlic. They tend to direct foreigners like us toward more pedestrian items, but this is most likely from hard-learned experience. The Korean palate is used to much more flavor than the typical Marylander can abide.
With my mother along for her first Korean barbecue experience, we let the waitress talk us out of the spicy pork bellies, but ended up with a good mix of bulgogi - seasoned beef - unseasoned pork belly, and beef tongue, a personal favorite of mine so long as it is not prepared by white folk.
The tongue was sliced thin and was very tender. It needed little seasoning and was quite good on its own. The pork was also sliced thin and took the special Korean hot sauce very well. This I ate with the raw garlic and peppers, wrapped in a little lettuce for the flavor explosion that makes Korean barbecue so enjoyable. The bulgogi was cut thicker and was marinated with sliced onion. It was a flavorful spicy rather than the heat my counterpart was looking for. Even so, we were all extremely satisfied with the experience.
The service is un-American in that once they have cooked the meat for you, they let you enjoy your meal, even allowing you to digest before presenting you with the bill. This is saying something for an establishment that perpetually has a line out the door. The Honey Pig is about the Korean dining experience. Patronized by ex-pats, immigrants, and guest workers, and filled with bouncy Korean pop music, they deliver just that.
Waiting for our table
A quick Facebook Mobile lesson
Pork belly on sale tonight
Preparing for our gastronomical adventure
The usual accompaniments
Fire up the grill
My counterpart enjoying his barbecue
Spicy tofu soup
Everyone is a member of The Clean Plate Club tonight
A parting glimpse