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Korean BBQ, a great fit for wanderlust | The Source Weekly

click to enlarge Korean BBQ, goes well with wanderlust

SFor many, summer is a time to get out and about. Head to that swimming hole you’ve always loved, even if it’s on the west side and closer. Meet up with friends for a camping trip to a new spot on the coast. Bike to a nearby city to grab brunch at a new place — which is what I did last week and wrote about.

Or, in another variation on summer cycling adventures, ride so long and so hard around an entire mountain (in this case Wy’east, aka Mt. Hood) that when you’re done and it’s time to ride home, the only thing keeping you from catching some shut-eye on the long miles to Bend is the Korean food waiting for you along the way.

That’s exactly what happened to me and two cycling buddies one weekend recently. We had packed all the fancy ramen, the requisite peanut butter and jelly, and other more refined snacks to get us through the three nights up and down the mountain (and five more up and downs). But by the time we had finished the trip and were heading home, all we could think about was a mountain of Galbi Beef, along with some other hearty side dishes, waiting for us at Imonae, the Korean food stall along the main road in Madras.

Imonae, its sister stand Akira Sushi, and the Mexican stand El Burrito Loco are made for this type of traveler: hungry for something, not far enough from home to stop for the night or a full meal, but ready for good food that’s easy and quick to get. Aside from the deliciousness of Joe Kim’s Yoli, Bend and Central Oregon in general are pretty sparse when it comes to Korean food. That said, I don’t think I’m the only one whose eyebrows were raised at the prospect of finding it among the three spots in the Reynoso Food Court in Madras, which opened in 2021.

click to enlarge Korean BBQ, goes well with wanderlust

The three spaces are under a permanent shade canopy and feature walk-up windows with varying hours. Of course, the food court doesn’t just cater to out-of-towners like me, and it can get lively on weekend nights with locals looking for a place to grab a bite. Overall, though, the space has a laid-back vibe. Park in a street parking lot along 5th and D, order, and sit at one of the tables. Or, in our case, after the bike ride, squirm in your seat in impatient hunger pangs as you wait for that delicious Galbi Beef to arrive.

Owner Connie Lee apologized for the quality of the Galbi the day we visited, but she needn’t have. Galbi, also spelled Kalbi, is a short rib dish usually marinated in a sweet soy-garlic-green onion blend. In this case, the sweet and umami flavors clung to the generous portions of sticky short ribs. Every bite was cooked and marinated to perfection, with just the right amount of juice, and there was more meat on each short rib than in an average serving.

A Dosirak, or combo plate, comes with rice, salad, and usually some sort of pickled vegetable. This time around, it was more of a potato salad, but still a great complement to the richness of the beef. A hot tip for travelers seeking this experience: Consider calling ahead when ordering the Galbi, as this dish can take a while to prepare. Also on the Dosirak plate are two mandu, or fried dumplings. These are also served separately as a side dish — a delicious and popular menu item at Imonae.

Also worth trying on Imonae’s menu: the Japchae Bap, glass noodles stir-fried in a sweet sauce. Another crowd favorite: Korean Style Popcorn Chicken, Lee told Source Weekly. For the less adventurous, the Chicken Katsu is a great choice.

At $23, the hearty Galbi Beef combo plates are a lot of food for one meal, even for someone who’s so late from a big calorie burn. Even with my hearty appetite, the Dosirak held up for two full meals. For those traveling the highways of central Oregon, sharing a plate may be the best way to avoid ruining leftovers. Or, bring a cooler when you travel and fill it with all the Korean roadside food you need. In retrospect, I should have.

Imonae

200 SW 5th Street, Madras

Open daily from 11am to 9pm

541-615-1933

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