Review: Korean Cowboy

The menu and specials
The menu and specials

I thought I’d start doing restaurant reviews again as there are so many great places in Toronto to eat. So of course, I started with a bar. ^^ It was the name that drew me in first and then after finding out the owner also owned Bi Bim Bap which is a favourite lunch place of mine near work, I knew I had to check it out.

So what did I think? Keep reading…

The Food

Visit #1 – December 14th with 2 friends

I went to Korean Cowboy with two friends and we ordered five dishes to share plus a pint of beer each. Here’s what we ate:

Visit #1 - Mocha Pork Belly
Visit #1 – Mocha Pork Belly

Mocha Pork Belly

Of the five dishes we tried in December, this was the dish I liked the least. Not that there was anything wrong with it but it just didn’t wow me.

Visit #1 - Pork Belly Pepper
Visit #1 – Pork Belly Pepper

Pork Belly Pepper

While I was expecting the pepper to be a little spicier, this is a nice dish of pork belly wrapped peppers sliced up into small pieces. I liked it, especially when eaten with one of the berries that accompany the dish.

Visit #1 - Green Tea Infused Pork
Visit #1 – Green Tea Infused Pork

Green Tea Infused Pork

I’ll be the first to admit that what I was expecting from the name – something closer to the green tea marinated samgyeopsal I had in Korea – was different from what the dish actually was. That being said, I loved it. It’s a tasty, saucy pork dish that comes with thinly sliced pickled radish and while good on its own, works best when wrapped up in a slice of the pickled radish. The combination of flavours is lovely.

Visit #1 - Cheesy Spicy Rice Cakes
Visit #1 – Cheesy Spicy Rice Cakes

Cheesy Spicy Rice Cakes

While not overly spicy (to my tastes), it had a nice bite with lots of flavour. There was a good mix of cheese, rice cakes and veggies in the sauce. The rice cakes were also cooked well – chewy but not over-cooked. Definitely a dish I’d order again (and did).

Visit #1 - Korean Beef Ssam
Visit #1 – Korean Beef Ssam

Korean Beef Ssam

A little messy to eat (thankfully I was out with two female friends and not on a date) but full of flavour. Would like to try other versions of their ssam.

Favourite from my first visit?

While there wasn’t a bad dish, it’s a toss up between the Green Tea Infused Pork and the Cheesy Spicy Rice Cakes for the title of my fav. I love tteokbokki with cheese (the Korean word for ‘spicy rice cakes’) so I was bound to love this one but it was the Green Tea Infused Pork that surprised me. Why? Probably because it wasn’t what I was expecting after reading the description.

Visit #2 – February 7th with one friend

I went back with another friend, in part to try Korean Cowboy again (new restaurant/bar review rule is to go at least twice before writing the review) and in part because they were having a Korean pub/party night – called the Blue Bunkr with DJ J.KIDO & SUP3RCOB – that I wanted to check out. It was fun but this is about Korean Cowboy so let’s talk about what we ate.

Visit #2 - Kimchi Fries
Visit #2 – Kimchi Fries

Kimchi Fries

Very addicting! Seriously, this is a dish that grows on you and one which you just can’t stop eating. It came out a little colder than I would like, especially as it comes in a mini cast-iron pan (cute presentation) but the combination of flavours was tasty.

Visit #2 - Sawdust Chicken
Visit #2 – Sawdust Chicken

Sawdust Chicken

Of the four dishes we tried, this was our least favourite. Not that it was a bad choice but it seemed to cry for rice (as in to be eaten as a meal, rather than a sharing dish). I still enjoyed it but not as much as the others. 

Visit #2 - G-Po (dried file fish)
Visit #2 – G-Po (dried file fish)

G-Po (dried file fish)

I loved this dish – it goes so well with beer and of course, that’s what we were drinking with it. It arrives as a toasted, dried circle of fish that you need to cut up into pieces using the accompanying scissors and then dip into the sauce. So yummy. I did wonder though if this might be a slightly intimidating dish for those not familiar with Korean (or perhaps I should say Asian) food as they may not know to cut it with the scissors?

Green Tea Infused Pork

Still a yummy dish, my one cravat would be that I wish it came with a few more pickled radish slices so we could have had a few more ‘wraps’. We still had pork left after using all of the radish slices – not that I’m complaining about too much pork. ^^

Favourite from visit #2

The G-Po definitely but the Green Tea Infused Pork is still on my must-order list. G-Po just goes so perfectly with a pint of beer that it’s hard to resist.

Editor’s note: I have actually been back one more time (February 16th with eight friends) since I wrote the review and it just strengthened my opinion on the bar. Friendly service with fun food that’s great for sharing. I’ve now tried pretty much everything on the menu (no joke) and I’d add the Fried Spaghetti and Chili Coreano to my list of favs.

The Service

Each time I’ve been there, my party was promptly greeted at the door and seated by a friendly and helpful server. All the servers also seem to know both English and Korean as I’ve been with both Korean and non-Korean friends and they responded equally well in both.

They are also attentive, quick and helpful (when asked questions).

Inside of the menu - lots of fun choices
Inside of the menu – lots of fun choices

The Location/Vibe

Korean Cowboy is located a block north of Eglinton Station on Yonge Street (nice and convenient) in the middle of a little mini split-level plaza on the top level.

The vibe is Korean bar (it reminded me a lot of Wa Bar in Korea) meets sports bar (tons of TVs with different sports playing) which works well for me. I love the low-key atmosphere and I love sports so it’s got a good vibe for me. It’s a nice place to kick back and chill with friends (and maybe catch a game) but perhaps not a great date place (I’d be checking out the TVs too much ^^).

Final Thoughts

It reminded me of Wa Bar in Korea which was one of my favourite places to have a beer and chill with friends. Yeah, the food and beer choices are different, plus Korean Cowboy has soju and mixed drinks too while Wa Bar in Korea was simply a beer joint, but the relaxed vibe is the same. I’d go back – in fact, I have as my friends and I recently visited. 

However, it’s a bar with anju (안주, bar food) not full meals so keep that in mind and order a dish or two more than you normally would. Notice that 3 girls ordered 5 dishes and 2 girls ordered 4 dishes to share… you’ll want to do the same.  Best part – you get to try more dishes this way! Plus they have some decent craft beer on tap… and a cocktail I want to try come summer.

Have you been to Korean Cowboy? What did you think of it?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm on the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival. Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher.

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