Los Angeles: Beverly Soon Tofu
Tucked on the end of a shopping plaza like so many others in Koreatown is Beverly Soon Tofu, a shoebox-sized cafe where they make their own tofu on-site. The six or so tables (plus a long communal in the middle) are carved to look like tree trunks, giving the place an understated quirk; the bustle of elbow to elbow families gives away the nature of the delicious, cheap food.
The banchan are delicious, and balanced each other out completely (I got some sort of sweet yam, kimchi, bean sprouts, a small tofu dish with seaweed and broth, refreshing celery and cucumbers). The signature dish, meanwhile, is a spitting, molten stone pot of deep red broth that comes out of the kitchen steaming and remains bubbling away for a minute after you start eating. You can order the dish at three levels of spiciness (I went for it) and a choice of protein in addition to the tofu (I did clams). Red pepper and jalapeno were clearly visible in mine, but beyond those I couldn’t identify anything in the broth that contributed to its complex heat. The tofu, absolutely slippery smooth and earthy, was everywhere in the bowl. Clams added a slight brine (when I could taste it through the heat) and a raw egg cracked in on serving took it over the top.
Even if house-made tofu isn’t enough to get you excited (it should), this is a must-visit for a diverse, delicious, inexpensive feast. Get it with a pale lager and call it a day.