Galbi burger, Rice n Bread

Remember Hamburger King? The Wrigleyville greasy spoon that was Korean owned but more Japanese in spirit? Open since 1959, and just next door to the Nisei Lounge, it was a remnant of the neighborhood’s now much reduced Japanese population, and known not just for its 20s-style burger and other American diner classics but for things like teriyaki, bulgogi, the Chinese beef noodle soup yet ca mein, and an odd egg and vegetable scramble with gravy rice known as akutagawa, named for the longtime customer that invented it. (Was it this guy? ).

Sometime early last year it switched hands, and got a new name—Rice ‘n Bread—and a spiffy makeover, both of which much diminished its battered charm. The good news is the menu stayed virtually the same, apart from the addition of a handful of new Korean dishes, like bul dak—fried chicken in chile sauce—and a kimchi tofu salad.

But the most remarkable new item is the galbi burger, a minced-short-rib patty with lettuce, tomato, cheese, spicy mayo, and an option for “caramelized” kimchi, all stacked on a pretzel roll. What’s so unusual about that? It’s an Americanized version of tteokgalbi, which one could say is the Korean answer to the hamburger.

Akutagawa, Rice n Bread

Tteokgalbi are formed from minced short-rib meat that’s then marinated in a combination of soy, garlic, onions, sesame oil, and perhaps something sweet like rice syrup. Often they’re molded around the bones they were taken from and come off the grill like meat lollipops. I’ve never seen them served anywhere in Chicago, and they’re number one on my wish list. Holler if you’ve spotted them.

According to the video embedded below, they chop the short-rib meat fresh daily at Rice ‘n Bread, and though it isn’t as highly seasoned as the straight tteokgalbi I’ve eaten in my day, the texture is really good: coarse, meaty, and substantial. It comes with fries for a very reasonable $5.45, with a $1 upcharge for the kimchi, which mingles with the melted cheese and more than makes up for the mild marinade.

YouTube video

Rice ‘n Bread, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-281-4452,