You wouldn't pop into this Korean joint based on appearances only. Located on the first floor of a two-story, non-descript building on a drab strip of Western Avenue, Waba isn't what you'd expect from the so-called Lincoln Square neighborhood. (Read: Yuppies, puppies, babies and stores that cater to all three.) The second floor of Waba that — as the guy shoveling snow outside informed me, is not part of the restaurant — showcases a variety of boarded-up windows. The only thing identifying this spot is its sign, which is written in Korean and English.
Confused? Yep, I was too — until I actually ventured in and ran right into video poker machines. Is this a secret casino? A lounge? Both answers seemed plausible considering the absence of a hostess. Continuing down this short hallway, I eventually discovered the dining area. Black shiny tables are spaced evenly around the clean wood-floored space, but a hint of creepy club vibe settled in as I gazed at the silver wall that reflected myriad lights and one of the four large televisions.
But enough about the atmosphere; that's only half the experience. Previous Korean dining excursion have taken me to tabletop grilling (think nearby Cho Sun Ok), but Waba would have none of that. Everything's cooked in the kitchen. Fried pot stickers, veggie fried rice, giant seafood pancakes, Korean-style ribs and, of course, kimchee.
Pairing eats with drinks is a must, especially since Waba offers Korean beers like OB Lager and Hite. By the end of this meal, those boarded-up windows will just feel like part of the Waba experience — not a drinking and dining deterrent.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Alicia Eler