Across from the former “Enchanted Forest” amusement park out west of Baltimore on Route 40 is the “Honey Pig” Korean BBQ restaurant. (FYi – We understand that the Korean equivalent of “Honey Pig” is endearment for someone who enjoys eating! <WInk>)
Even as you enter the foyer, you can tell that this is going to be a different experience as we’re confronted by corrogated steel wall paneling and a large poster promoting “Pink Salt” !
Inside, we quickly take in that each big standalone table (sitting 4 to 6 people) has a huge steel square exhaust fan hanging above which has John wondering if we’ve stepped into some Korean version of the “Star Wars” Cantina!
The stainless steel table that John and his friends Tom and Paul are seated is covered with a plethora of small dishes with three salads plus all different types of Korean condiments
Deciding what to order isn’t easy! Entrees are largely grouped into beef and pork dishes (there are a one fish and one chicken entree – but everything else is beef or pork. Entrees are all in the $13 – $20 range. We explain we’re “newbies” and ask our friendly cute slim Asian waiter for his advice. We end up ordering an fried dumpling appetizer to share and an order of Bulgogi Beef and and order of Pork Ribs.
Our waiter turns into a chef, turns on a propane gas burner in the middle of our table and begins to cook our Bulgogi right away (We’re too take aback at this point to wonder what happened to our appetizer! He also adds a pile of shredded cabbage and bean sprouts. The cooking surface is the opposite of a Wok! It is high in the middle and low around the edges so excess liquid released during the cooking process rolls away from the food to the lower outer edge.
When the meat is cooked, our waiter puts several pieces of beef on small plates along with providing each of us with a heaping small bowl of white rice in front of us and advises us to try dipping the meat in the bowls of Korean BBQ sauce on the table. The sauce couldn’t be more different from the standard American equivalent – it is clear and amber in color with a sweet and tangy taste that complements the beef. The cabbage and bean sprout mixture is very good. Contrary to our fears, it is tasty but without being overly spicy and we gingerly try adding some of the table condiments to the veggie mixture and finding we like it a lot (We like it so much that the server asked if we wanted more and when we enthuiastically replied “YES!” – a big pile of the cabbage/sprout mixture was added to our cooking surface.
STILL… No appetizer!
Our waiter/chef started cooking the pork dish with small pieces of cut up meat in front of us and it looks and smells good. Suddenly, our appetizer appears as we’re sampling the pork!!!!!!!
The dumplings ($8) are hot and delicious – inside they’re stuffed with a dense tasty meat mixture (It reminds us more of a mild sausage than anything else) We very quickly decide that they make a nice side dish for our Korean BBQ meat and cabbage/beans!
While all of this happening, the inside of the Honey Pig is a torrent of activity with servers bouncing around the room cooking meals as well as attentively looking out for the diners.
Our waiter asks if we want some… ??? and we say yes
We found that two entrees with all the condiments and rice and appetizer was more than enough food to satisfy the three of us. Service was friendly and attentive and the energy level of the staff (and clients!) was contagious!
Facts: Honey Pig Restaurant (Ellicott City); 10045 Baltimore National Pike, (410) 696-2426; open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner; full bar; very limited vegetarian/vegan options – this is primarily a place for meat lovers. Lots of free adjacent parking. Heads-up – Honey Pig can be very crowded with long waits for a table particularly at “prime time” evenings on the weekend.