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Omnivore - SoKo at Sobban: Bologna without napalm

Spicy rules at Korean-Southern spot, but it could go farther

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I lunched at Sobban, the "Korean-Southern diner," last Friday with my friend Rose. (Let's call the genre "SoKo.") The restaurant is a prime example of the nationwide trend that hybridizes fast food and so-called casual fare, often adding a flicker of spicy fire. An example is Pallookaville, where I ate a milkshake shot-up with Sriracha, and a giant corn dog. You can also get a corn dog at Sobban. It's wrapped in nori, tempura-fried and jacked up with hot mustard.

Novelty, novelty, novelty.

Something like morbid curiosity compelled me to order the "Fried Kimchi Bologna Sandwich." (above). I disliked "baloney" intensely when I was a kid but I got more tolerant in my 30s after a friend introduced me to the "ring bologna" he grew up eating in Appalachia.

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Sobban's house-made pork-and-beef stuff beats them all, thanks to the kim-chi spices actually blended into the (sourced) meats. The sliced bologna is layered thickly, topped with kim-chi cabbage and doctored with mild Korean mustard. Honestly, I'd like the sandwich to be a lot spicier. But that's not likely to happen. A woman sitting across from me at the community table was clearly fearful that the food would be seasoned with napalm.

We also shared a plate of dumplings stuffed with ground beef, shitake shrooms, and chives (right). They burst, literally, with juicy flavor, almost like soup dumplings. Definintely order them.

Rose ordered a "bulgogi roll," which looked something like a sloppy joe on a brioche hot-dog bun. I wasn't tempted to taste it and she wasn't thrilled

We scored seats as soon as we arrived. Two earlier attempts to dine there with five friends were foiled by the crowds and the seating that can't accommodate parties of more than four, except at a community table, where that's just as much a luck of the draw.

Our server told us the restaurant is enclosing the porch, so that will improve the seating situation.