Geographically speaking, Gaza doesn’t evoke thoughts of Korea … let alone “Korean restaurant boasting one of the best lunch values around.” But it’s worth going way out west in West Lafayette if you’re seeking a flavorful, filling meal of unexpected delights.
Gaza Korean Grill was much closer to my work when I first discovered it a few years ago, tucked in a suite of restaurants and bars near the west-side Meijer. The extra miles since have been worth it for each trip.
At the time, I thought $8.95 seemed a reasonable price for a handmade lunch. Little did I know just how reasonable. The menu says you’ll get one of 11 specials — soups, noodle dishes, and rice dishes — which would be enough on its own. Nowhere does it mention the bounty of banchan — a refillable feast of side dishes that is the centerpiece of a Korean meal.
Think the small, shareable plates of tapas and you’ve got a good start — although Gaza’s banchan is served in the same amount whether you dine alone or with friends. Selections vary from visit to visit (including a delicious Korean-style potato salad), but there’s always kimchi.
It’s a staple of Korean cuisine made from salted and fermented vegetables — most commonly cabbage and radishes — and then seasoned with chili powder, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Most recently, I enjoyed cabbage kimchi and radish kimchi, the latter of which complemented the pickled flavor with a crisp, crunchy texture.
Also served on this trip: Korean cucumbers and pickles, black beans with soy sauce, and small strips of fish cake (a mix of fish paste and vegetables). All delicious, refillable and thrown in atop of some of the best (and heartiest) stir fry in town.
Perhaps you’ve never tried Korean food for fear it’s too spicy. While you can certainly ramp up the heat (more on that in a moment), the bulgogi is a tender, mildly seasoned, thinly sliced barbecue dish available in a rice bowl for lunch. It’s a great entry point for the curious.
Find the spice nice? Spring for the jaeyuk (spicy pork) rice dish — a pungent, but pleasant, approach with just the right amount of hurt to savor. New since my last visit: Gaza now places an egg atop this heaping helping, served so hot it’s bound to continue cooking even as you scrape the bottom of the bowl.
What about dinner? Well, I’ve not yet been, but I’m eager to try the unlimited grill options with a group — pork, steak, brisket, pork belly, beef, lamb and short ribs. (Just make sure your eyes aren’t too much bigger than your stomach; there’s a charge for what is deemed an “excessive” waste of food.) My guess is that once you discover Gaza for yourself, we’ll run into each other there some evening.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.