Smile Politely

Kimchi Factory produces satisfying Korean cuisine

A cropped overhead photo shows the author's meal: spicy pork dosirak and beef bulgogi bibimbap on bright red trays on a teal table at Kimchi Factory in Champaign, Illinois. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Just steps from the U of I campus on Wright Street, Kimchi Factory serves Korean food beside Ambar India Restaurant. Kimchi Factory opened last summer when the owners of A-Ri-Rang retired after 23 years.

On Wright Street in Champaign, Illinois, the exterior of Kimchi Factory, previously A-Ri-Rang has a blue awning and large windows. The windows have carryout phone numbers, ads for delivery, and photos of Korean food. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

On the day of this review, I stopped in for lunch a little after the restaurant opened. When I tried to order appetizers, the staff said that the oil was not ready yet because they were changing it. She said it would be ready in one hour; when I returned an hour later, the new batch of oil was ready.

There was plenty indoor dining available inside the restaurant. Diners order at the counter at the back of the restaurant.

Inside Kimchi Factory in Champaign, Illinois, there is a counter with Korean snacks in wicker baskets. Behind the counter there is a white menu with black and red ink. The kitchen is open and the chef cooks over a stainless steel stove. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

I ordered two appetizers and two entrees: kimchi dumplings, chicken wings, bulgogi bibimbap, and a spicy pork lunch plus two canned drinks from the fridge beside the register.

At Kimchi Factory, there are two appetizers in paper baskets lined with brown parchment paper. On the left is fried dumplings and on the right fried chicken wings. There are three small sauces: two dark brown and one orange in small plastic cups. All the food is on a bright red tray atop a wooden table. Also on the table are two cans: Coke and green tea plus a paper-wrapped pair of chopsticks. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Both appetizers were brought to our table at the same time, served burning hot from the fryer.

Alyssa Buckley

I had to order the kimchi dumplings because I’ve had a lot of dumplings, and I’ve never had one filled with kimchi. The kimchi dumpling order ($9.99) had eight fried dumplings stuffed with kimchi, and they tasted so good. The crispy, crimped edges of the fat dumplings cracked over the spicy chopped veggies inside. A dip in the thin sauce added a nice saltiness to the sour-spicy kimchi and fried wrapper.

Alyssa Buckley.

I am a chicken wing lover, and Kimchi Factory’s fried chicken wings ($14.99) were awesome. Served with two sauces on the side, six chicken wings were piping hot with a thick, crunchy exterior. The salty, juicy chicken and the crackly batter tasted so delicious. The orange sauce was a basic spicy mayo, but the dark red chili sauce was incredible. It started with a sweet chili flavor and ended very spicy. The sauce’s quick shift from syrupy sweet to burning pepper was just fantastic, and I loved the combination of that sauce with the wings.

On two red trays, the author's lunch is seen from above. On the left, spicy pork bulgogi with several banchan plus a side of white rice and soup. The right has beef bulgogi bibimbap with a side of kimchi, a spoon, and soup. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

The entrees were ready at the same time, about ten minutes after the appetizers arrived to our table. For the entrees, the staff called over to us to get the food from the counter. Beside the counter, there were chopsticks, forks, spoons, and napkins for diners.

In a black plastic bowl there is a beef bulgogi dish from Kimchi Factory. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Alyssa Buckley

Kimchi Factory’s bulgogi bimbimbap ($16.99) had beef bulgogi surrounded by a rainbow of cold veggies atop rice. The meal also came with sides of soup, a spicy sauce, and kimchi. The sweet and savory bulgogi beef tasted yummy, and there was plenty to eat in almost every bite. The medley of colorful vegetables included broccoli, cauliflower, carrot sticks, cucumbers, cabbage, wilted kale, and pickled beet (I think). The broccoli and cauliflower were steamed to be soft but served chilled which was a temperature I didn’t expect but did enjoy. All the different flavors, textures, temperatures, and colors worked so well together for a deliciously satisfying Korean lunch bowl.

On a red tray, there is a divided black plastic container with spicy pork and a variety of banchan. Beside that there is a clear plastic cup of white rice and a clear plastic cup of brothy soup. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Lastly, I ordered something from the part of the menu called dosirak, or Korean lunchboxes. The spicy pork dosirak ($18.99) came with a big portion of spicy pork bulgogi topped with sesame seeds with a soup, side of white rice, and a variety of banchan. The brothy soup was warm and simply seasoned, but it was slightly off putting to use a metal spoon for soup in a plastic cup.

The spicy pork was sliced thin, chopped into bite-sized pieces, and tasted really good. The spice level was totally manageable, not really that spicy, and the pork had some sweetness as well. The banchan options rotate, but the ones I had were pretty good. On the top left of the dosirak, the radish had a great crunch and peppery spice. The second was eomuk, a bite with the texture of a noodle and strong fishy taste. Next, there was a piece of salty, crispy skin-on fish which tasted good, and the pretty pickled beets were slightly sour. Finally, the titular side served in its own cup: kimchi, which had a spicy red sauce over bite-sized wilted cabbage, and it was yummy. I think it’s pretty cool at a place named Kimchi Factory that the entrees included a side of kimchi.

Overall, Kimchi Factory is a tasty place for lunch near the University of Illinois campus. The food was great — though a little expensive for a casual lunch.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Order online here — except on Wednesdays when Kimchi Factory is closed.

Kimchi Factory
607 S Wright St
Champaign
M+Tu 11:30 a.m. to midnight
Th-Su 11:30 a.m. to midnight

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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