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 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.
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.
Both appetizers were brought to our table at the same time, served burning hot from the fryer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Order online here — except on Wednesdays when Kimchi Factory is closed.
607 S Wright St
M+Tu 11:30 a.m. to midnight
Th-Su 11:30 a.m. to midnight