If you’re needing a quick lift, head over to Kalbi Taco Shack, where the eclectic decor, hip menu and friendly vibes are sure to boost your spirits. The place is meant to simulate a food truck with its large walk-up window and view into the bustling kitchen. Hong Kong native Sue Wong Shackelford and her husband, Mark, get an assist from their daughters in the family-run business. They’ve been open for more than a year, having previously operated an antique business for two decades.
Fusion with Fun and Flair
As I waited my turn to order, I pondered the restaurant name. It, too, is a fusion of terms. Kalbi is the Korean word for beef short ribs, marinated and barbecued. The term “Shack” is a cute use of the family name: Shackelford.
I didn’t know what to expect, after all the place is touted as Asian-Mexican, which leaves room for interpretation. But fusion cuisine should be more than wrapping a taco around kimchi and pickled carrots or serving tortilla chips with a sweet-sour sauce. From the looks of the overhead board, Kalbi’s had gone for a true flavor matchup.
Placing an order was a matter of choosing a dish from one of the categories: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, rice bowls or banh mi sandwiches. Add either beef, pork, chicken or tofu. Ta-da! You have a meal. Kalbi’s also offers bubble tea (10 flavors) and Vietnamese coffee. I was glad to see the kitchen uses no MSG, nor do they use peanut oil. All marinades and sauces are housemade.
The place was full, so we headed out back to the spacious patio with the orange picnic tables and chirping birds. Our order of tacos and a banh mi sandwich arrived soon after we were seated. It was crazy tasty! The superb synthesis of Asian and Mexican made for a true cultural alliance. There’s no doubt about it, Sue and her kitchen crew understand the world of flavors.
Kalbi Taco Shack, 2301 Cherokee Street & Indiana Ave. on Antique Row. Open: Wed-Sun 11a-5:30p; Closed Mon-Tue. Metered parking on street except Sunday.