MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — This Mississippi River city is proud of its barbecue, its fried chicken, its soul food. But the food scene here is often stereotyped because of it.
Those foods are what tourists typically obsess over, standing in line at Central BBQ for smoky ribs or Gus's Fried Chicken for juicy drumsticks. When told that there's a place in Memphis that makes standout Korean food like soups and noodle dishes with meat and seafood, some may scoff.
But Crazy Noodle is real, and it might be proof that people in intensely Southern cities like Memphis, where collard greens are made correctly and macaroni and cheese is listed on some menus as a vegetable dish, are welcoming the cuisine of immigrant communities.
Owner Ji Choi estimates that 60 percent of her customers are regulars. It's a hidden gem for tourists seeking to avoid the barbecue and the out-of-towners.
"My restaurant is very small, compared to other big restaurants, but its very fun," Choi said.
Crazy Noodle is located next to a convenience store and food market, owned by Choi's relatives. The market also makes food to order and also sells premade items including sandwiches and wraps. The restaurant has an open kitchen where patrons can watch dishes being prepared. The windowsills are decorated with miniature dolls and action figures, donated by regular customers in the roughly two years the restaurant has been open.
Choi and her small team of chefs turn out mouthwatering, and often spicy, dishes like Korean chicken soup, with a sweet-spicy broth and loads of chicken noodles, mushrooms and vegetables. Other brothy dishes include the mandou-gok — a soup with onions, carrots, eggs, seaweed flakes, mushrooms and tender, luscious dumplings instead of noodles — and yuk-gae-jang, featuring beef, turnip and mushrooms in a spicy beef broth.