Atera's Matthew Lightner Raves About Wonjo's 24-Hour Korean BBQ

by Abby Schreiber
(Photo by Evan Sung)

Each week in our Chefs Off Duty series, we talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Atera's Chef Matthew Lightner.

Where is your favorite spot to grab a bite when you're leaving Atera?

The whole team enjoys going to the heart of K-town on 32nd Street for Korean BBQ. One of our favorites is New Wonjo (open 24 hours). My sous chef, Rex Huang, is our Asian food guru and he recommended a few spots, including Wonjo. He just follows the smell of the kimchi!

What's your favorite thing to order?

After service, our staff isn't ready to leave until typically after 2am. We're not looking to drink a lot of heavy booze, but we do want something light to drink that will help us relax. We start with the farmer's rice beer Makgeolli. It is milky, off white and sweet. It drinks like a tea. As for food, you cannot get just one dish at Korean BBQ, you need to order a lot. We like that the meal always comes with Ban Chan, or small preserves like pickles and kimchi to snack on. We also really like the Japchae, a Korean glass noodle made from sweet potatoes and of course we order the BBQ. We like to do a combination of protein: pork belly, short rib, ox tongue and more. They are served with a bunch of interesting marinades. We like the sense of instant gratification -- we understand, as cooks, that a meal cannot immediately appear on the table, but this is quick, and we can see the process occurring.

Wonjo (Photo via Yelp)

Any fun anecdotes from meals at Wonjo?

After Atera's collaboration dinner with Saison's Chef Josh Skenes we all went to Wonjo. Guest Chef dinners are a lot of work for everyone involved, but they do not happen very often. When they do it's especially important to go out afterwards and celebrate together. Even if we finish after 2am, we can still go out to Wonjo and have fun.

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