Convenient and healthy
Call me Mr. Function.
Eating to me is little more than something you have to do to continue breathing. I eat virtually anything, and I yearn for no particular kinds of food. I always defer to others in choosing restaurants because, frankly, I don't care.
Call my dining companion Ms. Foodie. She is one of those people with an encyclopedic memory of every meal she's ever had. She not only remembers what is served where, but which places have the "good sushi" and such.
For us to find a place we both like is quite a challenge, which brings me to Home plus.
You don't often go to a department store in search of a good meal, but I found one at Elena Garden, a restaurant tucked into a corner of the Wal-Mart-like edifice that boasts of its "homemade-style Italian cuisine."
For Mr. Function, the restaurant is perfectly placed. You can scratch a few purchases off your to-do list during the same trip you take for lunch or dinner. And, the prices for the restaurant's featured buffet are a bargain: 9,900 won for lunch on weekdays; 12,900 won all other times (plus a 10 percent "tax").
The offerings were so good and plentiful that I spent a large percentage of my lunch with Ms. Foodie eating alone.
As we took turns at the table keeping an eye on our belongings, she disappeared for 10 minutes at a time negotiating her way through the homemade pastas, fresh-dough pizzas, paella, sushi, tapas, soups, salads and "eco-friendly" vegetables. She said she was impressed not only by the selection but the quality of the food.
In fact, the dessert offerings -- baked goods and a chocolate fondue fountain -- almost brought tears to her eyes.
Had she needed a hanky, I'm sure we could have found one just yards from the restaurant's entrance in the women's furnishings section of Home plus.
Now, that's what I call convenience.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.
E-mail Jon Rabiroff at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Uijeongbu, South Korea
Hours: Open every day, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Buffet that includes soup, salad, sushi, pasta, paella, tapas, sushi, vegetables, baked goods, coffee and soft drinks -- Adults 9,900 won for lunch on weekdays, 12,900 at all other times; children 5,900 or 7,900 won. Steaks available as follows: Italian sirloin 27,900 won; prime ribeye 29,900; hashed burger steak 22,900. A 10 percent "tax" is added to all checks. Beer and wine available.
English menu: No
Clientele: Mostly Korean families.
Directions: Easiest way there is by taxi. Just ask the driver to take you to Home plus. It should cost between 4,000 and 5,000 won from the Camp Red Cloud area.
Web site: (Korean only) www.elenagarden.co.kr
Speak English: Yes