Small restaurant near Capitol has big secret: great Korean food

Sol's on the Square
Sol’s on the Square

Down a side road on the Capitol Square sits a small restaurant with a big secret: great Korean food! Sol’s on the Square took over a great location on East Mifflin Street right next to the Bartell Theatre. It has big front windows, a heavy wooden door and bar along one side of the dining room. I never made it into any of the other restaurants that have been at that location so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but the decor and structure of the dining room seemed a little rough. The decor was a hodgepodge of items, some with a Korean feel and some not at all. The day I was there the floors were a little dirty and the entrance into the kitchen was oddly covered with a piece of fabric that allowed to you to see garbage and boxes on the floor.

Sol's bar, dining room
Sol’s bar, dining room
Sol's bibimbap
Sol’s bibimbap

Beyond the decor and cleanliness of the place, I had an amazing meal. We tried three of the most common dishes ordered and surprisingly my favorite was not the bibimbap. Bibimbap is a traditional Korean dish served with rice, veggies, beef and an egg. All of the ingredients were cooked well, but the chili sauce that was supposed to be on the top either wasn’t very flavorful or was absent. I was looking for a flavorful sauce or broth to go along with the good meat and veggies in the bowl. I love the concept of the sunny side-up egg on the top, but once that was gone the dish was very bland.

Sol's bulgogi
Sol’s bulgogi

Although I will be passing on the bibimbap in the future, the other two dishes we got were fantastic. The bulgogi is a tangy and sweet Korean BBQ beef that comes with rice. The beef was super tender and had amazing flavor. It was exactly 50 percent sweet and 50 perfect tangy, not too much of either. It was a great compliment to the extra spiciness of the third dish.

Sol's dbeokbokki
Sol’s dbeokbokki

The third dish, dbeokbokki, was by far my favorite, but when it came out I was very skeptical. The dish is comprised of super thick rice noodles, onions, fish pieces, a hard boiled egg on top and a spicy red sauce. The noodles are chewy and very thick, but don’t let their look or texture turn you off, they are very good. The fish pieces were interesting. I was a little hesitant to try them, but the flat strips that I was told were fish were actually pretty good. Again, the texture was a bit odd, but they tasted great in the red sauce! The sauce was what made the dbeokbokki special. It had a great tangy flavor underneath the perfect level of spice!

Sol's banchan: fish cakes, pickled yellow radish, kimchi
Sol’s banchan: fish cakes, pickled yellow radish, kimchi

We also got a plate of banchan. Banchan is basically small plates of food served alongside the main dishes. We got to try pickled radish, fish cakes (the same ones in the dbeokbokki) and kimichi. The kimchi was really good with the bulgogi, but I wasn’t a big fan of it on its own. It wasn’t too spicy, but the flavor was a bit harsh on its own. The radish was fine, but I was more excited about eating dbeokbokki at the time than the radish, and I was only able to eat one of the fish cakes because the flavor without any sauce was a bit odd.

Fish soup
Fish soup

Along with our main courses we got a small bowl of warm fish soup. It had onions floating on the top and looked really good, but it was bland and basically tasted like warm fishy water. I didn’t really think much of it.

Sol's front sitting area
Sol’s front sitting area

FOOD NOTES: Going to a Korean restaurant was definitely a new experience for me, and I am glad I went with a friend who knew what we were eating! My word of suggestion is to branch out from what most people get, the bibimbap, and try something new. The bibimbap was fine, but nowhere near as good as the bulgogi or dbeokbokki. The banchans and fish soup I could do without, but the kimchi was good with the bulgogi. I was expecting the kimchi to have more of a kick, but the one we got just had a pickled flavor to it. Sol’s  sold me on good Korean food, and I’m happy to say that my favorite dish was something other than bibimbap. There’s nothing bad about bibimbap, it’s just the go-to Korean dish and I’m extremely happy I got to try other really great types of Korean food and really liked it!