Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco in Nashville Summed Up In Two Words: Food Euphoria

UPDATE (11/16/2010) – According to the very prominent food blog, Nashville Restaurants, they have reported that Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco have picked up and moved closer to the heart of Nashville. Good thing too, the drive to the original location on 2712 Clarksville Pike was quite a haul for most people. Nashville Scene reports that with the move, Peter Chinn’s is now serving burgers and have expanded their full name to the following: Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco & Burgers, 400 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203-2476. Hopefully now Peter Chinn’s will the exposure that they deserve.

[-- End of Update --]

The clock was ticking and my stomach couldn’t handle it anymore… It was 3:15 PM on Thursday and I still hadn’t eaten lunch (or breakfast for that matter). I was stuck waiting for my fellow peers to finish their configurations on some network equipment at Comcast in MetroCenter Nashville. Crossing my fingers that they would be done soon, I busted out my phone and started looking for restaurants on Urbanspoon. Despite owning a food blog, I was almost tempted to just go to McDonald’s a couple blocks away because my pangs of hunger were hurting so bad. Urbanspoon wasn’t any help until I started browsing for restaurants near me and there it was… the 2nd listing from the top with a 100% “Like It” rating amongst 16 reviewers: Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco.

Korean BBQ taco?? I had never heard of such a thing. I do know what Korean BBQ is because I grew up with it! It’s one of my favorite foods from my culture. But in a taco? I started skimming the reviews to find out more.

After skimming a couple reviews, I came to realize that these were the same mouth-watering Korean BBQ meats that my palate was raised on with “Asian slaw” placed in a corn tortilla and dubbed “Korean BBQ Taco”. I also learned that this so-called entree is very popular on the West coast of the United States and rightfully so… Every Korean foreign exchange student I’ve come across always dreams of going to California, New York, Illinois, or Texas due to the fact that all four of those states have a Korean population big enough to actually have “Koreatown” neighborhoods. With such a populace and American influence, you are sure to get a new fusion of culinary creations.

Peter Chinn's Korean BBQ TacoAfter I was given the green light to leave for lunch, I ran to the truck and used my Google Maps application to navigate me to Peter Chinn’s. This was the 2nd time I’ve been to MetroCenter Nashville and I had never heard of it before 2 days ago. Furthermore, I was confused why a Korean restaurant so popular would be located in the middle of nowhere. After a few minutes and some quick turns, there it was in all its glory. Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco.

To me, Peter Chinn’s looked like it was born from an abandoned Rally’s (Checker’s) fast food restaurant; a tiny building with 2 drive-thru lanes – one on each side and a front window for walk-up ordering. I anticipated that I would have to eat in my car until I came up closer and saw 2 tables adjacent to one of the drive-thru lanes. I decided to eat at one of the tables and walked up to the walk-up window.

Peter Chinn's Korean BBQ TacoPeter Chinn’s keeps it simple by only offering a few menu items. You can choose either a taco ($2) or burrito ($5) with your choice of meat: Kogi Taco (Beef Short Rib), Spicy Pork, Chicken, or Fish. If none of those sound good, then you can get the Chef’s Special for $5 which includes a Hand Breaded Fish Burger, Steak Quesadilla, or Kimchi Quesadilla. Drinks are $1.50 each. I’m sure the Chef’s Specials are good, but when you name your business after your Korean BBQ, then that’s obviously a no-brainer on what you should get. All of them sounded incredibly delectable to me and there was even an additional special that day: Kimchi Bulgogi Taco for $3. I finally decided on a trifecta of Korean BBQ goodness: a Kogi Taco, a Spicy Pork Taco, and the special Kimchi Bulgogi Taco.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Korean cuisine, Korean BBQ can be marinated or non-marinated. The most popular is the marinated kind because of its sweet and salty flavor made primarily from soy sauce, sugar, and garlic with other ingredients added in. It’s not quite the same flavor of teriyaki, which to me has more of an earthier & saltier flavor. Kimchi is traditionally referred to fermented vegetable dishes but can also refer to non-fermented vegetables. In addition, they can be spicy or non-spicy. The type of kimchi served at Peter Chinn’s is the spicy, fermented cabbage kind.

Three TacosThe Kogi (Korean for meat) Taco is based of the most popular Korean BBQ: kalbi (marinated short beef ribs). Sweet and succulent, the rib meat is sliced into tiny strips and abundantly piled onto a layer of two corn lightly-toasted-yet-still-soft corn tortillas. Atop the kalbi is the “Asian slaw”: a mixture of shredded lettuce, chopped red onion and thinly sliced disks of pickled cucumbers that reminded me of a cross between “dongchimi” (winter white water kimchi with a vinegary flavor), cilantro, and sweet relish. This was my favorite taco.

The special, Kimchi Bulgogi (Korean for fire meat) Taco, was nothing more than thinly sliced strips of marinated beef (non-rib) with a heaping pile of chopped & fermented cabbage kimchi on top of it. The sour & spicy flavor from the kimchi paired with the sweet flavor of beef really hit home for me. Growing up in a Korean family, kimchi was available at 100% of our meals and bulgogi was something that was fairly common. I don’t get a chance to eat Korean food as much as I would like and would easily dub this taco as my second favorite. The only reason the Kogi Taco beats this one is because to me, kalbi will always be a treat. My parents were 1st generation Koreans with not a lot of money when they immigrated. We rarely got to have kalbi because rib meat is more expensive. Bulgogi is much more accessible since it can be made with almost any commonly available cut of meat.

Despite giving the Spicy Pork Taco my 3rd ranking, it definitely rates high on the flavor scale. Here the pork bulgogi was served in diced chunks with the same “Asian” slaw that was on the Kogi Taco. Pork bulgogi shares the same sweetness as its cousins but has a spicier flavor (hence the redness from the hot peppers).

With all three tacos, you get a side of hot sauce that resembles Thai chili sauce but with a more watery consistency with less pepper oil. Since I’m used to spicy food, it wasn’t all that hot to me but to others, I would rank it “very hot”.

Three Tacos Up CloseDespite it being in a fast food facility, these tacos are far from being fast food. After ordering, I thought I’d get my meal instantly but I instead stood around for about 5-6 minutes. Being impatient, I took a peek through the ordering window and watched in surprise that my meal was being cooked from fresh batches of raw marinated meats. These tacos are as fresh as you can get.

Ever since I started this blog, I have never before felt compelled to write about an experience so great. Peter Chinn’s may not seem like much on the outside, but the food is worth driving across town for. I was in a state of “food euphoria” and while driving back to work, I was already constructing a plan to visit once more. I expect to return real soon because as I write this, my mouth is already watering…

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Peter Chinn’s Korean BBQ Taco
2712 Clarksville Pike
(615) 712-8796

Bill Total: $9.29

Peter Chinn's Korean BBQ Taco on Urbanspoon

Food:4.5/5.0 ★★★★½ 
Service:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Atmosphere:2.5/5.0 ★★½☆☆ 
Price:3.0/5.0 ★★★☆☆ 
Overall:3.5/5.0 ★★★½☆ 

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