Korean food, coffee + beer in a zen bamboo forest
by Avivah with Offline
We’ve loved Namu for a loooong time. Honestly, if you want the quick n’ dirty about why they’re great, just watch our video highlighting them (and if you want the full story, read on…):
Namu is the Triangle’s first Korean restaurant and coffee shop combo. It was started by the owners of local food trucks Bulkogi and Bo’s Kitchen, who decided to bring their Korean roots together to make something great. They approach traditional recipes and flavors in fresh ways for a truly unique (and especially tasty) menu.
But Namu is about more than just the food—it’s about the experience of finding an oasis in the middle of the city. The cafe is a labyrinthine space where you can always find a new nook to explore or intimate spot for some solitude. Head out back to find the even-more-impressive garden space, filled with everything from zen corners shrouded in bamboo to massive picnic areas perfect for a party. In case Namu didn’t have enough going on, they also recently added a beer hall next door for cozy evening get-togethers. So no matter what time of day you come to Namu, you’re in for a treat.
What to order
If this is your first time at Namu and you’re not sure where to start, the KBBQ bowls are your best bet. The Bibimbap ($10.50), Joe’s Special ($13.50), and Bo’s Special ($13.50) all start with a base of white rice and spring mix. Then you get to choose a KBBQ to mix in: beef, spicy pork, chicken, spicy chicken, or tofu. Finally, they’re topped with a bevy of veggies and an egg for the bibimbap, japchae (vermicelli noodles and veggies) for the Joe’s, and mandoo (dumplings) for the Bo’s. It’s the perfect way to get a mouthful of Namu’s signature flavors in one bite.
Looking to go a little more outside the box? Namu also has some unique menu items that use traditional Korean flavors in very non-traditional ways. These are types of things the owners remember eating as children of immigrants, melding their mom’s classic recipes with American styles. Think the extremely Instagram-popular Kimchi Bul-Fries ($13), waffle fries topped with pan-fried kimchi, cheese, KBBQ, and an egg, or the KBBQ Tacos (1 for $3.75 / 3 for $10) and KBBQ Quesadilla ($8.50).
You’ll also find playful specials like these regularly rotating onto the Beer Hall menu, like the Ramen Fried Chicken ($10) we tasted when we visited. We can’t promise it’ll still be on the menu when you go, but there will always be something new to snack on!
On the flip side, if you want to go the most traditional Korean on the menu, opt for the Han Saang menu. This is kind of like the Korean version of small plates, and is typically eaten at a huge table where everyone has their individual bowl of rice and then piles it up with whatever goodies they want. Bring a group and then take your pick from options like the not-to-miss Galbi ($15), AKA succulent grilled Korean short ribs, Korean pancakes ($8), Squid Tempura ($8), Spicy Edamame ($5), Kimchi ($3), and more.
Namu is also unique in how much the care they put into their coffee and alcohol options. They’re famous for having the most gorgeous Matcha Latte in town ($4.50), and also offer a full range of other caffeinated options using Counter Culture beans.
In terms of boozier sips, you can choose from a handful of local beers and wines by the glass at the cafe, or walk over to the beer hall for a more extensive selection (30 beers on tap, 120+ cans or bottles, and 25 different wines).
- Namu can be a bit tricky to find the first time—it’s hidden away off Highway 501 across the street from New Hope Commons. You’ll pull into an unpaved lot and feel like you’re in the wrong place, but you’re not. Parking can get surprisingly packed, but there’s extra space behind the restaurant that a lot of people don’t know about, or you can park in New Hope Commons and walk over if things are too crazy.
- Don’t miss the sauce bar! Scattered throughout the Namu space are seven different sauces you can slather, dip, and otherwise enjoy with your meal. Think traditional flavors like soy sauce and sweet & spicy to Joe and Bo’s signature spicy sauces. Find your fave or try them all!
- While Namu has plenty of seating and you’ll typically be able to find a spot, they do take reservations for groups of 8 or more. Han Saang party, anyone?
- Dogs, cats, and pets of all patterns are welcome in the garden and beer hall—just keep them out of the cafe space, please!
- Want a little extra spice? Namu holds a Latin Dance night every third Thursday in their Beer Hall! From 9-9:30p you can join a free class and then dance the night away until after midnight. The crowd is usually 200+ folks deep, so expect a party!
- For a little extra bit of local flair, pay special attention to the art on the walls. Local artist John Knox likes to come in and spend a couple hours creating pieces he calls “Namuvision,” which he then gives to the restaurant.