The Green Street LIC Brings Healthy Korean BBQ With A Twist
New organic restaurant blends Korean, Mediterranean cuisines under a “paleo-friendly” philosophy
by Rey Mashayekhi
For Katherine Oh, food is a passion. But not just any kind of food: organic, “paleo-friendly” cuisine that blends her beloved Korean barbecue with the tenants of the increasingly popular Paleolithic diet (meat and vegetables are good, while dairy, grains, sugar and other processed foods are bad). With her new restaurant, The Green Street LIC, Oh has brought this exciting, delicious fusion to Long Island City.
The restaurant, which opened in early October, occupies an unassuming brick building at 10-39 47th Road, between 11th Street and Vernon Boulevard. But inside, Queens native Oh has transformed a space formerly occupied by a construction company into a gorgeous dining experience, complete with a décor that nods to the neighborhood’s industrial past.
Super-high ceilings, sparse cement walls and large, industrial-style windows are illuminated by exposed lighting fixtures that provide the space with a warm, golden glow, and diners are seated at enormous, wooden butcher blocks that have been converted into tables complete with decorative meat grinders and – most importantly – embedded gas grills for cooking and grilling meat.
“I don’t want to get categorized as a Korean restaurant,” Oh said on a recent October afternoon at her newly-opened creation. “We’re an organic kitchen. The menu is not from just one country.” While The Green Street LIC’s menu does feature Korean barbecue staples like kalbi, bulgogi and pork belly, it also veers toward Mediterranean items including beef kofta, kebabs, octopus and shrimp (Oh, whose parents owned and operated Korean barbecue and Korean sushi restaurants in Queens, borrowed liberally from the cuisine of her fiancé’s family, who are Egyptian).
So how does The Green Street LIC adhere to its paleo-friendly philosophy? For one, “We don’t use sugar in our entire space,” she said. That includes eschewing soy sauce entirely, making dishes like fried chicken wings and seafood pajun (a Korean-style pancake) with almond flour and tapioca instead of regular flour and starch, and serving coffee with more wholesome sweeteners like agave.
Drawing from her own experiences of looking for a healthy, guilt-free meal after leaving an intensive yoga session or workout, Oh hopes her restaurant will provide health-conscious LIC residents with a new and attractive dining option in the neighborhood. “I feel like this neighborhood has a lot of new apartments, [but] not enough food,” she said. “Here, you can eat a lot and still be happy about it.”
Green Street LIC’s menu is even color-coded to help guide patrons through Oh’s array of delicacies, with paleo-friendly items written in green and vegan items in red. The vegan falafel appetizer, served with tahini and fire-roasted paprika, comes not in its more common, rounded, ball-like shape but in a flatter, slice-like incarnation – a style that helps cook the falafel more evenly, Oh said, and leaves them no worse for wear. The sizzling Brussel sprouts, meanwhile, are made with Korean doenjang paste, anchovies and parmesan – and though they’re not paleo-friendly, they are delectable.
There is also a selection of salads – which, as Oh put it, “are paleo except for the cheese. So if you want paleo, we’ll just take out the cheese” – as well as a breakfast menu that leans more toward standards like egg sandwiches, frittatas and sweet potato hash. “Korean people don’t really eat breakfast,” as Oh put it. “The Korean idea of breakfast would be a bowl of rice, kimchi and an egg.”
But the real bread-and-butter of the menu is found in its diverse, mouth-watering array of barbecue options. One can either order Korean BBQ classics like marinated or unmarinated kalbi (short rib) and marinated bulgogi (thin-sliced ribeye) a la carte – or, if you’re really serious, opt for one of three “sets” on The Green Street LIC’s menu. Each set comes with an array of proteins and sides meant to feed two; the first set features the aforementioned cuts of beef, as well as unmarinated pork belly (sweet and chewy), marinated pork jowl, and ginger chicken thighs (marinated with garlic, scallions and tamari sauce). They’re all thrown onto your table’s embedded gas grill and cooked, right in front of you, to your liking. The sides include bowls of steamed egg and a hearty, spicy seafood tofu stew, and a delightful spread of organic vegetables including garlic-marinated eggplant, marinated zucchini, pickled shredded daikon radish, spinach and kimchi.
The second set tilts more towards the menu’s Mediterranean offerings (marinated chicken kabobs, grass-fed beef kofta, garlic Spanish octopus and lemon garlic marinated shrimp, with sides of beet salad, falafel, cauliflower in tahini and more), while the third set eschews the meats for vegetable kebab and an array of vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, marinated eggplant and mushrooms.
And once you’re done with the main course, you can choose from a selection of the “Rawsome Treats” that comprise the desert menu – an all-vegan, all-paleo-friendly affair crafted by Oh’s friend Watt Sriboonruang, a desert chef and Muay Thai fighter who makes delicious treats that one can still enjoy if they’re, say, trying to cut weight for a kickboxing bout. Both the banana cream pie (which features a coconut cashew almond crust) and the trisome berry pie (chocolate chip crust and dark chocolate drizzle) taste as good as they sound.
Regardless of what you pick, what’s clear is that Oh has created a distinguished culinary experience that stands out among Long Island City’s ever-growing restaurant scene – and arguably that of New York City, at large. From the idiosyncratic menu, to the ambiance that serve as an homage to the neighborhood’s heritage, and even the planned mural on the restaurant’s exterior that Oh has commissioned a former 5Pointz graffiti artist to paint, The Green Street LIC belongs entirely to its own time and place.