“The reason why people drink boba tea is because of our innate evolutionary need to suck frog eggs from a pond.”
This message is in bright red capitalized letters on a white board outside Chi’s Korean Tacos. It provides a succinct and comical parallel to the dining experience at Chi’s—timely served food accompanied by a charming atmosphere.
Chi’s Korean Tacos occupies a cozy spot in downtown Eugene next to the public library and central bus station for the Lane Transit District. If you’re riding the Emerald Express inbound to Eugene Station, you’ll be confronted with the taco shop’s iconic grinning orange cat immediately after stepping off the bus. The orange cat’s eyes are closed and he has a satisfied smile on his face as he holds a taco in his outstretched paws. The cat’s obvious loving admiration for the taco is something we dream of in a partner.
There’s no inside seating and customers order at an outside window. If standing outside for your order is a deterrent, there’s options for delivery and calling in advance for pickup. For those visiting on a whim, rest assured the wait isn’t long and there’s enough character displayed on the restaurant’s exterior to make the short wait feel even shorter.
The aforementioned “meme” board (which is updated regularly) is on display near the ordering window. Other tongue-in-cheek signs and messages decorate the premise. A black board exclaims in white letters how it’s doing a great job being a menu without actually mentioning any of the available food. The shop’s window is peppered with advertisements for local events and peering inside reveals a plethora of quirky merchandise. A large Hello Kitty plushie lounges on a barstool next to a baby Yoda. The bell at the ordering window is accompanied by a sign that encourages customers to ring it louder because “Chi is deaf.”
My friend and I ordered the “box” (rice, choice of protein, and choice of kimchi or Korean salad) and a burrito (choice of protein, Korean salad, radish salad, rice, and cheese) respectively. We both went sweet and spicy beef for our protein option.
The spicy beef mixed with sour fermented cabbage in my burrito created a unique blend of flavors that I was initially skeptical of, but found myself enjoying more with each passing bite. I was born and raised on grease dripping, forearm sized California burritos stuffed with carne asada and French fries. Chi’s burrito on the other hand offered a relatively “dripless” clean experience that didn’t leave my stomach rebuking my decision making. The use of a sticky white Jasmine rice more commonly found in Asian dishes rather than Cilantro or Mexican rice made the burrito feel denser as I bit into it. The size for the price was also a welcome change of pace compared to a lot of dining locations in Eugene. Eugene occupies that weird (and insulting) ecosphere of a small college town that likes to charge big city prices to all the transitory college students. My friend and I both ate at Chi’s for under 20 dollars while down the street has a restaurant charging 13 dollars for a mediocre chicken sandwich that had the audacity to not come with fries or a drink.
Don’t worry, my friend and I did feel immediate and crushing shame for not getting tacos at the taco shop, so we decided (without needing much pressure) to revisit Chi’s and try out the tacos. After devouring four tacos in quick succession, I imagine my face began to take on the same satisfied smugness of the shop’s orange mascot. The tacos were wrapped in two tortillas and filled to the brim with toppings and meat. I had sweet and spicy chicken and panko breaded bacon nugget tacos, while my friend had chicken strip and sweet and spicy pork tacos. I never knew I needed bacon nuggets in my life, but the crispy texture and salty flavor had me reevaluating my dietary habits. My friend was a fan of the chicken strip taco, and while they were only able to put down three of the four tacos they ordered, they were quick to bag up the remaining taco for later. For complementary sauces, Chi gave us “one of each” (which came out to 8). Some were clearly identifiable, like spicy mayo and teriyaki, while others were labeled “WTF” and provided a colorful taste we weren’t able to identify, but nonetheless enjoyed.
Overall, Chi’s Korean Tacos is a fun fusion experience that’s worth visiting if you’re in downtown Eugene.
Chi’s Korean Tacos – Takeout, curbside pick-up, and delivery
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tacosformybelly (where the owner has the menu and frequently posts the goofy whiteboard messages)
Hours: Monday through Friday: 0900 to 1800
Saturday: 1130 to 1730
Address: 30 W 10th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 636-6136
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