This year my brother’s varsity b-ball team was tasked with raising funds for the upcoming season.  As we’ve never solicited donations before we decided to come up with a plan to approach local businesses that we go to or are connected to in the Northeast side of El Paso.  We ended up with a list of at least 20 different businesses.  Some we approached face to face.  Others we only had time to extend an invitation through email to participate if an email contact was available online.

Our idea was to provide these local businesses with the opportunity to donate what they could in exchange for a note on our website about their business.  Therefore, we only focused on where we do business.  Growing up in the Northeast, local businesses are a big deal.  Especially local restaurants that have been serving our communities for many, many years.  Some our entire childhoods & lives.  We’re connected to these places not because we’re buddies, friends, or family, but because of the quality of their service and the fact that we love going there.

On Every1Plays, one of our goals is to promote these local businesses… to write stories about them and share them with whomever is visiting our webpage.  A lot of these places have great stories and histories worth telling.  And perhaps these notes will encourage you all to visit and support what they’re doing here in our communities.

Although there are also a lot of bad businesses out there, we’re only interested in focusing on the places you should go check out whether its to eat or do business.  Perhaps you will like it, perhaps not, but your responses to these places are welcome… good or bad.

Our first Every1Plays Goes2Review is Han IL Gwan Korean & Chinese Restaurant on 9477 Dyer Street.  We’ve been going there for well over a decade.  It’s our family’s favorite lunch time restaurant.  Growing up our Dad always knew the best Korean restaurants in town and we’d go there often.  My father loves kimchi which is a blend of a lot of vegetables & spices.  I’ve never gotten around to mustering up the courage to try this dish.  My father would bring some home often and when we were at a Korean restaurant its the first thing both him and my mom would start eating.  I just had a hard time getting passed what it smelled like and have never gotten use to it to even attempt to try it.  But I got a rep for being finicky, so don’t take my word for it.  Our family loves this dish and anytime we’re at Han IL Gwan, its at the table.

At Korean restaurants my all time favorite has always been the bulgogi dish.  It’s simple, but has a distinct taste.  It’s a stir fry of tenderized thin strips of beef, fajita-like, but even thinner and tastier.  Often times its mixed with onion or at Han IL Gwan, cabbage.  It’s a favorite of mine and always has been.  It arrives with steamed rice and a drink (teas or soft drinks).  I’ve had bulgogi in different restaurants around town, but no where do they prepare it as good as at Han IL Gwan.  The lunch time bulgogi plate is perfect and complimented with an opening nutritional appetizer of cabbage soup (baechu). The appetizer is one of my favorite appetizers in town and always has been going back to my childhood years visiting Korean restaurants. My father is much more familiar with other dishes on the menu, including kimbap, yaki mandu (which I prefer homeade), and another one of our favorite kalbi.

What I’ve always loved about Korean restaurants is the selection of sides.  All mostly vegetable based that go perfect with any of the dishes you decide to order.  At Han IL Gwan you determine your serving amount of the side dishes which are accessible near the tables, similar to what you find in a buffet.  With the amount of choices, its best to select the amount you will eat as there is no need to over indulge or to be as wasteful as in unhealthy-all-you-can-eat style buffets.  This is not an eat til’ you drop type of restaurant.  At Han IL Gwan, its the healthy quality of the food and the clean welcoming environment that you’re paying for.  My favorite sides include the seaweed salad and a sweet cabbage that is thinly sliced.  It goes perfect with everything else on the table.

Other notes about what I love most, includes the jeon that comes with the meals.  It’s a pancake sort of side dish with a bunch of vegetables.  While at other Chinese restaurants, I’m prone to compliment meals with egg roles, this is the only place in town where you’ll have the chance to enjoy jeon with your main order.  It’s delicious!

Often times my father and mother will have a number of other side dishes in front of them, whether its kimchi or salad.  Everything about eating at Hans IL Gwan leaves you full and refreshed to continue the day if you go for lunch or to close the evening for dinner.  It’s conveniently located off of the Diana exit from the Patriot Freeway, easy to access parking, and a great environment to enjoy with your family, or for a meeting, or even by yourself if you need to take care of some work or school.

I do hope one day to have the opportunity to interview the owner to discuss their history serving the El Paso community and the story of their restaurant.  I hope after reading this review you’ll make plans to visit!  If you’re as finicky or paranoid as I tend to be in unfamiliar places, you can’t go wrong with the foods I’ve mentioned and bolded above. After you’ve had what I have, it will be much easier to try other dishes when you revisit, including their menu of Chinese dishes.  Personally, I love bulgogi too much to try anything else.  This is true even when I visited the Bay Area.  After discovering a Korean restaurant in the Bay, I must’ve ate there at least four times within my three day visit and each day it was for bulgogi.  Nevertheless, I may take up my own advice and try a few other dishes every now and then as my brothers and father have done when we go to Han IL Gwan restaurant.

We want to thank the Han IL Gwan for their support of Andress High School WAB basketball.  When we contacted local businesses in the Northeast they were the first to step up and for that we’re forever grateful.  We’re not very good at raising funds and with as tight as the economy is these days, especially for locally owned business, we’re super grateful & thankful for their contribution to our school.

Again, please visit Han IL Gwan with your family or for yourself or with a co-worker when you’re thinking about eating out.  Or if you’re visiting from out of town, drop in!  Amongst the restaurants considered historic in our community, its important not to forget the Northeast and restaurants like Han IL Gwan, which is also big amongst the military community here in El Paso.

Below is the only picture I could find from my cell phone of the restaurant!  I know I have other pictures which must be buried in an archive of thousands of digital photo files from my cell phone.  Next time I’m there I will take better pictures of the plates, menu, and the space inside.  It’s a wonderful restaurant!

sidesThank you to everyone at Han IL Gwan for your service to El Paso and support of #WAB basketball!

Lecroy, Jr.