Woo Nam Jeong

5953 Buford Highway, Atlanta

As cuisines go, I have a difficult confession to make: I’ve never been a huge fan of Korean food. The delicate nature of Vietnamese cuisine, the heat of Thai, the stark stoicism of Japanese food — all have enticed me far more than this cuisine’s sturdy realm of flavor, often enhanced with fermented and preserved vegetables.

But when a newfound friend — a Korean friend — tells me she’d like me to try a Korean restaurant on Buford Highway, I listen and go.

I’m so glad I did. Woo Nam Jeong (Stone Bowl House) offers all the Korean classics — bulgogi, dolsot bibimbap and soondubu — but with a homey difference.

Meals here seem to be prepared with a loving hand and splash of panache from owner Young Han.

Opened last spring, the tidy restaurant is tucked away in Seoul Plaza, and the moment you step through the door, you know you’re in for a treat: the smell of kimchi, garlic and sizzling galbi (sweetly marinated beef short ribs brought to the table on a griddle, fajita-style) meld to make your mouth water.

Since my friend could navigate the menu — and wait staff — better than I could, I found on subsequent visits that certain little goodies I wanted to try again were available only if ordered from the restaurant’s newish 12-course menu — most notably persimmon tea with pine nuts, a sweet, cold, ginger-laced treat for after the meal, as well as sweet rice cakes (boo koo mee) crowned with slivers of dried jujubes.

The meal (for two at $59.95) is a tour of Korean comestibles: fish cakes, cold jellyfish, pan-fried pumpkin, beef short ribs. Not wanting the full 12 courses, we asked for a few items a la carte, but no go.

Which left us to peruse the incredible span of banchan, from traditional napa cabbage kimchi to khakdugi — hot radish kimchi cut into bite-sized cubes — and an appetizer of a giant seafood pancake, delicately pan-fried until the edges are seared and curled — a masterpiece of sweet and savory, with shrimp and scallions, all at once.

Dolsot bibimbap seems fresher here than elsewhere. The mixture of hissing rice with vegetables and marinated beef topped with a perfectly fried egg, stirred under at the table, is even better when bits of the rice that browned against the stone bowl get thrown into the mix.

A classic noodle dish such as jap che — a simple stir fry of mixed veggies with rice noodles — is a lunchtime repast, but one of the kitchen’s finest efforts, along with the tender galbi and kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew). Spiced with kimchi and hot pepper, it’s hot in fire and soul, with firm slices of tofu layered across the steaming surface.

Woo Nam Jeong’s soulful, balanced approach to Korean cuisine places it high on my list of Buford Highway picks — a confession I’m happy to make.

Woo Nam Jeong

Overall rating:

Food: Korean

Service: Very attentive and polite

Price range: $ - $$

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

Hours of operation: Open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Best dishes: Galbi, kimchi stew, bibimbap, seafood pancake

Vegetarian selections: Many options for vegetarians

Children: Yes

Parking: Adjacent lot

Reservations: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes

Smoking: No

Noise level: Low

Patio: No

Takeout: Yes

Address, telephone: 5953 Buford Highway, Atlanta, 678-530-0844

Web site: No Web site

Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.

Key to AJC ratings


Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.


One of the best in the Atlanta area.

Very good

Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.


A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.


Food is more miss than hit.

Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.

You can write your own review here .