(Updated on May 2018 with Hmart menus) When it comes to food courts, I’m usually not a huge fan but I was curious when I heard about the new H Mart out in Cary. The one Triangle location for a chain of Korean supermarkets had a large Asian food court and during my first quick visit, it had a line 50 deep on a Saturday! So I took a pass but had to try again on a weekday lunch slot and can tell you it was totally worth the wait. If you’re a fan of Asian eats, I’m sure something here at the H Mart food court will tickle your fancy.
Head on over to High House and Davis Road and in the same plaza as Doherty’s Irish Pub, you’ll find the huge H Mart store. Focused on Korean groceries, you’ll find a tremendous variety of fresh produce, seafood and meats that will make Grand Asia’s selection pale in comparison. But we’re here for the food court today which is conveniently located on the right hand side of H Mart. Over in the food court you’ll find a variety of store fronts with all sorts of interesting names: Sogongdong Tofu House, BBQ Chicken, Thai Pantry, Don-Don Udon-Donburi and Kang Nam Town ring the food court in counter-clockwise direction. There’s a final option, Tsuki Ramen and Hibachi on the other side of the produce area.
When you’re ready to order, head on over to the K Town area where you’ll find two cash registers and a line in front (this order setup may have changed). At H Mart you order at this one centralized area and then pick up your food at one of the nearby food service stalls. While there are a handful of laminated paper menus, the six HD panels overhead at K Town will give you the full array of lunch offerings for your meal. And what a choice you’ve got! Korean food, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, fried chicken, pastries and more. You can get pad thai, drunken noodles, curry, General Tso, udon noodles, donburi, bibimbap, galbi (short ribs). Note that while the food court here is not expensive, it’s not cheap either with most item prices ranging from $8 to $18. I order up some secret, sweet spicy chicken and bulkogi, yum! Check out the sample menus below from May of 2018.
Your receipt is a crucial part of the process because they will flash your number on screens at each stall when your food is ready. The tricky part is that I have no clue where my food will appear so I’m scanning all 6 stall areas for my number and food! From there, I grab a drink from the refrigerated case and then grab a seat in the community dining room. While the food court is pretty large at H Mart, the seating/dining area is a bit small and crowded for the number of patrons it handles. And since the food is to order it takes some time. My Korean fried chicken comes out first in about 15 minutes and it looks delicious!
While H Mart serves about 8 or so types, my sweet and spicy chicken is wonderful. Korean fried chicken is double-fried resulting in a thick, dense crust smothered in a mostly sweet sauce. And it’s a huge portion with 10 or so pieces for the half order ($13). The chicken is tender and perfectly cooked, I only take a couple of bites because I know I’ve over-ordered and want to save my appetite for the main meal. The entrees at H Mart are served up on plastic trays so I’m not sure how I will be taking home some of my extra food! Also they didn’t give me any napkins with my chicken which is odd given how much sauce it has on it. And there’s no apparent napkin dispensers so I have to ask for some extras from a stall, sigh.
Next up is my bulkogi and at $16, it’s not a cheap plate. But H Mart serves it up sizzling on a thick ceramic platter with banchan (pickled sides) and a nice portion of short grain rice (sticky). The beef is sauteed ribeye with the sweet tinge from a great soy-sesame-sugar marinade. It’s all a nice contrast from the savory onions and part of why I love this classic Korean dish. Paired with the rice, it’s a very tasty treat and very well-done. I wolf down as much as I can but it’s a lot of food, especially since I snuck in some chicken beforehand.
Next up is finishing off this meal and clean-up. H Mart suggests self-busing your tray and plate back to the stall you get it from but it’s not apparent how. I find one to bring my bulkogi tray back to and then head over to the fried chicken area to get a take-home box, mission accomplished. So overall I was pretty happy with H Mart’s food court but there are definitely some serious kinks to work out. No obvious or clear ordering system, limited menus on TV screens, no napkins/condiment self-service, no easy take-home boxes and limited seating. But even with all that, I’d come back to try out more food, I guess all the operational hurdles are the price you pay to get authentic Asian eats here. You’d be best off coming with 2 – 4 people so you can divide and conquer on the food and seating. So thank you H Mart for bringing more options to the Korean and Asian eats table. While you’re a bit confusing right now, I hope things get better as you get settled in at your new Cary location!