Though it doesn’t happen often, there are times when I am truly surprised by a place that I had weird misconceptions about for whatever reasons. While perception may be reality in some cases, there will be times I’m dead wrong and walk away humbled. Luckily, I’m usually walking away with a satisfied belly and an appreciation for a new experience.
I made my first visit to Loft 28 a few weeks back after being invited to try the food by Craig, the face of the place. I was a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know that this cross between a restaurant, bar, and club had a regular menu, which was mostly why I had never gone before. Despite my ignorance, I had become familiar with the many events and specials taking place through Facebook advertisements.
A few friends and I arrived on a quiet weeknight for dinner. The establishment wasn’t too hard to find, especially with its bright sign that was easy to view from block away. Once we made the climb upstairs, I was instantly charmed to see that one of those restaurant call bells had been fashioned to resemble a doorbell, really driving that concept of visiting a home, well, home. We were greeted by Craig and Duchess, his beautiful and well-behaved dog, who I’ve been told only hangs around on slower nights. Once seated, I may have been too distracted by puppy time before getting into review mode. Thankfully, I was in the company of patient people.
When it came time to finally check out the menu, my attention was immediately drawn to two main features: Gourmet Submarine Sandwiches and Jamaican Cuisine. As those are two food options I’m not used to seeing in this city, I was excited. The sandwich options included Cuban (pork shoulder), King Richard (cold cuts), and Miss Joyce (tuna) and came in two different sizes (28cm and 56cm). For Jamaican cuisine, there was a choice between a Jerk Chicken Dinner and 1 KG Jerk Chicken. The other menu options included appetizers like Loft 28 Fried Chicken & Tenders and Loft 28 Chili Nachos, and there was even Hummus for vegetarian guests. Though I don’t drink alcohol, I was drawn to the drink menu by more unique offerings like the Espresso Martini an the Jamaican Rum Punch. After receiving some recommendations, we ordered the Chili Nachos, the 56cm Cuban, and a Jerk Chicken Dinner. I also got the Loft 28 Chai Latte, as I was craving something warm to drink.
After we placed our order, things got busy in the kitchen while my friends and I went back to doting on one of the sweetest dogs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Time flew by while our food was being prepped, but the relaxing atmosphere combined with nice music made it easy to chill without feeling any sort of rush or pressure.
The first dish to arrive was the Loft 28 Chili Nachos, which came topped with cheese and jalapeños (these cost extra). As someone who has developed trust issues with anything claiming to be chili on this side of the world, I was impresssed to see that this chili had been made with hefty chunks of meat instead of small amounts of the ground stuff that had been stretched out with too much sauce that I had grown used to receiving. More importantly, this stuff had heat. The spices were bold and held up well against the chips, cheese, jalapeños, and even the extra hot sauce I put on top of all that. I also sipped on my Loft 28 Chai Latte during this part of the meal, which was nice and creamy, but seemed to lack some of the necessary to spices make it truly authentic.
Just as soon as we finished inhaling our nachos, we received our Cuban, which actually came cut in two for easier handling. As much as I wanted to dive into my portion of this long sub, there was apparently one more step left to finish this already delicious looking sandwich. Before I knew it, a blowtorch had been lit at my table and was being used to toast up the top of the lightly buttered bread. It was definitely fun to watch, and that extra heat really helped bring out those lovely, toasted brown marks that I love to see on my warm sandwiches. Now, the description of the sandwich said it was made with tender pork shoulder, ham, onions, dill pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard, but it did nothing to describe just how flavorful this whole thing was. The pork was the star, as it was juicy and had been marinated with something that made it wonderfully tangy and delicious. The marinade had made the meat a little pink, which was a surprise until I was thoroughly assured that everything was properly cooked. Honestly, I could have eaten an entire plate of this pork on its own and had a good night. Having it in a sandwich with other ingredients that elevated it made it a great evening.
The last of our dishes to arrive was the Jerk Chicken Dinner, which came with a healthy serving of chicken, some shrimp fried rice, and a simple salad. I knew from the aroma of the chicken alone that I would soon be falling in love. One bite of that spicy, beautifully seasoned protein, and my assumptions became a reality. Each bite was a succulent flavor bomb that had the perfect amount of heat and smokiness that could make even the blandest part of the chicken into something lovely. It should be noted that Craig is actually from Jamaica and that the spices used in this chicken are sent over by his mother. It really doesn’t get anymore legit than that. The simple shrimp fried rice offered a nice and savory contrast that my friends and I found addictive, and the salad helped cool things down while giving us a different texture to an otherwise soft dish.
Overall, the food combined with the service at Loft 28 was lovely. We finished off with some drinks (I got a virgin cocktail) and had fun simply chatting as the hours slipped away like nothing. Though I will admit that the prices here can be a little steep, especially when compared to the many other restaurants and bars in the area, nothing quite beats that feeling of comfort that can only be achieved in such a welcoming and relaxed setting. While this place is open to anyone and everyone, I would highly recommend checking social media to see what sort of events or deals may be going on before making a visit. Quieter types may not be interested in trying to have a meal in the middle of Open Mic Night, and more adventurous types may want to learn some moves at a Latin Dance Class. It’s always good to be prepared. There are also escape rooms which can be played in Korean, English, or a blend of both. Just be sure to make a reservation before showing up for one of those.
Address: 광주광역시 북구 용봉동 157-20 3층 (right next to Yongbong Park)
Hours: 5:00PM to 2:00AM
Average Price Range: 15,000 per person for food