In America, barbeque culture typically involves outdoor festivities highlighted by the deliciously smoky air of charbroiled meats. However, Korean barbeque is much different. It’s more than just food, it’s an experience. The popularity of K-pop, K-drama, and even K-beauty, has spread the foreign food fad to food connoisseurs across the globe. Now in our local neighborhoods, you can experience a taste of your bias’s favorite authentic South Korean eats. Although approximately 0.7% of the United States population is made up of Koreans, the restaurant industry has made an outstanding impact by bringing in 6 billion dollars in revenue in 2018.
Many love K-BBQ for the unique experience of being able to grill the choicest meats with friends while grooving to the latest K-pop hits. Maybe you’re wondering what’s all the hype about paying to cook your own food? Believe us when we say, you have to try it to believe it. One perfectly grilled strip of slightly charred, but full bodied in flavor samgyeopsal, will change your life. Here are some U.S.-based restaurants where you can personally experience this goodness.
Koreatown, LA, as the name implies, is home to all things Korean including some of the Yelp top-rated restaurants; namely, Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ. In an area populated with significant competition, the acclaim comes from their refreshing take on bulgogi. Seng bulgogi is like the idolized healthy sister who does face masks every night. The difference between Seng Bulgogi and its more popular counterpart beef bulgogi is in that it isn’t marinated, but is instead cooked in a healthier, sweet broth. For both enthusiasts and newbies, patrons highly recommend this place to amp up your K-BBQ game.
- New York
Jongro BBQ is hidden on the 2nd floor of a building in the heart of K-Town and is truly one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Although their menu showcases a variety of all-time favorite dishes, they boast of having fresh specialty cuts of meat not typical of other Korean restaurants. This comfortably spacious eatery along with its Instagram-worthy decorum mimicking a “Tiny Korea” has done more than simply pique the interest of tourists. After eating there for the first time, one reviewer considered the experience “an incredible journey to another world.”
Texas is well known for firing up the sweetest brisket and hosting the best grill-offs of the South. With their love for everything charred, there’s no doubt the Korean take on barbeque is just as drool-worthy. Charm Korean BBQ in Austin, Texas delivers southern hospitality combined with the authentic taste of Korea. Local food critic Matthew Odam shares his dining experience with magazine “Eater Austin,” complimenting the array of flavors, noting that “the food never feels redundant or uniform.”
As the saying goes, “There’s no place like home,” but Honey Pig has brought a replica of Korea’s Homestyle barbeque joints right to residents of the slowly emerging Korea town of Ellicott City, Maryland. From the hustle and bustle of waiters seamlessly weaving through tables to K-pop blasting through the speakers, this cozy joint is the real deal. The alluring smoky aroma and the sound of sizzling bibimbap can be enjoyed at all times up until their closing at 4am to conquer all your late-night munchies!
Looking for a quieter spot with the perfect balance of ambiance and great tasting entrees? Look no further than Iron Age. Iron Age provides more of a night life vibe perfect for dates compared to the usual bright and noisy element. Here you can enjoy an all you can eat menu including shrimp, curry chicken, a variety of flavored bulgogi including pineapple (yum!), and so much more.
For those of us that crave new experiences, Ryuu Asian BBQ stirs together three worlds for a beautiful ensemble of deliciousness. The contrast between the light flavors of Japan, spicy notes of Thailand, and warmth of Korean comfort food, makes for a powerful triage. The variation of tastes may seem daunting, but you can be assured the menu has something for everyone to relish over.
While K-pop continues to dominate the world, Korean barbeque rises as a fiery opponent with a fan base stemming all the way from little neighborhoods of South Korea to busy New York City streets. Have you tried your hand at the art of K-BBQ? If not, check out our guide to become a pro!
Written by Serena Jackson