The Best Korean Restaurants In Chicago

When you’re dreaming of kimchi fried rice, seolleongtang, or Korean fried chicken, here’s where to go.
Chopsticks lifting cheesy tteokbokki.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Chicago is home to tons of fantastic Korean restaurants. Some have been grilling kalbi and making kimchi for decades in former Koreatowns like Albany Park and Lincoln Square. Others are newer places with fusion tacos or French-influenced fine dining. But whether you're looking for KBBQ, a tasting menu with Hi-Chew-makgeolli sherbet, or just want to tackle a beer tower and plates of bossam while BTS music videos play in the background, you can expect an excellent meal at any of these 18 spots.

If you're just looking for KBBQ, check out our guide to the best spots in the city.


photo credit: Ssyal


Albany Park

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerSerious Take-Out Operation
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This Albany Park institution has been around since 1988, and is most famous for samgyetang, its signature ginseng chicken soup. The fame is justified: their whole cornish hen stuffed with rice and sweet jujubes is fall-off-the-bone tender and floats in a rejuvenating, light broth. But while the soup is a must-order, everything is a hit, like the sweet galbi or dakdori tang, a spicy chicken stew with potatoes and carrots. Syaal’s chill, casual space is often filled with people quietly eating to a soft instrumental soundtrack—the perfect environment for a chicken soup spa treatment.

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Korean flavors and French techniques come together at this eight-course tasting menu spot in West Town. Some dishes are straightforward like tteokbokki with creamy quail egg and punchy mustard seed. But the less conventional dishes show off Jeong’s creativity best, like salmon tartare with earthy dwenjang gastrique and crispy rice, or refreshing kkaetnip granita with pear gelee that perfectly bridges the savory and dessert courses. At $135, it’s not cheap, but the excellent food and intimate, minimalist space is a great choice for a special date night, or a dinner with a few friends and their surprisingly big tax refunds.

Dancen is dark, windowless, and smoky, but unlike the basement where you played Guitar Hero in high school, this pocha is worth revisiting. “Pocha” in Korean normally refers to covered, outdoor drinking places, and this Lincoln Square spot channels that street energy into its tiny space. The smell of charcoal and seasoned meat hovers as packed tables share crispy pork intestines and the cooks grill chicken drumsticks that are the star of Dancen’s best dish: cheesy fire chicken. It’s very spicy, but the incredibly sweet and savory gochujang marinade convinces you to snack through the heat. And if you and your friends need to cool down a bit, Dancen's soju cocktail pitchers can help.

With a name like Crisp, their KFC (“Korean fried chicken,” not to be confused with the poultry from a certain colonel) better be, well, crispy. But not only does this casual BYOB spot in Lakeview know how to fry up a bird—twice-fried for added crunch—they also know how to properly sauce one, thoroughly coating each jumbo wing in their housemade BBQ, buffalo, or Seoul Sassy. The latter is our favorite, a sticky, sweet soy sauce-based glaze that’s gingery, garlicky, and worth the mountain of paper towels you’ll need after. And when we say these wings are jumbo, we mean it—an order of five, if not three, counts as a whole meal.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

San Soo Gab San is the banchan king of Chicago. The moment you sit down at this KBBQ staple in Lincoln Square, an army of complimentary side dishes appear making free table bread feel like a minimal effort. From kimchi to broccoli muchin, to myeolchi bokkeum, there are over 25 things to snack on. The seasoned cuts are particularly fantastic, like bulgogi and sweet and savory wang kalbi which has extra charcoal flavor from the grills. The bright space lined with exhaust pipes has plenty of room, perfect for tired coworkers to liven up again with some meat and banchan after a long week.

The Maria Standard at Kimski is an excellent smoky polish sausage, topped with a funky kimchi-sauerkraut hybrid. It’s a perfect embodiment of this casual Bridgeport spot’s Korean-Polish-American identity, in which straightforward classics coexist harmoniously with crossover dishes. The menu has spicy rice cakes or chap chae, along with perogies topped with soy sauce-infused sour cream or a cheesy bulgogi sandwich we think about daily. Plus, since it’s connected to Maria’s, an old-fashioned slashie (a bar-liquor store hybrid), you can sip on a refreshing cocktail or beer either at the bar or on the spacious patio.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik



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When you press the buzzer to enter Tak’s hidden basement location in an office building, it feels like walking into a legal meeting. But this South Loop pocha is actually an ideal party spot, full of tasty food, tons of drinks, and karaoke. The space is dark, mainly relying on table lamps and Kpop music video projections for lighting, with plenty of tables for groups, plus five private karaoke rooms if your dinner morphs into a Mariah Carey marathon after a couple of somek towers full of beer and soju. Their menu has a wide range of dishes, like comforting and spicy budae jeongol, crispy seafood pancake, and fatty bossam, whether or not you want them to absorb some booze.

Bonyeon's $255, 13-course, two-hour, wagyu-centric tasting menu sounds like a lot—and it is. But if you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday, this West Loop restaurant is a great fine dining option. And though the elegant space, price point, and compact 12-seat space might suggest a level of stuffiness and a soft-voices-only policy, dinner here is relaxed and easygoing thanks to some friendly chefs. Cow is front and center for 80% of the meal—hello, tenderloin topped with bone marrow and bone broth with thin noodles. But you'll also get a couple of equally delicious palate cleansers, like yuzu scallops or patbingsu, so you don’t have to worry about “meat overload.”

Most of the menu at this Albany Park spot features Chinese dishes like kung pao chicken or Mongolian beef, but it’s the Korean-Chinese staples that should be prioritized. Peking Mandarin’s sweet and sour pork has a crispy batter that miraculously avoids sogginess even when drenched in the tangy sauce, and their jjajangmyeon (cha chiang mein on the menu) is full of umami. It’s perfect for take-out, though there are plenty of tables for a family-style dinner, complete with old-school Chinese zodiac placemats to help see just how compatible you are with your Tiger or Ox friends. Just a heads up: they only take cash or Zelle.

Colorful K-pop music videos blast from the TV screens inside this always-busy Korean restaurant in Rogers Park. And showing up with friends is essential, not just because of the raucous party atmosphere, but because the servings are huge. Their crispy popcorn chicken or seafood pajeon make perfect drinking snacks, but we also like splitting a huge plate of Hawaiian-style kimchi bokkeumbap packed with spam, bacon, pineapple, mozzarella cheese, and eggs. The family-style plates naturally make it perfect for a birthday, especially if you want to keep the party going at U-Star Karaoke next door.

Seeing the block-long line of people outside Cho Sun Ok in North Center can trigger memories of DMV purgatory. But waiting in line for this decades-old BYOB spot is way more rewarding than ending up with a mid-blink license photo. The meat is cooked in hot stone bowls on top of gas burners, some of which are portable while others are built into the tables. Regardless of your cooking setup, you’re in for a delicious meal. Sides like chewy japchae or haemul pajeon are tasty, but focus on the meat, particularly the thinly sliced brisket and the bulgogi marinated in sweet soy sauce. At the end of the meal, the staff mixes any leftover kimchi, bean sprouts, and rice for crispy kimchi bokkeumbap as a complimentary “dessert.”

If San Soo Gab San and Cho Sun Ok are the old guard of Chicago’s KBBQ scene, Perilla in River West is the hip, new kid on the block. The stylish dining room is decked out in dark wood, vibrant abstract art, and grill tables with shiny gold kintsugi streaks. It’s good for a casual dinner with friends who think meat is the foundation of the food pyramid, but there's also more than enough mood lighting for a date night. Their meat-tasting plates cover a wide range of cuts from fatty duroc pork belly to buttery A5 Miyazaki wagyu, and a $20 upgrade adds sweet and salty dukbokki with bulgogi, crispy mandoo, and soybean stew. And with a long drink list, there’s no shortage of wine, cocktails, and tangy omijia-flavored makgeolli to sip on between meaty bites.

Back when Rice N Bread was a Wrigleyville diner called Hamburger King, a customer asked for “something special” and was served a vegetable, meat, and egg stir-fry with gravy-soaked rice. Now known as the Akutagawa (based on the customer’s name), that creation and other Hamburger King dishes like omelets and teriyaki stuck around after the name change in 2013, making it a great spot for Asian-American diner staples. The updated menu also has tasty Korean classics like crispy seafood pancakes, comforting soondubu, and bulgogi and eggs. But the highlight here is the R&B burger, an excellent play on soy sauce-marinated tteokgalbi topped with tart kimchi and spicy mayo. This small spot is decorated with hundreds of pictures of past patrons, so good luck trying to figure out who else helped influence the menu.

Great Sea is another decades-old casual spot in Albany Park with tasty Korean-Chinese food. But while we like their bowls of jjajangmyeon or jampong, their incredible lollipop wings (also on our best wings guide) are why we’re OK dealing with all of the potholes on Lawrence. At one point, Great Sea even had an “eat as many wings as you can” challenge with a wall of fame featuring pictures of top-performing poultry-obsessives. Each plate comes with around 12-15 pieces of chicken that stay crispy regardless of how long they hang out in the sweet and spicy sauce. Chances are, every table will have at least one order.

The rules of Han Bat are simple: bring some cash and lose yourself in a bowl of seolleongtang. The milky white ox bone soup with glass noodles is the main focus of this casual Lincoln Square spot’s short menu, and the only decision to make is which cuts of beef you want. Our favorite is the ox tail—tender chunks of meat floating in a beef broth that’s seasoned to taste with salt, fresh green onions, and the zesty radish kimchi that comes on the side. There are only a few tables, but it’s rarely packed so grabbing a seat is easy.

When this spot opened in 2009 in Evanston, they were one of the only Korean fusion restaurants, and the Black Eyed Peas had everyone saying “you’re so 2000 and late.” All of that has since changed—BopNGrill is now based in Rogers Park and Lakeview, Korean fusion is no longer novel, and we’re a little bit closer to the year 3008 that Fergie famously rapped about. But one thing remains constant: the delicious food at this casual Korean burger joint. The patties are juicy and loaded with toppings like cheese, kimchi, and a fried egg. Sure it’s sloppy, but hey, that’s why some genius invented napkins. Crispy kimchi cheese fries are also a must-order.

This tiny Avondale food stand inside Joong Boo market is a great place to snack on kimbap or have a full-blown Korean meal with banchan and bowls of spicy soondubu. During prime mealtimes, the few tables and counter seats can be packed with families eating chewy ddukbokee or solo diners diving into a bowl of beefy galbitang, so plan any grocery shopping (and eating) for the morning or afternoon. The dumpling stand outside the market also has some giant mandoo to-go.

BopNGrill was one of the city’s first places to focus on Korean-inspired burgers, but Del Seoul was one of the first in Chicago to use corn tortillas as a canvas for Korean flavors. So while this casual Lakeview spot does have tasty traditional dishes like spicy yukgaejang and dolsot bibimbop, you’re here for the Korean BBQ tacos. The best one is their panko-breaded shrimp topped with a sweet and spicy sesame chili glaze, but the kalbi and BBQ pork ones are also great. For a non-taco fusion option, there is also a kalbi poutine loaded with braised short rib, cheese, and tangy crema.

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Suggested Reading

Kalbi grilling on a charcoal grill, surrounded by many plates of banchan.

The Best Korean BBQ In Chicago

Where to find the best Korean BBQ in Chicago.

The Best Restaurants In Albany Park image

Our favorite restaurants in the neighborhood.

The Best Restaurants In Rogers Park image

Our guide to the best restaurants in Rogers Park.

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