Seoul Korean BBQ And Hot Pot
Written byPhil Sparr
As a white kid growing up in Nebraska, my palette was pure hayseed. I lived on cereal, plain cheese pizza, PBJ, or hamburgers with nothing on them. If you had told 10-year-old me I’d grow up to eat haemul pa-jeon or anything with gochujang on it, I would’ve said you were f*cking crazy (I had a pretty foul mouth). But my, how times have changed. As the son-in-law to a real deal Korean oma, I had to step up my game and Seoul was one of my proving grounds. It’s also been the site of countless get-togethers and celebrations.
When visiting family or friends in Aurora, most options for dinner are of the Red Robin or TGI Friday’s variety. But you can do a hell of a lot better than that. Seoul is what you need, and the fact that the Korean community has been flocking here for years vouches for its legitimacy. It’s a wonderland filled with fermented food, noodles that require scissors, and most of the ocean.
The huge variety of dishes here can be intimidating, so first timers should rely on someone in the know to order and enjoy the ride. Alternatively, try Seoul for lunch. The menu is smaller, there’s a lot of good food for cheap and no crowds. If you’re coming with a larger group, definitely call ahead to reserve a private room. You’ll get a nice quiet space without sacrificing the grill table or the wireless waiter call button. The call button is a Korean restaurant staple and is essential, since service can be hit or miss. The only other inconsistency here is that the banchan (free side dishes) can vary between outstanding and pedestrian. But hey, they’re free and shout out to the dude who has to do all those dishes.
Fried beef and pork dumplings that are juicy and savory. We prefer steamed mandu (which are not offered here), but these are pretty decent.
Also known as kimchi pancake, this is an awesome pan-fried flour batter with sliced kimchi and kimchi juice. Perfectly spicy.
If you’re a baller and don’t mind dropping almost $20 on an appetizer, get this fantastic medley of pan-fried flour batter, eggs, and seafood that will easily serve a table of 4–6.
The national dish of Korea for a reason. What’s not to like about meat + rice + veggies + fried egg? Not a damn thing. We’re also big fans of Dolsut Bibim-bap, which puts the same ingredients into a sizzling clay pot. It’s so good when the crispy rice at the bottom gets soaked with yolk and beef juice. Don’t forget to use liberal amounts of gochujang (spicy-sweet chili sauce). A very approachable dish for first timers.
Soon-Tofu (Sundubu Jjige)
A delicious spicy tofu stew served in a boiling clay pot with seafood, beef, or veggies. Definitely order this as Sundubu Jjige (soon-da-boo ji-gay), because it’s one of the most fun things you can ever say.
Cold sweet potato noodles that are so long and dense, it’s traditional to cut them with scissors. Affectionately known as “choke noodle”, this is a great dish to beat the summer heat.
An ideal place to start for the uninitiated. Cooking your own meat on a table grill is a unique joy that’s akin to gathering around a campfire. It just works on so many levels. The bulgogi (thin beef slices) and galbi (beef short ribs) are outstanding and marinated in a delicious house soy sauce. Not to be left out, the dak-bulgogi (chicken thighs) is super juicy and tender and should be ordered with extra gochu for more spice. You can’t go wrong here. Enjoy your meat sweats.
Sashimi, roe, rice and veggies are just about our ideal combo of ingredients and this one doesn’t disappoint. Think of it is bibimbap’s fancier cousin.