The Best Korean BBQ Restaurants In Houston guide image


The Best Korean BBQ Restaurants In Houston

Feast at one of these places and leave with nothing but the faint smell of charcoal on your clothes to remember them by.

When you’ve got a hungry crew and a hankering for grilled meats, cheesy corn, and soju, Korean BBQ is an easy choice. The only difficult part is deciding which combination dinner will feed your entire party, and maybe also strategically configuring the side plates of banchan on your table like a giant game of Tetris. Perhaps you’re looking for bountiful buffets with rows and rows of meat, a more high-end take with dry-aged steak, or a classic, boisterous atmosphere where you can drink soju from a watermelon. Whatever your needs are, these are our nine favorite spots for Korean BBQ in Houston.


Handam BBQ

Handam BBQ in Chinatown might just be our favorite place to go for a KBBQ dinner speed-run. The food hits the table mere minutes after you order, with lightning fast servers zipping around the room, working the grills at every table, while still finding time to crack a joke. Aside from a couple stalks of bamboo on the wall, the design of the dining room is pretty minimal. But you’re not here for the space, you’re here for the smoky charcoal-grilled marinated short rib, and to drink soju out of a watermelon. And if your stomach is feeling particularly bottomless, Handam offers two all-you-can-eat options.

Mapojeong in the Heights serves as a KBBQ catch-all. Equal parts minimalist industrial dreamscape and warm, family-run business, Mapojeong is a more modern and fun KBBQ spot. The crowd ranges from blushing first dates to cheerful, animated birthday groups. The grills at Mapojeong are always packed with some serious slabs of meat. Alongside it, egg souffle cooks on the grill’s side panels, patiently waiting to be scooped up and added to the party. And while you can captain the grilling yourself, the staff has no problem flipping every single piece of meat for you (and if you’re lucky, one of the owners will come to assist on the grill and treat you like an honorary family member).

An AYCE oasis, Bon Korean BBQ in Chinatown is where you go to shovel as much kimchi, beef galbi, marinated rib meat, and pork belly as your heart (or stomach) can handle. The buffet here is filled with rows upon rows of bulgogi, ribeye, short rib, and almost any other grillable meat you can imagine, and there’s also scores of hot dishes, salad options, and a nearly overwhelming amount of banchan. But be warned: Bon KBBQ charges a $20 fee for any uncleaned plates, so make sure that your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach. Or, at least, make sure that someone at your table can pick up the slack.

Step inside Seoul Garden in Spring Branch and you’ll have to gingerly cross a bridge over a small indoor pond that's complete with a waterwheel just to get into the dining room. The ambiance is pretty understated: a few portraits, a handful of plants sprinkled around the room, and the subtle hum of the propane grill at your table. You’re here for the caramelized thin strips of pork bulgogi and beef brisket that make their way to your table along with a parade of banchan. And while the menu here is pretty standard, there’s plenty of food to choose from (including the side salad with an invigorating ginger dressing), and the staff allows you to take over the grilling as you see fit.

Between the excellent cuts of meat that come straight from the dry aging room, and the staff that cooks for you like it’s their greatest honor, eating at Karne in the Heights feels special. The experience is worth digging your nice blazer out of the closet. It’s a seriously high-end take on Korean barbecue, and it’s also a place to see and be seen—you’ll spot about as many designer bags as you will plates of marinated meats. As fabulous as the glimmering chandeliers and the sexy mood lighting are, the primary focus is still the meat. Get the “karnivore platter,” which comes with five different cuts and plenty of banchan, and get a crash-course in what Karne has to offer.

Outside of the retro peacock-feather looking wallpaper, BBQ Garden in Spring Branch doesn’t have all that much in terms of decoration. But what they do have is a bunch of private dining rooms with sliding doors that close about 80% of the way, so you can have your very own exclusive BBQ party. Still, it’s clear that the main focus here is the food. Order one of the combinations, but be sure to at least include the beef brisket and spicy bulgogi. The staff leaves you to do the cooking on the tabletop charcoal grills, but they’re only a quick button press away if you need a kimchi refill or two.

Lucky Palace Korean Restaurant in Chinatown is where we like to head for a laid-back KBBQ lunch or dinner, with bouncy blue booths and amber lighting that gives everything in the restaurant a soft glow, even in the middle of the day. Here, it’s all about the beef, so order any combination platter that involves beef brisket, marinated beef ribs, or succulent Kobe-style beef brisket. The servers will grill the food for you, and if you politely insist on grilling it yourself, they will just as politely decline your request. Come to Lucky Palace when you’re in the mood for an easy-breezy KBBQ experience that’s in no rush, as long as you aren’t either.

Tree Garden in Spring Branch has two of our favorite KBBQ essentials: a menu long enough to count as a chapter in a book, and enough soju in house to satisfy even the largest of birthday gangs. The servers leave you to your own devices, circling back once in a while to make sure you’re still OK, but that gives you plenty of time to dive into caramelized meats. While this might not be the most life–changing place you’ll ever have KBBQ, it’s pleasantly low-key and you can admire the little things, like the many adorable house plants that sit atop the dividers.

At Korea Garden in Spring Branch, diners are set adrift in booths like little meat grilling cabanas, framed in dark wood, all cloistered around a central table with bonsai and a mini reproduction Korean village. The lighting is dark, as though lantern-lit, people are yelling and celebrating in various private rooms, and one waiter is definitely singing. And while Korean Garden’s menu is predictable, it is delicious, and able to feed as many people as you can stuff into the wooden booth seats (probably at least eight). Grab a few friends, select a grill combo plate, and make sure to share the corn cheese.

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photo credit: Richard Casteel

The Best Korean BBQ Restaurants In Houston guide image