The Best Korean BBQ In KoreatownOur favorite spots around 32nd Street to have someone grill meat at your table.
One reason we love Korean barbecue is because your meal goes from zero to 60 real quick. Once you place your order, everything from cheesy egg soufflés and banchan to seafood stews and marinated cuts of meat descend on you within a matter of seconds. If you’re confronted with a wait at any KBBQ spot on 32nd Street, you have plenty of backups in this guide. Just remember—wear something that you won’t mind smelling like smoke.
On a street loaded with KBBQ, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (which started opening locations in California in 2012) stands out as the most consistently good option for tabletop grilled meats. Wait times can be horrendous, so arrive early and have somewhere to hang until you can be seated. (Prepaid reservations are available for parties of six or more with a $60-per-person minimum.) Expect loud music, a mostly-drunk crowd, and fantastic charred beef and pork alongside egg custard and cheesy corn cooked in moats around your grill.
Jongro is on the second floor of a nondescript office building, and there’s minimal signage to point you in the right direction. But take the elevator up one flight, and you’ll wind up in an enormous room that looks like a small village that happens to be indoors. We typically get any platter that comes with pork belly—but the beef is great as well, and you should get some of both if you’re with a large group. Don’t be surprised if there’s a long wait. Put your name in and then kill some time singing Queen songs (poorly) at any of the nearby karaoke bars.
Is it lame to say that the name of this restaurant is exactly how we feel about it? Yeah, but it’s too late now. Situated on the corner of 32nd and 5th, this fun three-story place has spinning rainbow-colored lights, a bar in the basement, and DJs every weekend after 6pm. They have several combos ($109 to $269) to choose from that come with a cornucopia of vegetables to throw on the grill, and our favorite is the one that comes with both beef and pork. Add some smoky and peppery japchae along with their custardy truffled steamed egg. We’d come here just for those two things.
If your bills at KBBQ spots rival the monthly rent for a parking spot in the city, you’re better off going to Let’s Meat. For $43 (for the classic meal set) or $49 (for the signature one), you get 100 minutes to order as much as you want. This place is loud, so if towers of beer and unlimited marinated hanger steak and spicy chicken turn your outing into a Major League Eating competition, feel free to cheer each other on. Let’s Meat is one of our favorite spots to celebrate a birthday, so invite a bunch of friends to pregame before whatever shenanigans you have planned the rest of the night.
K-Town has a ridiculous number of places where you can eat galbi and pork belly—but there aren’t many spots that specialize in the intestinal cuts known as gopchang. If that’s what you’re looking for, head to Gopchang Story. Located on the second floor of a narrow office building, the brick-lined space is noisy and casual, and it tends to stay packed with groups going to town on sizzling platters of meat. You can choose from tongue, heart, entrails, tripe, and both small and large intestine—or you can do the responsible thing, and get a combo ($30-$90, depending on the size).
What used to be Wonjo changed ownership in 2010, thus the name change. This two-story place is one of the few KBBQ spots that uses charcoal instead of gas, which gives the meat a distinct flavor. The huge menu has meat combos portioned for two or four people, and you can get a wide range of other dishes from bo ssam and mandoo to bibimbap and noodle soups. New Wonjo used to be open 24 hours, but now you have to put in your last order before 4am. If this upsets you because you can’t get grilled galbi here at 5am anymore, we totally understand.
On the 39th floor of a building in Koreatown, Gaonnuri serves cuts of sirloin and pork neck that you can cook at your table with the whole city at your feet. All the meats are good, but we’re partial to the deeply-marinated galbi and the pork belly. You can find similar—or even better—KBBQ down at street level for a third of the price, but a sky tax should be expected. Ideally, you’re either here celebrating a special occasion, or you have an expense account. Just keep in mind that you can only reserve a table right by the windows if you opt for their tasting menu.
One of the more modern-looking KBBQ spots, Nubiani has higher prices and smaller portions compared to most places in the neighborhood. You get to the dining room via an elevator in a lobby that probably looked exactly the same in 1977. The long, narrow room is crowded, loud, and mostly dark except for spotlights that make you feel like you’re on an operating table. You’ll get some high-quality banchan to start your meal, and the extremely tender marinated short rib is one of the best in Koreatown. Skip the squid and beef pancake, but not the spicy cold buckwheat noodles that perfectly compliment all the hot and fatty grilled meat.
If you suddenly come upon an outdoor setup on 32nd Street filled with flowers and greenery fit for a third-tier royal wedding, you’ve arrived at Antoya (formerly Samwon Garden). The interior, where you’ll see a lot of booths spread out across three floors, is more generic though. They don’t offer combos that include both beef and pork, so you’re better off ordering things—like very good fatty pork jowl and flavorful prime ribeye—à la carte. Unlike a lot of KBBQ places, the non-meat offerings are limited, consisting mostly of rice bowls and stews like a solid soondubu jjigae with clams, shrimp, and other kinds of seafood.