The Best Restaurants In Koreatown
photo credit: Dan Ahn
Just north of 30th Street, Manhattan transforms into a land filled with tourists, office buildings, and souvenir shops that also sell electronics for some reason. Finding food in this area can be difficult—but not if you go to Koreatown. This is one of the smallest neighborhoods in the city, with a good restaurant every few feet. And we mean that literally. If you need help narrowing down where to eat in K-Town, here’s a guide to our favorite spots.
On a street loaded with KBBQ, Baekjeong—which started opening locations in California in 2012—stands out as the most consistently good option. Apparently, the rest of the city agrees, because wait times at this restaurant can be horrendous. Either make a prepaid reservation (available for parties of six or more), or arrive early. Every table is outfitted with a tubular stainless steel vent that looks like a slightly intimidating probe, and you should expect loud music and a mostly-drunk crowd. All of the meat options are fantastic, and everything else—from the pork mandu and seafood pancake to the egg custard and cheesy corn—is just as great.
Walk into Osamil, and you’ll hear The Isley Brothers, Otis Redding, or some other kind of old-school R&B that’ll make you want to hang out in the dimly-lit space for several hours. It also doesn’t hurt that this little Korean pub serves some of the best food in the area, with a great kimchi pancake and various other things like uni bibimbap and a burger. There’s a bar up front where you can drink or eat by yourself, and the dining room in back is perfect for a slightly upscale meal with friends, parents, or your friend’s parents.
On the eastern fringe of Koreatown, there’s a Neo-Romanesque building that once housed a society of bibliophiles. Now, it’s where you’ll find Moono, sister restaurant of tasting-menu spot Jua. This place may look like a wood-paneled cathedral, but, aside from a few truffle shavings, there’s nothing too fancy happening here. The menu mostly consists of pristine takes on classics like KFC and galbi-jjim, and the soundtrack is oddly, but not unpleasantly, clubby. Come with a small group, explore the cocktail list, and share the crispy-skinned branzino.
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, starting around $100, that come with a cornucopia of vegetables to throw on the grill. Our favorite is the one that includes 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.
Woorijip is a New York City institution, and it’s where you should go for a quick grab-and-go meal around 32nd Street. While it previously featured a buffet setup, the brightly lit space now looks like a bookstore—but instead of beach reads, the shelves are stacked with packages of satisfying homestyle Korean food. There’s kimbap, fried chicken, bulgogi, mackerel, japchae, and roughly a million other things, most of which cost less than $10. Take your food to go, or heat your meal in one of the microwaves and grab a table.
Let’s Meat is loud, so if towers of beer and unlimited marinated hanger steak turn your birthday dinner into a Major League Eating competition, feel free to cheer each other on. Your group will have 100 minutes to order as much as you want from the $43 classic or $49 signature meal set—both of which come with brisket, ribeye, pork belly, and many other cuts of meat. Invite a bunch of friends to pregame from a beer fountain before heading to Karaoke City around the corner afterwards, where you can keep the party going in your own private room.
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 town that happens to be indoors. This is one of our favorite spots for Korean barbecue, and we typically get the platter that comes with a few large pieces of pork belly—but the beef is great as well. There will inevitably be a wait when you come, so put your name in, then kill some time at the karaoke bar on the 7th floor.
Her Name Is Han specializes in homestyle Korean food. All of the dishes are uniformly excellent, and the space itself looks like the film set of an improbably large New York City apartment. Come with a group and share a large pot of seafood stew, then supplement with some dumplings, rice cakes, and pork belly. This place is not only one of the best options in the area, it’s also one of our favorite restaurants in the city. And you can book a table pretty easily online.
When you’re at Take 31, you drink makgeolli. The cloudy, sparkling rice wine goes perfectly with some tofu stew or fried chicken, and you can get it in slushy form blended with ingredients like kiwi and banana. This place is from the owners of Her Name is Han, and the food here is slightly less traditional, but just as good. You can get things like short rib lasagna with gochujang bechamel, squid fried rice topped with flying fish roe, and various soups and hot pots. Take 31 is popular, so make a reservation if you don't want to wait an hour for your table.
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 order a combo. Get some fried rice to round out your meal.
If you're going to be spending hours "singing" songs from Wicked and Les Mis while drinking bottles of soju in K-Town, it's probably not a great idea to do all that on an empty stomach. So start your night at BCD Tofu House (a mini-chain that started in LA) on 32nd Street for a spread of banchan, hot stone bibimbap, and one of their signature tofu stews. There might be a wait when you get here, but the two-story space is large, and they usually do a good job of getting parties in and out. The menu has a lot of options, so this is an ideal spot to go when you know you're in the mood for Korean food, but you're not quite sure what you want to order.
At Itaewon Pocha, you’ll drink a bunch of cocktails that taste like they’re equal parts sugar and soju. That might sound reckless, but this neon-lit Korean gastropub serves exactly the kind of food you need to soak up a ton of booze. Get some kimchi dumplings smothered in a cream sauce as well as an order of cheesy rice cakes mixed with a ton of seafood—and don’t skip the bulgogi fries. This is a late-night place, so come after 10pm for the full experience, and try not to fall off your little plastic stool.
Turntable Chicken Jazz used to be located on the second floor of a regular-looking office building on 5th Avenue. Now, it’s around the corner in a street-level location—and it’s still a great place to eat fried chicken and drink beer from neon vats as you look at vinyl records all over the walls. The best dishes at Turntable are the boneless and bone-in wings, served either spicy or sweet and sour. If you need to supplement your order, try the awesome bulgogi burger or a sword made of thinly sliced fried potatoes on a stick.
Bangia isn’t the kind of place you go when it’s light outside. The underground space doesn’t have any windows, and sitting alone in a big, dark soju bar is not in line with your New Year’s resolution to be a happier version of yourself. Instead, come here with your friends who usually get a second wind after midnight, and order huge soju cocktails for the table along with bar food like pork belly, fried rice, and spicy chicken covered in mozzarella. This place is open until 2:30am on weekends.
Cho Dang Gol has been around for a few decades now, and they still give you a little bowl of their famous housemade tofu along with the rest of their banchan to start your meal. This is one of the city's top destinations for homestyle Korean food, so expect a wait, and bring a group so you can try a bunch of things, starting with the sundubu jjigae. The casual space is minimally decorated and filled with plain wooden tables, and it's not as hectic as most of the other spots in the neighborhood.