The Best Korean BBQ Restaurants In SF
photo credit: Melissa Zink
SF doesn’t have a dedicated Koreatown, but huddling around a smoky BBQ grill is still one of the city’s preferred activities on an all-too-common misty night. Whether you’re looking for bottomless AYCE piles of marinated meats, or spots where you can order bulgogi by the pound, there are plenty of great options for tabletop grilling across town—especially in the Richmond and the Sunset. So round up a group, pick your designated meat-flipper, and head to one of these places. And if you’re looking for a more general guide to the best Korean restaurants, we’ve got that, too.
At Brothers Restaurant in the Richmond, the grills use real charcoal rather than gas—and the difference shows. Every strip of meat, whether it’s the spicy pork or the juicy bulgogi, picks up an impressive smoky quality in the short timespan between hitting the grill and hitting your mouth. We like to order a la carte, but if you’re out of decision-making capabilities for the day, you can go for the menus that are portioned out in two-, four-, or six-person sets. We also love this spot for the excellent endless banchan and the fact that other menu items, from heaps of japchae to bubbling soondubu, are also worth your time.
The back patio at Um.ma in the Sunset is hidden from the street view, but once you make your way through the restaurant and out to the backyard, you’ll be greeted with a full-blown meat extravaganza. R&B throwbacks blast through the speakers. Soju refills are constantly being poured. And the tabletop grills (only available out back, but you can order other Korean classics inside) are sizzling away with pork belly, bulgogi, and kal bi that you order by the pound. Yes, the aforementioned meat is the main event, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t also get a round of chicken wings and their wonderfully crispy seafood pancake.
At Han Il Kwan, your table will look like an opulent banquet before the high-quality meats even arrive. This Richmond spot seriously doesn’t skimp on the generously portioned banchan. As for the meat, the heaps of deeply flavored spicy pork, bulgogi, and pork belly are must-orders. Even though the BBQ and banchan are more than enough food for a wolf pack (set menus that feed six and eight are also available), you’ll also want to get the crispy skinned mandu and the vegetable-packed japchae. There’s also no going wrong with either the perfectly spicy soondubu or super fluffy egg soufflé—you get one choice on the house.
In the Venn diagram of affordable AYCE deals and high-quality meats, Kogi Gogi hits that sweet middle spot. The Sunset restaurant is our go-to for big group hangs or casual weeknights when we can’t be bothered to change out of our sweats (a solid stretchy wardrobe choice for this meal, anyway). The long space is as laidback as it gets, and the thinly sliced pork belly, chicken bulgogi, and beef bulgogi are packed with sweet-salty flavor. Their house special, which runs Monday to Thursday, is also one of the best deals in town: for $28.99 a person, you get your choice of four meats and three sides like corn cheese, gyoza, or tteokbokki, which ends up being more than enough food to feed a crowd.
Out of all the spots in this guide, K-Elements has the most range. The Richmond spot has a lengthy menu of meat (including cuts you don’t typically see at KBBQ spots, like filet mignon) and an impressive selection of seafood. We especially like the spicy baby octopus, which are thoroughly coated in a decently fiery marinade. This place is always packed with a revolving door of friend groups, families, and dates catching the game on one of the big TVs—so come early or expect a wait. The grilled protein palooza will run you $36.95 per person.
Zajang Grill in the Richmond is a spacious maze of tables, tons of TVs, and overhead hoods painted with mountain ranges. Oh, and meat. Lots of meat. The AYCE Korean BBQ spot, which is covered in striking red, black, and white murals, is ideal for any last-minute group dinners revolving around well-marinated bulgogi and thick cuts of miso pork belly. It’s easy to walk right in and pack a group around a tabletop grill, and you’ll spend your allotted 90 minutes ($40.99 a head) throwing back soju and getting endless refills of pretty solid banchan, seaweed salad, and gyoza. Plus, you get a little scoop of ice cream at the end, which is the ideal finisher before you head home and promptly knock out on the couch.