The Best Korean Restaurants In SF

When fried chicken, barbecued spicy pork, and cheesy kalbijjim call to you, head to these spots.
The Best Korean Restaurants In SF image

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Let’s get this out of the way: you usually can’t go five seconds talking about Korean restaurants in the city without some transplant going off about how there’s better Korean food in LA. But LA this is not. Really. In SF, you'll find homey restaurants serving incredible comfort dishes, upscale spots doing fancy twists on Korean classics, and buzzy places for knockout KBBQ—if you know where to look. For steamy bowls of soondubu, sizzling platters of galbi, and spicy raw crab, use this guide.


photo credit: Melissa Zink



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerBirthdaysBYOB
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Sliding into a booth to give yourself a soondubu steam facial is always the move at this Richmond restaurant. Like the name suggests, My Tofu House is bean curd paradise. Their menu is centered around soft tofu soups packed with silky tofu, plus meats and vegetables. They’re bright red stunners, rich with umami and spice. We also like rolling up to this low-key spot to dive into the barbecued meats and bibimbap. The bulgogi is caramelized on the edges, and the galbi is charred within an inch of its life in the best way. The fact that rice is scooped out of a big stone pot tableside and the banchan is refilled faster than you can blink ensures you won’t ever want to leave. 


photo credit: Erin Ng



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San Ho Won is one of our highest-rated spots. Allow us to count the reasons why. Every dish is a masterpiece, and every time we sit in the dark, minimalist restaurant in the Mission, we transform into short rib fanatics. Melt-in-your-mouth galbi will make you seriously question everything you thought you knew about beef. Egg soufflé is so fluffy it’ll ruin all future eggs for you. And even the small plates, like corn dressed up with a squiggle of honey butter or griddled galbi mandu, are more than worth the endless rejection you’ll likely endure on Tock to get a table. And because dinner isn't cheap, keep a meal here top of mind for birthdays, special group dinners, or any time you decide to pull out your nicest non-puffer coat and feast like a royal over the city’s best galbi. 

Ask us where to go for a relaxed Korean dinner, and the answer will be Muguboka. This place on Balboa and 5th Avenue in the Richmond is chill, quiet, and homey—basically, all the words you want to hear if a quick dinner alone or with a buddy is on the agenda, and you have an aversion to overly fussy. There’s always a table, a big screen TV that plays things like Wheel of Fortune on mute, and the staff is attentive and friendly. A constant stream of neighborhood regulars pack this place to fill up on comforting dishes. The tofu soup is perfectly velvety, with a balanced spicy-sour broth, and the kimchi pancake is full of flavor and not overly oily. And turn to the Korean BBQ section, where you’ll find a reasonably priced and well-charred galbi and a beautifully marinated bulgogi.

You’re at Han Il Kwan to gather around a flaming hot tabletop grill and cook some of the best KBBQ in town—as well as surround yourself with the most generously portioned banchan. Seriously, your table will look like an opulent banquet before the high-quality meats even arrive. The deeply flavored spicy pork, sweet-salty bulgogi, and pork belly are must-orders. While the BBQ and banchan are more than enough food for an army (set menus that feed six and eight are also available), you’ll also want to order the crispy skinned mandu and the vegetable-packed japchae, and ask for either the perfectly spicy soondubu or super fluffy egg soufflé which come on the house. Han Il Kwan’s atmosphere strikes a great balance between buzzy and laid-back, so use this place for casual dinners that call for a good time around heaps of BBQ. 

Dinner at Um.ma always adds up to a fun time. The fact that this Sunset restaurant has one of the best restaurant patios in the city, with throwback music blasting through the speakers, likely has something to do with it. It’s also got a backyard party ambiance that always gets us feeling loose—you can grill bulgogi on the tabletop grills out back, or slide into one of the tables in the mostly stark white, minimalist dining room that looks like a museum cafe, and roll with the a la carte menu of hits. Don’t skip the crisp seafood pancake, citrus gochujang-glazed pork belly, or the ginger sesame soy wings that should win a Nobel Prize for “Chicken Dishes That Could Create World Peace."

We’ll do anything for excellent homestyle Korean dishes, including wait on the sidewalk with a dozen other spicy pork-loving people for our turn at one of the tables at Manna (even though they’re packed in, there aren’t a lot of them). But your reward for standing in a line is food that never disappoints. This constantly crowded Sunset restaurant serves barbecued meats and comforting classics, like bouncy japchae and spicy soondubu. Remember to tack on an order of chicken wings for the table—they’re well-coated in sweet-and-spicy sauce, and have a very respectable crunch factor. 

photo credit: Julia Chen

This spot is Temporarily Closed.

You won’t find Korean handrolls at most places in this guide, let alone the city. So we’re grateful this incredible quick-hit, counter-service spot exists. The yubu chobop, or tofu skin pockets filled with vinegared rice and topped with flavor-packed meats or vegetables, will single-handedly turn your day around. There are a dozen-ish chobop on the menu, and getting any one of them is a foolproof path to lunch success. Don’t overlook the miso pork, which is crowned with a spicy-sweet pickled jalapeño, or the tender chopped-up bulgogi. This excellent lunch—coupled with the neon purple “Good Vibes Only” sign and music videos playing on loop—make it hard to leave in a bad mood.

You go to Jjamppong for the spicy raw crab: six small crab halves sitting underneath a gigantic mound of vegetables covered in chili sauce. Put on a plastic glove, squeeze out the translucent, gelatinous-looking meat onto the snacking seaweed and rice that goes with it—and prepare for red sauce to go flying. This dish is messy, fun, spicy and zippy all at once, and worth a trip to this always-crowded Korean Chinese spot in the Outer Mission. But don’t shy away from their other Korean specialties. There’s a fantastic seafood jjamppong, an onion-heavy jajangmyeon, and some of the plumpest double-fried chicken wings around. Even with a wait, this place is exactly what a notch-above-casual weeknight dinner should be. 

The kalbijjim from Daeho is covered in cheese and then blowtorched tableside with the air of an Olympics opening ceremony. When one dish is A-list-celebrity famous, you have to put on a show. The gooey and bubbling beef stew is perfection, and why you’re lining up down the block to get into this buzzing Japantown spot. Tables are always filled with people who are also here for the well-balanced kalbi bibimbap, seolleong tang with tender brisket and perfectly chewy noodles, and other dishes served in portions large enough to feed a pack of insatiable bear cubs. You may have to be rolled out, but it's a welcomed part of the experience.

photo credit: Jeremy Chen

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSmall Plates


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At Bansang, a restaurant by the Daeho people, traditional Korean flavors are jazzed up with modern twists in the form of exciting small plates. You’ll see rice cakes served in a creamy gochujang tomato sauce, charred romaine salads with tender bulgogi resting on top, and thick galbi that’s plated like it’s the centerpiece of a modern art exhibit. Eating it all in a space that looks like a wood cabin mixed with a boutique hotel lobby is a great way to punch up Friday night dates, or dinners that hit the sweet spot between laid-back and fancy.

photo credit: Melissa Zink

$$$$Perfect For:Late Night Eats

We won’t sugar coat it, Cocobang is where to go when you’re sh*tfaced. And, yes, while the food alone isn’t necessarily worth crossing town for sober, it’s the best when you need to soak up a night’s worth of tequila—or, more likely, grab a soju pitcher and keep things going. This Lower Nob Hill spot is one of the more fun places to grab sizzling plates of corn cheese, crunchy Korean fried chicken, and solid versions of bright red tteokbokki and kimchi fried rice late at night, and this place leans into it. There are K-pop music videos projected on the wall, plenty of beer and soju to go around, and energy that keeps the restaurant buzzing until 2am.

photo credit: Melissa Zink

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdays

The all-you-can-eat KBBQ scene isn’t exactly plentiful in this town, but K-Elements proves it’s about quality over quantity. The AYCE spot in the Richmond is packed nightly with people of all ages flipping slices of pork belly and zucchini on a smoky grill. Their meat selection is lengthy (over a dozen options), and you’ll see everything from filet mignon and saucy bulgogi to baby octopus. There are also add-ons like soondubu and some solid sweet chili chicken wings. The easygoing space is also full of neon lights and wall TVs playing sports, in case you need to distract yourself while waiting for the 3rd or 20th round of meats to arrive.

This Korean restaurant specializes in drinking snacks like chicken wings, bulgogi tater tots, and fried seaweed spring rolls—a.k.a. what you want to fill up on as a pregame warm-up to a night in the Marina. But Ilcha’s stylish, shareable plates don’t just involve a fryer. Bubbling hot pots are on most tables, filled with everything from tofu or ramen to kimchi and baked beans. Go for the bulgogi version, which is loaded with cabbage, rice cakes, mushrooms, and bouncy japchae. And the must-order soy-cured shrimp are a sweet and salty dream. Eating it all against all-white walls and a striking mural is a great way to feel chic before losing your dignity at some nearby bar.

One reason to break that lifelong pledge to avoid Fisherman’s Wharf forever and always: dinner at Surisan. Even though this Korean American spot is in the thick of tourist central, somehow it doesn’t feel like it. Probably because you’re too distracted by heaps of not-too-sticky chicken wings, perfect kimchi fried rice with bacon, solid Korean BBQ plates, and, if you come for brunch, galbi jjim benedicts and loco moco. This place is from the same folks who brought you Kitchen Story and very good trademarked thick-cut candied bacon, and we’re grateful for them. Lunch or dinner on their group-friendly front patio or inside the casual dining room always leads to a “no-complaints-here” meal. 

Toyose is located inside a converted garage, but unlike our third-grade science projects, most of what comes out of this place is actually pretty good. It’s open until 11:30pm daily (1:30am Fridays and Saturdays), and late night is when you should come here—both because that feels like the right time to eat out of a converted garage and the Korean food they serve is filling and perfect for after you’ve had a few drinks. We like the seafood pancake with shrimp, calamari, and vegetables, the kimchi fried rice, and the kimchi stew.

The point of Purple Rice in the Lower Haight is the ability to customize Korean rice bowls, stews, and sizzling plates. Depending on what you order, you’ll get to choose between white or purple rice, spice level, and add-ons like fish or rice cakes. You’ll also get to decide whether your day requires a mini or large stone bowl of well-charred spicy pork or some other barbecued meat. This casual spot has a pretty straightforward menu of Korean mainstays you’ll see all around town. This includes a stellar soondubu, japchae, fried rice, and starters like the extra crispy fried chicken wings with a sweet and sour sticky sauce drizzle. Use this place for quick and filling lunches or dinners. 

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