10 Best Korean Barbecue Restaurants in Los Angeles
Genwa's kobe beef
In recent years, Los Angeles has been enjoying a resurgence of American-style barbecue with restaurants such as Spring Street Smoke House, Chop Daddy and Horse Thief. But when it comes to barbecue in L.A., Korean barbecue reigns supreme.
There seems to be a restaurant with tabletop grills in every strip mall, food court and plaza in Koreatown. It can be difficult to remember which place with a pig's butt on the sign you most enjoyed. Maybe it was across the street from the place with bull's horns, the star or the crown. We're here to help you navigate the Hangul signage and find the best Korean barbecue in L.A.
10. BBQ Crown
BBQ Crown, originally called Well-Q, quietly opened three years ago in tiny hut in a strip mall. The signage and menu are intentionally sprinkled with Konglish by the American-born owner, Susan Lee. BBQ Crown specializes in smoked duck that's cooked for three to four hours in a $37,000 smoker that's hidden on the restaurant's patio. Boneless, whole duck is trussed and gently smoked. The tender, smoke-infused meat is served in various formats such as tacos and plate specials that come with a sweet and tangy mustard sauce, sambal olek, cold mashed potato salad, multi-grain rice, duck broth, and a carrot and sweet onion salad dressed with a kimchi vinaigrette. Maybe not your first thought when you think of Korean barbecue, but it's worthy of this list. 3076 W. Eighth St., Koreatown; (213) 905-8080; bbqcrown.com.
Oo-Kook's yukhwe bibimbap
This is the only all-you-can-eat place to make our list. It made the cut for using higher-quality meats and offering a wider variety of proteins, such as beef belly and octopus, than its competitors. The selection of banchan (the small side dishes that come with Korean meals) tends to be sparse, but that's the tradeoff for unfettered access to Angus and Kobe beef. The same meal would cost at least $100 to $150 in Seoul. It's also one of the few Korean barbecue places that makes an excellent yook-hwe bibimbap (bibimbap topped with Korean steak tartar). Service can be frenetic as the place gets packed, especially on weekends. 3385 W. Eighth St., Koreatown; (213) 385-5665.
Soot Bull Jeep
8. Soot Bull Jeep
The stark décor, minimalist service style and poor ventilation haven't improved much since Soot Bull Jeep opened in 1983. It's all about charcoal grilling and ssam, or lettuce wraps, at this Koreatown institution. It's the way Korean seniors eat at a church picnic. Meat portions tend to come in generous, hand-cut slabs instead of machine-cut, paper-thin, frozen wisps. The banchan selection is straightforward and old-fashioned, because the real point here is to eat the barbecue as ssam: Take a leaf of lettuce, add a dollop of fermented bean paste, a spoonful of rice, a little shredded green onion, a sliver of grilled garlic and a piece of beef, fold in half and try to eat the whole thing in two bites like my grandmother. 3136 W. Eighth St., Koreatown; (213) 387-3865.
7. Hong's Galbi
Hong's Galbi feels like a family affair, with mom and aunties cooking and serving and babying customers, explaining how to mix their soybean-sprout rice (bean sprouts, stir fried beef, green onions and rice). Gochujang-marinated pork ribs are the namesake specialty of the house. Order any of the combos at Hong Galbi and you can't go wrong. Banchan offerings are basic, but the menu prices and portions are value-oriented. Remember, there's no such thing as free banchan — they're factored into the menu prices. 3132 W. Olympic Blvd., Harvard Heights; (323) 734-2577.
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