Los Angeles' Koreatown probably doesn't need another BBQ place -- well, at least not another Korean one. There seems to be a restaurant with tabletop grills in every plaza, strip mall and food court, cannibalizing another one's business two doors down or across the street. Let's be blunt: Entrepreneurial first-generation Koreans are noted more for their work ethic and competitive streak than for their originality. Still, we love Korean BBQ and can't complain about having so many specialty restaurants to choose from. Turn the page for our picks for the 10 best Korean BBQ places in town.
This is the only AYCE place -- that's all-you-can-eat -- to make our list. It made the cut for using higher-quality meats and offering a more interesting variety of proteins, such as beef belly and octopus, than its competitors. Service can be slow and 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 in Seoul. It's also one of the few Korean BBQ places, AYCE or otherwise, that makes an excellent yook-hwe bibimbap (bibimbap topped with Korean steak tartar). 3385 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles; (213) 385-5665.
9. Soot Bull Jeep:
The stark décor and minimalist service style haven't changed much since Soot Bull Jeep opened in 1983. It's all about charcoal grilling and ssam, or lettuce wraps, at this Koreatown institution. 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 BBQ as ssam: Take a leaf of lettuce, add a dollop of 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., Los Angeles; (213) 387-3865.
8. Honey Pig:
Domed grills are designed to collect meat juices from bulgogi or rendered duck or pork fat. Since Honey Pig specializes in, well, pig, not a drop of pork fat is wasted. Hunks of samgyeopsal (pork belly) are cooked in the center of the dome and eaten as ssam, while a moat of kimchi and bean sprouts along the perimeter of the grill cooks in rendered pork fat. Pace yourself, because the pickled vegetables are being prepped for an elaborate kimchi fried rice. Just when you think you can't manage another bite, the waitress will unceremoniously dump large bowls of lettuce and rice onto your grill to be mixed with charred bits of pork belly, kimchi, bean sprouts and, of course, lots of pork fat. 3400 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles; (213) 380-0256.
Turn the page for #7, etc...