Did somebody say scrumptious smoky barbeque? That can only mean one thing if you’re in LA. For foodies looking to indulge in tasty barbeque look no further than these top Korean BBQ restaurants located in the heart of Koreatown.
Korean barbeque, otherwise known as KBBQ, is nearly around every corner (if not on top of each other), and a staple in the nightlife vibe of this eclectic, bustling community. Of course, there are a lot of other fun things to do in Koreatown as well, and we have the insider scoop here.
What is Korean Barbeque?
We’ll start out by getting a little scientific-y on you by explaining the Maillard reaction, which is at the heart of the recognizable smokey charred meat smell that lures us in. Kind of the way these top pizza places in LA work their magic.
The Maillard reaction is chemical collusion between an amino acid and reducing sugar, that creates the browning of the meat at a high temperature.
Add in savory marinating and spices and that’s enough to know how KBBQ gets its distinct character and flavors. You’ll also want to know the following when patronizing these restaurants:
Bulgogi- literally means “fire meat” so this is the thin-sliced marinated beef or pork ready for the grill.
Banchan- The little side dishes, used to complement the main course or act as condiments. You could fill a warehouse with all the different types, so all we can say is to be adventurous, you can’t go wrong.
Ggot Sal- Prime short rib, non-marinated “flowering meat,” due to its marbling blooms. Word on the streets is this is a made-up term by Parks BBQ. But if you hit Parks, you’ll want to know it!
WAGYU – refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cow. Simple enough. The takeaway is that these are the most sought-after meats in the world for their buttery taste and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
Jogaegui- Korean-style grilled tabletop shellfish, including mussels, oysters, clams, and lobster. Since the meats and seafood are usually grilled right on your table, you can ponder this science while getting ready to pounce.
KBBQ is an experience you don’t want to miss out on, and we’ve got your back with these top 5 Korean barbeque spots.
955 S. Vermont Ave G, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Dubbed the King of KBBQ, it’s a title well-earned. With prime-grade meats you’ll get quality beef, pork, and chicken but don’t miss out on the shrimp either, these are all tasty choices.
For lovers of prime beef, then the mouthwatering bulgogi is the way to go. If you’re in the mood to splurge, we recommend the pricier American Wagyu.
The hand-pulled noodles in a spicy soup will hit the spot if you’ve got a cold spot that needs some warming up.
Hey, even Anthony Bourdain visited this spot for its a la carte KBBQ, so you know you’re on track for a memorable meal. Just be prepared for some heavy reading since the menu goes on for pages and pages. Decisions decisions.
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
3465 W 6th St #20, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Started by Kang Ho Dong, a former wrestler, and a renowned comedian you know this KBBQ restaurant was built around a discerning appetite that had to be tamed.
They’ll be lines and waiting at this top-rated KBBQ, but well worth it, as the accolades come from folks who have endured the wait and have indulged in the experience. Well worth it, is the general consensus.
Banchan faves are the spicy romaine salad, radish soup, acorn squash, kimchi pancake, and dipping sauce. If you’re looking for tasty food served with a cultural experience, then Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong is the place to go.
Your server will help you cook the meats if you want, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on any aspects of perfection while at this top K-Town BBQ.
We highly recommend the beef combo plates and they come in a variety of sizes so even small groups can enjoy an array of delicious barbeque. Don’t miss out on the thinly sliced beef brisket, an all-time favorite.
Jae Bu Do
474 N Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004
We’re going to change things up a bit and introduce you to the best Korean seafood barbeque around. Specializing in wood-grilled clams, mussels, abalone, and shrimp, Jae Bu Do does BBQ right. Now that you’ve learned what Jogaegui is, this place is the payoff.
The restaurant is simple but stays true to form with KBBQ, with the seafood cooked on a wood fire grill right at your table. Fave side dishes include the vegetable pancake, seared just right around the edges. The cheese and mayonnaise caramelized corn compliments and shellfish for your grill.
You’ll be given the white glove treatment here, not in the hospitality sense, but so you can use your hands to pluck the tasty morsels right off the grill without scorching your digits – and who wants to pick up a grilled shelled mussels a fork?
3330 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
We’re getting into a little more of the fine-dining atmosphere at Chosen Galbee, especially if you get a table in the open-air garden area. And we know a thing or two about open-air dining.
Along with a few select seafood items like black codfish and crab, you’ll most likely want to indulge in their Angus prime sirloin steaks.
Another specialty is the Galbee Junullk, which are the short ribs prepared with the house’s own specially prepared soy sauce, then seared with onions and mushrooms.
Diners are also known to flock here for the Mul-naengmyeon, which is a cold noodle dish made from predominantly buckwheat but includes potatoes, sweet potatoes, arrowroot starch, and kudzu. A meal in itself!
On a side note, you might want to bring your BFF Korean pal along with you if you wish to partake, as some of the servers don’t speak English. Obviously, they’re keeping it real here.
3460 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Magal adds a delicious twist to their tabletop grills, they are round with a groove around the perimeter that simmers with egg and corn.
They encourage you to dig in and be inventive, making your own side dish out of this, mixing with other banchan.
Magal Singapore has been selected as one of the Top 5 Korean BBQ restaurants in Singapore 2021 by Yahoo Australia.
Considering the serious competition for Korean BBQ restaurants over there, we’re lucky one landed in K-Town, Los Angeles. The funny thing is, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Not shy about adding a lot of F-U-N into their dining, they offered free bling and discounts if you showed up last Halloween wearing Squid Games training suits. The more in your group arriving dressed to kill, the better the bling.
If you like your kimchi pancakes super crispy, this may very well be the best on the planet.
Koreatown is the place to be if you’re visiting Los Angeles and looking for an evening that promises culture and barbeque. These KBBQ restaurants serve up the sizzle with prime meats and quality seafood while leaving the butchering and slicing skills to your server.
Speaking of butchering, feel free to destroy your fave song via the many karaoke bars in the area. No judgments here, we just know what happens when you mix soju with song.