Korean barbecue is an integral part of the Los Angeles dining scene and has become so popular that the restaurants have practically become tourist destinations.
If you have carnivorous tendencies, it's hard not to love the experience. A lot of the places have the all-you-can-eat option -- a concept unique to the States. In Korea unlimited barbecue is virtually unheard of. Meat, especially beef, is expensive there. We're really fortunate here. Not only do we have unlimited meat options, we have a whole slew of Korean BBQ restaurants to choose from.
At the end of the day, it's all based on personal preferences. Everyone has their favorites, based on nostalgia, price point, and quality. Even A-listers like like the Jolie-Pitt family have been spotted in Koreatown grilling their own bulgogi. But for the uninitiated, here's a guide:
Most Popular: Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong
Good luck trying to get in here. Kang Ho is insanely popular, known for being well-rounded with great service and great meats. It's part of a Seoul-based chain run by Kang Ho himself -- a comedian and former wrestler. Go for either the beef or pork combo. The former is galbi, beef brisket, sliced rib-eye, and boneless short rib. The latter: pork neck, pork belly, and short rib. Plan ahead for this and most definitely arrive early. 3465 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020; (213) 384-9678.
Cheap All-You-Can-Eat: Castle BBQ
If you're in it for quantity, consider Castle BBQ's $9.99 deal. We recommend targeting the sliced beef and marinated pork bulgogi. The quality isn't mind-blowing, but it will do if you just want ludicrous amounts of meat. There are six meat varieties to choose from, which includes pork, beef, and chicken. Word of advice from experience -- skip the intestines. 473 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90004; (323) 467-3813.
Duck: Dha Rae Ok
Forget Beijing duck. Dha Rae Ok specializes in Korean whole roasted duck, cooked in a clay oven and stuffed with sticky rice and various nuts and grains. It's worth planning for; you have to reserve the dish four hours in advance. The dish clocks in at $60, including ban chan. 1106 Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90006; (323) 733-2474.
Stone Grill: Hae Jang Chon
This is the Korean barbecue restaurant with the cartoon pig logo (but not Honey Pig). It's an all-you-can-eat place with crazy long lines. Most Korean barbecue places have metal grills. Hae Jang has a stone grill, which arguably creates better flavor for the meat. When things get too charred, the staff uses shredded radish to clean it up. 3821 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020;
Pork: Hong Galbi
Hong Galbi specializes in gorgeous pork slabs covered in a spicy, soy-based marinade. A combination meal starts at $35 for two people and includes pork, kimchi, bean stew, and bean sprout rice. The kimchi dish also comes with pork belly that's meant to be wrapped and enjoyed with the uncut pickled cabbage. 3132 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90006; (323) 734-2577.
Banchan Champion: Genwa
It's not all-you-can-eat here, but the barbecue is pretty fantastic and the banchan selections are some of the best in town. Every table gets around twenty small plates, filled with pickles, bean sprouts, fish cake, seaweed, and more. It pairs well with the meat and, yes, seconds (and thirds) are included. 5115 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 549-0760.
Best Beef: Park's BBQ
Park's has amazing meat quality, choosing to focus on ggot sal (Kobe-style beef), galbi (marinated ribs), and samgyeopsal (pork belly meat). It's a bit pricey here; each cut of meat racks up in the $30 to $40 range, but it's well worth it if you're picky about quality. 955 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90006; (213) 380-1717.
Great Cocktails: Quarters BBQ
Relatively speaking, Quarters is a newcomer in the Korean BBQ scene. They opened up late last year and already have quite a cult following. It's the decor and drinks here that stand out, complete with a patio and a sizable cocktail menu. We like the mango margarita and the whiskey lemonade. Quarters, which advertises their meats as tapas, also has fusion element. They have melted cheese dip for your veggies and galbi tacos for the taco fiends. 3465 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020; (213) 365-8111.
Private Booths: Gen BBQ
Gen is a Korean BBQ chain based outside of Koreatown and a great place to target if you're looking to eat at a place with private booths. Their locations are always large and roomy, washed in navy blue light. It's an all-you-can-eat experience, starting at $14.99 per person for lunch. 68 W. Main Street, Alhambra, CA 91801; (626) 407-2858.