The sizzle and smoke of the tabletop Korean barbecue is one of the definitive features of the LA dining scene. The availability of premium ingredients and a rabid following of diners has created a critical mass of restaurants specializing in grilled meats, nearly overshadowing the love of barbecue in the motherland itself.
Over the years, KBBQ restaurants have segmented into various categories – premium, all-you-can-eat, mid-range a la carte - with each place trumpeting a particular specialty or stand-out side dish. Some emphasize their grilling devices and methods - stalwarts like Soot Bull Jeep still employ charcoal for a smoky char, while others rely on special grates for more direct heat. Wherever you go, KBBQ is even better with a pitcher of ice-cold Hite, or a chilled bottle of soju, Korea's national spirit.
From casual AYCE spots to Michelin-level culinary experiences, gather your friends and family and explore LA's world-class Korean BBQ scene with our guide.
Michelin-starred chef Akira Back originally opened ABSteak in February 2020 before the pandemic forced its 19-month closure. Located in a sleek, modern space on the first floor of the Beverly Center, ABSteak reopened in December 2021 with a revamped menu that's much closer to traditional KBBQ than its previous fusion-style incarnation.
Start with the stylishly-presented Yukkhea (aka yukhoe), mixed tableside with beef tartare, garlic, pine nuts, onion, bell peppers, cold-pressed sesame oil, and quail egg. There's also the gyeran-jjim inspired Egg Soufflé, and Seafood Pajeon - a scallion pancake with shrimp, mussels and squid, served with spicy soy sauce.
Signature cuts of prime ribeye and New York striploin are dry-aged at ABSteak for 30 days. Premium highlights include the richly-marbled Snow Flower Kkotsal (prime boneless short rib) and the near-mythic A5 Olive Wagyu from Kagawa Prefecture, priced at $42/oz (three-ounce minimum).
When the world's best-selling music act says in an interview that your restaurant is their favorite KBBQ in LA, get ready for a spike in business. That's exactly what happened during BTS's recent mini-residency at SoFi Stadium, when the ARMY descended on Ahgassi Gopchang and wait times soared to five hours.
Part of the Kijung Hospitality Group, which also owns/operates Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, Ahgassi Gopchang specializes in gopchang (cow’s small intestine). Experience fatty, slightly funky mountain tripe in the high-value Yang Daechang Combo ($56 for 2, $93 for 3-4), which also comes with large intestine sheets and chewy slabs of abomasum - the cow’s fourth stomach, which produces an enzyme called rennet that’s used to make cheese. Accompaniments include raw garlic (to cook), and bubbling kimchi stew. Mountain tripe also factors into the fried rice, available with or without molten cheese.
For customers that might find so much tripe daunting, Ahgassi Gopchang also offers multi-meat combos with more familiar cuts like thin-sliced beef brisket, Prime skirt steak, pork short rib, and fat-trimmed pork jowl.
The airy, clean confines of Chosun Galbee make this the place to bring the parents. The excellent ventilation system ensures that diners won't smell strongly of smoke while servers donning hanbok (the traditional Korean garb) present high-quality cuts of galbi and more. The banchan selection here is admirable, almost addictive, with picks like delectable kimchi and cucumbers, julienned daikon radish, and even the slow-braised stringy beef called jangjorim that's not found at barbecue places as often as banchan. The grills always get a pat of butter for extra fat and seasoning, while servers start the grilling for diners. The long strips of unmarinated galbi are the best pick overall, while the weekday Lunch Box platters offer cubes of marinated short rib, thin curls of fresh beef brisket, spicy pork, or dark chicken meat with salad and assorted house specials. Newer places may have a little more flash and sizzle, but Chosun remains the old stand-by, that K-town spot that's consistently excellent.
The Corner Place
Opened in 1982, this Koreatown classic is known for two things – great barbecue and great cold noodles. Put the two of them together and it's possibly the best one-two punch in Korean cuisine. The underlying details of The Corner Place start with two banchan placed on the table when seated. First, it's the almost-spicy shaved pile of green onions tossed in a black pepper and sesame oil. Then there's a medium-sized bowl of dongchimi, which is a lightly fermented "soup" of various crunchy vegetables like daikon radish. That particular bowl is for sipping and picking out during the meal, but that "soup" makes the addictive, tangy broth that comes with the signature cold white noodles, known as Dong Chi Mi Gook Soo. Tabletop grills quickly get filled with the standard players – marinated short rib bulgogi, kalbi, the house-specialty skirt steak that's lightly marinated, and other variety cuts like paper-thin beef tongue slices and chewy bits of beef shank. Then these pieces are meant to be washed down with slurps of cold noodles whose broth recipe is so secret that only a few people (likely grandmothers) know how to make it. Copied all around town but never replicated, the noodles are what makes The Corner Place amazing.
Opened in July 2021, Daedo Sikdang is the first U.S. location of the famed Seoul-based steakhouse. Diners know they're in for a high-end experience as soon as they walk in - LED lights hang from exposed rafters and hover over natural oak tables with built-in grills.
Daedo touts its singular focus on Certified Angus Beef prime ribeye, showcased in the signature Daedo Cut with ribeye roll, cap and strip. The premium cuts are cooked in a bespoke cast iron pan that's coated with kidney fat. Options include the Classic Korean Cut of thinly-sliced, marinated ribeye; and the luxurious Ribeye Cap, a limited special that clocks in at 16 ounces for $240.
Flown in from Boueun in South Korea, Kkakdugi (cubed radish kimchi) anchors the crispy and sour fried rice, which can be enhanced with diced meat (single or double shot), crunchy kimchi puffs, and sunny-side egg. There's also the refreshing Yeolmu cold noodle soup, and hearty Doenjang Guk (fermented soybean paste porridge).
Eight Korean BBQ
Grace Min owns branches of Eight Korean BBQ in Koreatown, Buena Park, and Singapore and specializes in Mangalitsa pork belly that sizzles on a state of the art platter. The platter tilts so grease spills into a receptacle, a handy, fat-saving design touch. The steel tray also features pineapple rings, bean sprouts, and kimchi, which crisp in draining grease. Eight signature pork belly flavors all tout different health benefits. Healthy pork belly? According to Eight Korean BBQ, yes. “Original” fat-streaked pork belly is simply seasoned and “rich in Vitamin B1.” Herb “alleviates stress and depression.” Miso paste helps "in circulating the body’s natural biochemistry."
Other notable griddled pork preparations include fattier, crispier pork jowl and thicker, unseasoned pork belly that’s scored and rolled into a flower shape.
Genwa Korean BBQ - Mid Wilshire
Though a bit west of Koreatown, this Mid-City restaurant (along with locations in Downtown LA and Beverly Hills) does a great job of making KBBQ approachable. The room looks dark and fancy, unusual for some people that expect bright lights and plain décor. The service is also very helpful, with most servers fluent in English. The banchan selection is second to none, with more than 20 tiny bowls matched together on the plate, looking like a visual feast in itself. Then the meat selections come out, which are conveniently put together in combination orders for diversity. The pork belly and brisket are very good, but the galbi might be even better, marinated to the brink of savoriness and then browned on the hot grill.
The expansive menu also has plenty of a la carte choices like spicy pork bulgogi, unmarinated short ribs from Creekstone Farms, and even an Australian Wagyu beef ribeye for an over-the-top bite.
Jeong Yuk Jeom
Located in MaDang Courtyard off Western Avenue, Jeong Yuk Jeom serves up its acclaimed 45-day dry-aged beef in an expansive, two-level space. Shared apps include the Instagram-ready Giant Beef Tartare Sushi with seasoned rice and chestnuts; and the spicy jukkumi (webfoot octopus). "Butcher's Pride" combos range from $125 to $175 and $239 - depending on the selection, they can include brisket, prime boneless short rib, or dry-aged prime ribeye. Cuts like the marinated prime galbi and aged prime tenderloin are available a la carte. Level up with the Tomahawk Steak for two - available aged or dry-aged bone-in ribeye ($200 / $250).
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong - Koreatown
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong was a game-changer for the KBBQ scene when it opened at the nightlife mecca of Chapman Plaza in October 2021. Owned and operated by Kijung Hospitality Group, Baekjeong has since expanded to Rowland Heights, Temple City, Torrance, Orange County and New York.
The boisterous, smoky ambiance resembles the myriad barbecue spots in Seoul – low-flung tables with stellar meat and pristine banchan that focuses more on quality than quantity. The galbi and beef cuts are generously portioned and perfect for sharing, getting grilled on open grates found in the best KBBQ places. Then the standard, thicker steel grills are brought out for the pork cuts so that moisture is not lost. The pork collar is the real treat – long, fatty pieces that firm up on the grill and get an addictive chew. Walk-ins only, so prepare to wait - especially on weekends.
Magal BBQ is part of a prolific Korean juggernaut with hundreds of restaurants worldwide, mainly in Asia. Their Koreatown outpost is well-worth visiting for enticing 2- and 3-4 person combos that revolve around either beef or pork. The space features colorful icons and booths with cushioned stools. Each griddle has an upraised grate that allows residual grease to drip into the pan, along with moats for creamy corn kernels and egg with punchy kimchi.
The Beef Combo includes paper-thin Prime brisket end points, Prime boneless short rib, beef finger rib, marinated Prime short rib, grilled sides like rice cake cylinders, mushrooms and pineapple; boneless short rib sushi torched tableside, and soybean paste soup with beef brisket.
Their Pork Combo is no less thrilling, teaming skirt meat with pork belly, special neck meat, marinated collar, and the same accompaniments. To finish, order “volcano” fried rice with sesame oil, nori, and a surrounding sea of egg.
Oo-Kook, which roughly translates to “cattle country,” is an all-you-can-eat specialist that offers one of K-town's best bang-for-your-buck dining experiences for $35 - high-quality meat and attentive service in a lively, two-story space.
The signature thin slices of Prime brisket, Kobe beef belly, and marinated beef short ribs are top-notch. Arguably the second most popular AYCE order, the pork belly is no slouch either - terrific seared pieces remain unctuous and chewy with every bite. Whole ribeye steaks are available for a real steakhouse feel, as well as variety meats like marinated ox intestine. To up the ante further, Oo Kook offers garlic shrimp and spicy baby octopus for the grill.
Jenee Kim opened this branch of Park's BBQ, originally from Seoul's Chungdam District, in the heart of Koreatown in. 2003. Since then, it's been the standard-bearer of Korean barbecue not only in Los Angeles, but in America. It's likely the highest quality experience outside of Korea available, with an incredible selection of meat that's unrivaled in the city.
The piece de resistance of any meal here is the Ggot Sal ("flower meat"), referring to the highly marbled cuts of short rib that resemble A5 Wagyu beef. Once on the tabletop grill, these pieces firm up and gain a modicum of color before getting a dip in sesame oil for a decadent bite. The marinated meats and banchan are of fantastic quality, as well as the ice-cold naeng myun, or chilled buckwheat noodles in a clear beef broth. Park's also features American Wagyu in its Taste of Wagyu (Brisket Point, Boneless Beef Short Rib, GGot Sal) and a 14oz A5 Wagyu Special.
Quarters Korean BBQ
Also located in Chapman Plaza, Quarters features a high-energy EDM playlist, open-air beer bar, and patio with communal fire pit tables to accommodate people who wait. All dipping sauces and banchan await diners when they’re seated, likely including kimchi, marinated tofu cubes, two types of salad, and sweet squash studded with raisins.
Quarters champions quarter-pound orders of meat that grill tabletop beneath brown hoods that soak up charcoal-induced meat smoke. Priced at $165, the Large Combo is a particularly good choice for groups of 4-5 to enjoy beef ribeye, marinated beef short rib, grilled bulgogi, beef belly, pork belly and pork jowl. All combos come with vegetable skewers, steamed egg, and a choice of kimchi or earthy soybean stew. Order 5 or more Korean Tapas (3-Alarm Wings, Korean Nachos, Galbi Tacos et al) and receive a complimentary veggie skewer, cheese fondue, egg stew, and kimchi or soybean stew.
Located just up the street from Park's BBQ, Soowon Galbi has been serving its acclaimed short ribs since 1986 and is as popular as ever. Service is a standout at Soowon - servers generally initiate and manage the cooking of the USDA Prime cuts until the last bit, when diners are encouraged to pick meat off at their own preference. Smoke and steam from the tabletop grills seem to linger in the cozy, dimly-lit dining room, giving Soowon a fantastical atmosphere.
The signature Soowon Galbi is a must - Black Angus bone-in short ribs are marinated for 48 hours, and pack a serious flavor punch after a quick sear on the grill. Other selections include the succulent Kkot Ssal - thin strips of tender, fatty Prime short rib; as well as the Joo Mul Luk, with Black Angus boneless short rib seasoned in garlic and sesame oil. The banchan at Soowon is also a cut above, using freshly pickled kimchi cucumbers, almonds tossed with anchovies, and ultra-intense kimchi that tastes wonderful with bites of galbi.
Sun Ha Jang
For those looking for something different than the usual beef-pork-chicken KBBQ offerings, head to Sun Ha Jang, which specializes in duck. Tucked inside a strip mall on the south side of Olympic Boulevard near Crenshaw, Sun Ha Jang has been family-owned and operated for more than three decades (a dozen years at its current location).
The only main menu option is Duck Slices - priced at $39.99 per person, and includes side dishes (pickled radish, pickled onions, bean sprouts, kimchi, chives) and house salad. After the server cooks the duck in its own fat, the move is to take a slice, dip it in the chili sauce and/or salt & pepper, lay it on the salad, top with sides, and jam it all into one bite. "Dessert" is a mountain of purple rice that's stir-fried in the pool of duck fat and mixed with kimchi, chives and perilla seeds.
YouTuber Mark Wiens recently visited Sun Ha Jang, and if the 1.1 million views are any indication, there's sure to be renewed interest in this longtime K-town hidden gem.