Food & Drink

LA's Best Korean BBQ Spots

Published On 01/21/2014 Published On 01/21/2014

Los Angeles is the best place to be for Korean BBQ gluttons these days. The city is brimming with options -- mostly centered around Koreatown -- that cover all bases: AYCE and à la carte, traditional and trendy, upscale and bare-bones. While some passionate enthusiasts will swear by their one-and-only favorite, we’ve rounded up 15 delicious spots that set the bar high in LA and make your post-BBQ galbi-scented clothes totally worth it.

Flickr/T.Tseng

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

Koreatown

LA’s most hyped Korean BBQ joint sometimes commands one- or two-hour wait times, but the place lives up to the hoopla with top-notch meat (like perfectly marbled prime short ribs), servers who make it all for you (so you can focus on grubbing), and specially sectioned grills where eggs and corn cheese cook... at the same damn time.

Ahgassi Gopchang

Koreatown

It’s no surprise that Kang Ho Dong’s sister restaurant, Ahgassi, wins big at Korean BBQ, too. This outpost, however, specializes in grilled intestines, like mountain tripe and abomasum (which, FYI, is the name of a ruminant animal’s fourth stomach compartment). For the best dining experience, get an order of the large intestines -- soft, chewy, gnocchi-esque globs that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Ham Ji Park

Ham Ji Park

Arlington Heights & Koreatown

You can’t go to Ham Ji Park and not order their flawless pork ribs, which arrive tender on a sizzling hot plate and smothered in gochujang -- a fermented chili paste that adds the right amount of kick to the meat’s slightly smoky-sweet caramelization.

Park’s BBQ

Koreatown

Though this no-frills spot is on the pricier end of KBBQ restaurants, you cough up extra bucks for good reason: quality cuts of beef, including melt-in-your-mouth Kobe, and their famous short rib soup -- a hearty dish brimming with fall-off-the-bone meat, green onions, and glass noodles in a clear, hangover-healing broth.

Naengmyeon | Soowon Galbi

Soowon Galbi

Koreatown

Sure, you could go for standard KBBQ eats here, like their excellent house specialty short ribs. But for something a little different, we’d recommend Soowon’s pork neck -- a cut of meat that’s exquisitely soft, juicy, and crunchy all at once. While you’re at it, ask for a bowl of naengmyeon, a refreshing cold noodle soup that cuts through all the fatty meat you’re inhaling.

Genwa

Hancock Park & Beverly Hills

If you look forward to the banchan (the tasty side dishes) as much as the meat, Genwa’s your jam. This sleek, stylish spot serves a parade of 20+ banchan along with your meal, so you’re lucky to have room left over for their boneless short ribs, pork belly, and raw-egg-topped steak tartar. And definitely don’t leave without asking for the Seoul Train (it involves beer, soju, and chugging all of the above, dancing is optional).

Flower Pork Belly | Eight Korean BBQ_Los Angeles

Eight

Koreatown

Get ready to pig out -- literally. This spot is known for their “8 Flavors of Pork Belly,” featuring the meat in different flavor-enhancing marinades like wine, garlic, and curry. Each slice is so thick that right when it’s been grilled to perfection, a server will materialize to scissor-snip it into easily chewable nuggets.

Mapo Galbi

Koreatown

Mapo isn’t a traditional KBBQ spot, so hit this hole-in-the-hall when you want to change it up. They’re masters of spicy chicken (not the usual beef) BBQ, which they fry up with a hodgepodge of rice cakes, veggies, hot chili sauce, sesame leaves, and even a layer of cheese, in a large cast-iron pan... right in front of your drooling face.

Choi Ga Nei

Koreatown

While this AYCE spot doesn’t have Kang Ho Dong’s brand-name recognition, who needs it when there’s zero wait time and unlimited refills of soy bean soup and steamed egg? Their cheapest dinner set, which includes beef finger meat (the stuff in between the ribs), squid, tripe, pork belly, and countless more, sets you back only $20.

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ

Ong Ga Nae

Koreatown

The crowd-pleaser at this newish joint (the original is in Rowland Heights) is saeng bulgogi, a pile of unmarinated beef, mushrooms, spinach, and green onion; cooked (by you) in a semi-sweet broth; and then served with glass noodles toward the end. A minimum of two orders is required -- which can easily feed three or four, depending on how hangry you are.

Flickr/fred zilla

Hae Jang Chon

Koreatown

You’ll sometimes hear KBBQ aficionados talk about how AYCE spots don’t serve good-quality meat, but Hae Jang Chon is a notable exception. Their menu boasts a diverse selection of top-shelf cuts (everything from pork shoulder to beef tongue); plus, they top off your meal with table-side-cooked kimchi fried rice, which absorbs all the oil from your just-devoured BBQ.

Quarters

Koreatown

Quarters sits in the same plaza as its more famous cousin, Kang Ho Dong (they’re owned by the same family), but has a more rebellious streak. After all, what KBBQ spot serves a melted cheese dip that you’re encouraged to dip your pork belly into, kimchi-topped Korean nachos, and beer-ritas -- all to a fist-pumping EDM playlist?

Flickr/Joey Rozier

Chosun Galbee

Koreatown

Clean, upscale, and yes, a little costlier than your average K-Town outpost, Chosun’s where you go to enjoy impeccable service and a full bar (somewhat of a rarity in KBBQ restaurants) along with your meat -- like juicy unmarinated brisket and rib-eye steak.

Soot Bull Jeep

Koreatown

This long-standing spot still does things the OG way, serving thick slabs of meat (versus machine-sliced thin) and using charcoal grills that add a distinctive smoky flavor to it all. You’re also encouraged to wrap your meat in the provided lettuce leaves, along with a bit of rice, garlic, and chili paste for a two-bite-sized package called ssambap.

Hanjip

Hanjip

Culver City

As a KBBQ restaurant in Culver City, Hanjip -- the brainchild of Seoul Sausage Co. founder Chris Oh and his partners -- faced judgment from the start, but both Westsiders and Eastsiders have given this less-than-traditional spot their stamp of approval. The menu’s obvious star is the $150 dry-aged Tomahawk steak with foie gras butter, but the most interesting dishes are Korean classics with a twist, like bone marrow corn cheese, brown butter-infused kimchi fried rice, and a crisp seafood pancake stuffed with rock shrimp and scallops.

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Tiffany Tse freelances for Thrillist, and loves fist pumping in between bites of pork belly. Follow her on Twitter at @twinksy and Instagram at @twinksy.

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1. Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong 3465 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

An outpost of a Seoul-based chain from comedian and former wrestler Kang Ho Dong, this is one of the most hyped Korean BBQ restaurants in LA, exemplified by the long waits every night of the week for high-quality meats like the gloriously tender marbled prime short ribs. The servers in this spacious, industrial-style spot make your meal for you, allowing you to sit back, nosh, and watch as they toss prime cuts like rib-eye steak and thin-sliced brisket onto the tabletop grill, which has a surrounding moat dedicated to a luscious mix of mozzarella cheese and corn.

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2. Ahgassi Gopchang 3744 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

The specialty at this industrial-style K-town favorite is grilled beef intestines, so prepare to eat outside your comfort zone. You don't find high-quality meats like these just anywhere, so go big and get an order of the large intestines, which include tender, chewy, gnocchi-like pieces of meats such as bulgogi and gopchang tossed onto your tabletop grill. If you're not brave enough to try the intestines, rest assured that there are traditional, top-notch standbys like brisket and short ribs, too.

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3. Ham Ji Park 3407 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

Pork is the name of the game at this friendly KBBQ eatery in K-town, including its beloved pork ribs and pork spine soup. These must-try ribs are tender and smothered in gochujang, a fermented chili paste that adds a spicy kick to the meat’s smoky-sweet caramelization. Expect a decent wait for a table, as these heavenly ribs are hot commodities, but once you're seated in this crowded, noisy space, you'll find that the service is speedy.

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4. Park's BBQ 955 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006 (Koreatown)

Don't let the unassuming strip-mall exterior fool you -- this KBBQ spot is one of the best and priciest in K-town, but provides top-notch cuts of beef that make it well worth the extra cash. A casual, GIY (grill-it-yourself) restaurant, Park's is known for melt-in-your-mouth cuts of Kobe and Wagyu beef, and its addictive short-rib soup, which is brimming with fall-off-the-bone meat, green onions, and glass noodles in a clear broth. Right down to the banchan like savory pancakes and steak tartare, every dish here is made with the highest-quality ingredients.

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5. Soowon Galbi 856 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

Soowon Galbi serves high-quality Korean BBQ that won't break the bank, which means you can load up your individual grill with bulgogi and brisket without sweating the bill at the end. The speciality meat is house-marinated short rib, but there are plenty of beef options, with or without seasoning, to choose from. Aside from grilled meats, the menu includes buckwheat noodle dishes, bimimpap, and tofu stews. The space is clean and filled with large booths, so it's perfect for group dinners.

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6. Genwa 170 N LA Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (Beverly Hills)

At this sleek and stylish KBBQ spot in Beverly Hills, the banchan (side dishes) are as much the stars of the menu as the meat -- with a lineup of more than 20 spread around each table's smokeless grill. If you even have room after noshing on the wide variety of pickled veggies and marinades that come in small white bowls, you can indulge in meats like boneless short ribs, pork belly, and raw-egg-topped steak tartar. You shouldn't leave without asking for the Seoul Train either, which comes with beer and soju.

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7. Eight Korean BBQ 863 Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

The star of spacious, industrial-style spot in K-town is the “8 Flavors of Pork Belly,” which features the meat in a variety flavor-enhancing marinades like wine, garlic, and curry. The slices of pork are so juicy and thick that once you've grilled them to perfection atop your table, a friendly and attentive server will appear with scissors to snip them into easily chewable nuggets. The best part? At the end of your meal, the server will use the leftover broth and kimchi to create a heavenly kimchi fried rice topped with mozzarella. Oh and parking is free in the plaza lot -- a refreshing change from the parking struggles at other K-town joints.

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8. Mapo Galbi 1008 S St Andrews Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90019 (Koreatown)

A welcome respite from the many KBBQ spots of K-town, Mapo is a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall beloved for its authentic dak galbi: spicy chicken stir-fried with a mix of rice cakes, veggies, hot chili sauce, sesame leaves, and a layer of cheese in a large cast-iron pan. Dak galbi is the only entree on the menu at this tiny, bare-bones spot, where a couple of servers buzz around as they cook the hot and hearty dish on a stove atop each table (don't forget to ask for cheese!). Note: there's a minimum of two orders per party (enough for three people), so bring some hungry friends.

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9. Choi Ga Nei 3916 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (Koreatown)

Choi Ga Nei, an AYCE KBBQ (acronyms for days) joint in Koreatown, is perhaps the only one of its kind to be as infamous for its sizzling, buttery meat cuts as it is for its flashy, club-banging rendition of Happy Birthday. Your personal grill will come complete with a basin of soybean paste stew to be refilled throughout the night, which will surely enable the chewy, meaty goodness you’re devouring to slide down your throat. If you’re so lucky to come to this casual spot on the anniversary your birth, Cho Ga Nei will have you feeling like a star, not only because the large seafood, vegetable, and meat platters just keep on coming, but also because the restaurant’s lights flash like paparazzi and an arguably bizarre version of Happy Birthday blares over the sound system. If this doesn’t sound like a K-party to you, we’re not sure what will.

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10. Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ 19745 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748 (Koreatown)

Ong Ga Nae in Koreatown has your best interest at heart, which is why they specialize in low-sodium specialities like saeng bulgogi, an unmarinated bulgogi, accompanied by a plate of vegetables cooked with sweet broth. Your eyes will light up as the heaps of ruddy, uncooked flesh arrive at your table; though Ong Ga Nae’s prices are low, their dishes are substantial. Best of all, this is one of the few KBBQ spots actually quiet enough to hear yourself think, so feel free to be social.

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11. Hae Jang Chon 3821 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

Koreatown’s Hae Jang Chon offers a varied AYCE KBBQ menu with 27 options to choose from, including both unmarinated and marinated meats, seafood, vegetarian selections like kimchi pancakes, and more adventurous options like beef intestines. All dishes are cooked on two-inch-thick Korean stone grills, and because of the perpetually large amount of humans inside, things can get real smoky at Hae Jang Chon, nerve-wracking because the décor is mostly mahogany wood. Get there early to avoid the detested long wait.

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12. Quarters Korean BBQ , Los Angeles, CA (Koreatown)

Upscale and Korean barbecue don’t always go together, but when they do, it’s at Quarters in Koreatown. Ideal for a fun night out with friends, Quarters is a lively BBQ den electrified by the EDM booming through its speakers. The non-AYCE prime beef, pork, and seafood bites are served tapas style, so you and your crew should be sure to sample as many as you can. Waits can be long, so sip on a Quarters Rita (an in-house take on a standard margarita) and wait at the long fire pit in the outdoor patio.

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13. Chosun Galbee 3330 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019 (Koreatown)

Perhaps the best (and most unique) feature of Koreatown’s Chosun Galbee is that here, you can indulge in top-notch, smoky, juicy KBBQ without leaving smelling like you did just that. With high ceilings and a garden-like atmosphere, Chosun Galbee is known for being a tad pricey but completely worth it, especially with its signature, some-of-the-best-in-the-city Galbee Jjim, or short ribs simmered in sweet soy sauce. If ribs don’t do it for you, choose other quality Korean barbecue dishes like Angus prime sirloin steaks, fish, chicken, pork, shrimp, or noodles.

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14. Soot Bull Jeep 3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown is the KBBQ equivalent to a dive bar, complete with inexpensive bites and has-been décor of light wooden tabletops and metal upright chairs. What Soot Bull Jeep lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in freshness and flavor in its BBQ meats, like short ribs, steak, chicken, seafood, and even tripe and tongue, all cooked using charcoal grills with smoked wood chips instead of electric grills. This extra earthy flavor might cling to your outfit once you leave, but it’s okay because with BBQ this good, you’ll want a souvenir.

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15. Hanjip 3829 Main St, Culver City, CA 90232 (Culver City)

From celebrity chef Chris Oh and restauranteur Stephane Bombet (Terrine, Faith & Flower, Paiche), Hanjip is a modern Korean barbecue restaurant that's made for groups, especially those without vegetarians. Hanjip's menu resembles a how-to guide for barbecue: you choose your meat (sliced brisket, pork belly, bulgogi) and sides (kimchi fried rice, seafood pancake, beef poutine), and a server grills your meat table-side. The Culver City space is trendy with sleek wooden booths and black-and-white wall art.

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