Food & Drink

Where to Eat Korean BBQ in NYC

Published On 01/12/2015 Published On 01/12/2015

It wasn’t long ago that the mention of "Korean BBQ" elicited a brow furrow and a Google image search. Nowadays, the masses are better informed: KBBQ = a social, booze-filled dining experience in which diners grill different cuts of meat themselves over a tabletop grill, to be enjoyed with complimentary sides. Restaurateurs have also caught on, with affordable, upscale, and novel takes on the menu and atmosphere that defy and redefine the sometimes pricey, roll-your-shirtsleeves eating ritual that has nearly reached Indian food's ubiquity. 

From a spot on the 39th floor of a K-town skyscraper, to several 24/7 joints, to a restaurant co-owned by Quentin Tarantino, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure world in today's KBBQ. Get to exploring.

Michelle No/Thrillist

Muk Eun Ji

Koreatown

It’s Jean-Georges’ favorite KBBQ place in K-Town, but that’s not why you should pay a visit to this 24/7 spot. First, there’s the pork belly, cut into greasy, thicker-than-average strips. Then there’s the restaurant’s best-selling kimchi pork backbone stew -- a steaming pot of spicy red soup bubbling with generous helpings of kimchi and fall-off-the-bone pork backbone. A single $17 order will easily fill three people.

And about that kimchi: Muk Eun Ji offers an aged version that's imported from Korea two to three times a year in 12-ton, 20ft containers. This variant (different from the free banchan kimchi given to all patrons) has a darker hue and more garlic and pepper bite sealed into the cabbage. For the ultimate flavor rapture, advises Chefs Society editor and Korean Cultural Ambassador Seolbin Park, grill your aged kimchi with the pork belly, and eat cuts of both in a single bite. 

Shilla

Shilla

Koreatown 

If you’re willing to pay slightly more, Shilla will give you one of the best KBBQ experiences in New York City. The pork belly is much-lauded here, and comes with extra-plentiful banchan (side dishes) that include kimchi, bean sprouts, egg, and a fried Korean pancake. The tabletop grilling service requires a minimum of two meat selections, but with the aforementioned fatty pork belly on offer, as well as an exceptional kalbi and sweet, marinated bulgogi option, you’ll be wondering about the maximum. 

Mapo Galmaegi

Flushing 

Located outside the last stop on the 7 line, Mapo Galmaegi is the ideal restaurant for inexperienced outer-borough adventurers. Travelers reward themselves here with galmaegi (pig rib meat) -- the restaurant’s signature, namesake dish. And if you’re looking for the classics, most other beef and pork cuts like marinated short rib (galbi) and thin slices of brisket are available, as well. Oh, and because the practical folks behind Mapo know you’ll be indulging amongst meat fumes for a while, they’ve cleverly furnished all tables with chairs that double as storage. This way, your happy dining memories can live on in your social media, and not on your clothes. 

Michelle No/Thrillist

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

Koreatown

Good and buzzy enough that food world luminaries David Chang and Rich Torrisi have dined there together, this South Korean chain -- opened by a wrestler-turned-comedian -- planted its US flagship in the heart of Koreatown, where Momofuku vet Deuki Hong adds fine-dining finesse to BBQ staples like kalbi (beef ribs) and bulgogi (soy-marinated sirloin).

Insa

Insa

Gowanus

Family-style meals, and in-house karaoke rooms -- it’s a concept more restaurants should consider, and one that Insa has adopted in a trendy Gowanus KBBQ spot. Not that one wouldn’t come here for the food alone: from the addictive starter eats (like fried beef dumplings and blood sausage dipped in perilla salt), to the mixed rice and pork stew dishes, there’s not a single item you wouldn’t want seconds of. In fact, KBBQ may make up less than a quarter of the menu, but more than enough other carnivorous options make this a dismissable fact. As for the karaoke, it’s offered in five themed rooms, from “jungle” and “deep sea,” to “space” and “psychedelic.” So, we know you’ve already got your next birthday venue locked down. 

Han Joo Chik Naeng Myun & BBQ

Murray Hill, Queens

It’s pork belly or bust at this ‘cue and cold noodle specialist, where the slabs of swine get a superior char thanks to a fancy, crystal-topped grill. Unconventional marinades (think green tea) can be found here as well, but get the simplest preparation (with no seasoning at all) if you want to savor the porky glory. 

Zinno Park/SB GROUPE

Gaonnuri

Koreatown

Located on the 39th floor of a towering K-Town skyscraper, Gaonnuri impresses with both its insane city views and heaping plates of garlic and soy-soaked short ribs and succulent duck breast, accompanied by standout banchan (basically free side dishes) like kimchi and fermented squid.

Tong Sam Gyup Goo Ee

Murray Hill, Queens

Spring for a LIRR ticket to get to this far-out hole-in-the-wall, where you'll use enormous dome-shaped grills to sizzle up nuggets of pork belly (some of the best in the city) and veggies, and then wrap them in lettuce cups to form flavor-packed bites.

Zinno Park/SB GROUPE

Sik Gaek

Flushing

Anthony Bourdain and David Chang may have highlighted this restaurant’s still-alive octopus dish, but the non-squirming meat dishes pack just as much, if not more, flavor. The requisite order here calls for spicy marinated pork -- which promises an addictively sweet-piquant experience -- and twisted galbi. Offering a textural change from the classic marinated beef short rib item, the galbi pairs swimmingly well with Littleneck clam BBQ -- so you can taste Sik Gaek’s seafood renown, while getting your warm-blooded fix. 

Zinno Park/SB GROUPE

Hahm Ji Bach

Murray Hill, Queens

There are more than a dozen cuts of meat to choose from at this Queens BBQ shrine, ranging from your usual suspects (bulgogi, kalbi) to some less routine stuff (pork neck, blowfish), but pork belly -- seasoned generously with sea salt, then scorched until a caramelized crust forms -- is the true star.

Don's Bogam

Koreatown

This sleek, dark wood-paneled go-to, outfitted with sunken booths and a wine bar up front, is always reliable for platters on platters of tasty DIY kalbi and pork belly, plus seafood hits like scallops and tuna.

Jongro

Jongro

Koreatown

Ask any Korean in their 20s to name their go-to KBBQ spot, and they’ll point to Jongro. A regular stop in the late-night K-Towner’s Saturday night, Jongro is a not-so-secret second floor restaurant more for eating and imbibing than for sitting down with the family. Brisket, Korean marinated short ribs, and skirt steak are the centerpiece foods here, but orders of spicy rice cakes, kimchi stew, and thick, fried seafood pancakes can also be seen at almost every other table. The high-capacity space makes it the ideal group destination, so roll in with your six favorite friends, and an appetite for soju. 

Do Hwa

Do Hwa

West Village

Don’t be surprised if you spot Quentin Tarantino chowing down on kalbi here. The Kill Bill director teamed up with mother-daughter team Myung Ja Kwak and Jenny Kwak to bring Korean home cooking Downtown, where they offer a $35-per-person tasting menu that includes popular dishes like pajun (seafood pancake) and spicy bulgogi. Grilled items can also be ordered a la carte and arrive with lettuce to be eaten ssam-style. BYO fast paced, quirky, and semi-obscure dialogue.

Mapo Korean BBQ

Murray Hill, Queens

Mapo is one of the few NYC spots doing Korean BBQ the old-school way: by searing meats over burning charcoal. The marbled, size-of-your-face kalbi is cooked as a whole slab, then snipped into a heap of juicy, charred cubes.

Zinno Park/SB GROUPE

miss KOREA BBQ

Koreatown

Get your KBBQ fix any time of the day at this 24/7 joint, where there's an emphasis on high-quality beef and employing both wet and dry methods to age the meat. Don’t miss the signature clay pot kalbi -- the beef short ribs marinate in the special vessel for a whopping 48 hours straight.

Madangsui

Midtown West

Sam Sifton called Madangsui “Manhattan’s best Korean barbecue restaurant” when he reviewed it in 2009, and while we won’t confirm that early-KBBQ-era declaration, Sifton is accurate with his ordering suggestions: get a round of all the BBQ classics, including the ribeye, the pork belly, and galbi. The humble fried mandu is notable as well, and goes well with the order of japchae, or sesame oil-stir fried glass noodles.

Zinno Park/SB GROUPE

Kristalbelli

Midtown West

First it was hole-in-the-walls, then food carts and fast-casual concepts. Now, KBBQ can also be found at a high-end restaurant backed by Korean music mogul J.Y. Park and Lil Wayne’s business manager, Horace Madison. The grillable meats list here is thinner than at other places -- offering but 10 cuts of meat -- but in keeping with the pinky-up theme, a list of a la carte meat entrees including a tartare bibimbap (rice dish) made with wagyu tartar generously satisfies. If you opt for the former option, you can grill your pork belly on a crystal surface which purports to cook meat faster and more evenly.

It’s not the traditional, no-frills KBBQ experience, but if you’re the kind of person who likes their fried chicken served on a bed of lemon dill kale, and want a place to eat your favorite fare while wining-and-dining your first date, then this is the spot. 

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Michelle No is a production assistant at Thrillist and she misses LA's $16 all-you-can-eat KBBQ deals. Follow her on Twitter at @Michelle_No and Instagram at @MichelleNope.

Patty Lee is a reporter and editor who has written for Zagat, Time Out New York, New York Daily News, and Cooking Channel. At all other times: an eater of desserts, aspiring world traveler, and proud Brooklynite. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Muk Eun Ji/Son Jja Jang 34 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001 (Korea Town)

It’s Jean-Georges’ favorite KBBQ spot in K-Town, but that’s not why you should pay a visit to this 24/7 spot. First, there’s the pork belly, cut into greasy, thicker-than-average strips. Then there’s the restaurant’s best-selling kimchi pork backbone stew -- a steaming pot of spicy red soup bubbling with generous helpings of aged kimchi and fall-off-the-bone pork backbone. A single $17 order will easily fill three people. For the ultimate flavor rapture, grill your aged kimchi with the pork belly, and eat cuts of both in a single bite.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Shilla Korean Barbecue 37 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001 (Korea Town)

If you’re willing to pay slightly more, Shilla will give you one of the best KBBQ experiences in New York City. The pork belly is much-lauded here, and comes with extra-plentiful banchan (side dishes) that include kimchi, bean sprouts, egg, and a fried Korean pancake. The tabletop grilling service requires a minimum of two meat selections, but with the fatty pork belly on offer, as well as an exceptional kalbi and sweet, marinated bulgogi option, you’ll be wondering about the maximum.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. MaGal - Mapogalmaegi 136-71 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (Flushing)

Located outside the last stop on the 7 line, Mapo Galmaegi is the ideal restaurant for inexperienced outer-borough adventurers. Travelers reward themselves here with galmaegi (pig rib meat) -- the restaurant’s signature, namesake dish. And if you’re looking for the classics, most other beef and pork cuts like marinated short rib (galbi) and thin slices of brisket are available, as well. Oh, and because the practical folks behind Mapo know you’ll be indulging amongst meat fumes for a while, they’ve cleverly furnished all tables with chairs that double as storage. This way, your happy dining memories can live on in your social media, and not on your clothes.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong 1 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016 (Korea Town)

The family-style dining of Korean BBQ -- shareable plates and interactive atmosphere -- is always ideal for large groups, and Kang Ho Dong is no exception. Founded by comedian and wrestler Kang Ho Dong, this South Korean chain's Koreatown location delivers an authentic KBBQ experience, starting with the banchan -- small side dishes -- served as soon as you take a seat. We recommend the Beef Combo: nibble on kimchi and steamed eggs while you throw the sliced brisket, prime rib, and short rib on your tableside grill. Sojo cocktails -- a yogurt and Sprite option is a classic -- and beer finish off the meal.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Insa 328 Douglass St, Gowanus, NY 11217 (Gowanus)

Family-style meals, and in-house karaoke rooms -- it’s a concept more restaurants should consider, and one that Insa has adopted in a trendy Gowanus KBBQ spot. Not that you wouldn’t come here for the food alone: from the addictive starter eats like fried beef dumplings and blood sausage dipped in perilla salt, to the mixed rice and pork stew dishes, there’s not a single item you wouldn’t want seconds of. As for the karaoke, it’s offered in five themed rooms including “jungle,” “deep sea” and “space.” So, we know you’ve already got your next birthday venue locked down.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Han Joo Chik Naeng Myun & BBQ 41-06 149th Pl, New York, NY 11355 (Queens)

On a slab of see-through glistening crystal placed over a turbulent gas flame, watch your food cook to perfection right before your eyes at Han Joo. The traditional Korean BBQ restaurant, specializing in Samgyeopsal (thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat), is worth the trip out of Manhattan any day. Cooking its meat on a crystal-topped grill is both aesthetically pleasing and purposeful, producing a far more juicy, tender, and flavorful bite of pork than a regular old char grill ever could. A surprising variety of small plates are available too, tickling your taste buds all the way through dessert.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Gaonnuri 1250 Broadway, Fl 39, New York, NY 10001 (Korea Town)

Located on the 39th floor of a towering K-Town skyscraper, Gaonnuri impresses with both killer views and hearty servings. From the elevator you’ll step into a bar area that overlooks Midtown, offering a less-than-familiar look at the Hudson and the Empire State Building. The service is attentive and food is prepared at the table. Try the garlic and soy-soaked short ribs and succulent duck breast, accompanied by standout banchan (basically free side dishes) like kimchi and fermented squid. With jaw-dropping views, premium pricing, and high quality menu items, Gaonnuri is a truly elevated Korean dining experience (sorry, we couldn’t resist).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Tong Sam Gyup Goo Ee 162-23 Depot Rd, Flushing, NY 11358 (Flushing)

At this Queens far-out hole-in-the-wall, you'll use enormous dome-shaped grills to sizzle up nuggets of pork belly (some of the best in the city) and veggies, and then wrap them in lettuce cups to form flavor-packed bites.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Sik Gaek 16129 Cocheron Ave, Flushing, NY 11358 (Queens)

Anthony Bourdain and David Chang may have highlighted this restaurant’s still-alive octopus dish, but the non-squirming meat dishes pack just as much, if not more, flavor (you thought we were going to say punch, right?). The requisite order here calls for spicy marinated pork -- which promises an addictively sweet-piquant experience -- and twisted galbi. Offering a textural change from the classic marinated beef short rib item, the galbi pairs swimmingly well with Littleneck clam BBQ -- so you can taste Sik Gaek’s seafood renown, while getting your warm-blooded fix.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Hahm Ji Bach 40-11 149th Pl, Flushing, NY 11355 (Flushing)

There are more than a dozen cuts of meat to choose from at this Queens BBQ shrine, ranging from your usual suspects (bulgogi, kalbi) to some less routine stuff (pork neck, blowfish), but pork belly -- seasoned generously with sea salt, then scorched until a caramelized crust forms -- is the true star.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Don's Bogam 17 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016 (Korea Town)

Arguably one of the city's best spots for Korean barbecue, this sleek, dark wood-paneled restaurant with sunken booths and tabletop grills is always reliable for platters of tasty DIY kalbi, pork belly, and seafood. This chic bar and lounge in Koreatown also boasts a comprehensive wine/sake menu and a memorable cabernet three-layer pork, which happens to be the restaurant's signature dish.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Jongro BBQ 22 W 32nd St Fl 2, New York, NY 10001 (Korea Town)

A regular stop in the late-night K-Towner’s Saturday night, Jongro is a not-so-secret second floor Korean barbecue restaurant. Due to the long lines and young, soju-thirsty crowds more for eating and imbibing pre- and post-night-out with friends than it is for formally sitting down with the family. Diners can cook their own cuts of raw, thinly sliced beef on a barbecue disc right at their table. Brisket, Korean marinated short ribs, and skirt steak are the centerpiece prepared foods here, but orders of spicy rice cakes, kimchi stew, and thick, fried seafood pancakes can also be seen at almost every other table. The high-capacity space makes it the ideal group destination, so roll in with your six favorite friends, and an appetite for soju.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Do Hwa 55 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Don’t be surprised if you spot Quentin Tarantino chowing down on kalbi here. The Kill Bill director teamed up with mother-daughter team Myung Ja Kwak and Jenny Kwak to bring Korean home cooking Downtown, where they offer a $35-per-person tasting menu that includes popular dishes like pajun (seafood pancake) and spicy bulgogi. Grilled items can also be ordered a la carte and arrive with lettuce to be eaten ssam-style. BYO fast paced, quirky, and semi-obscure dialogue.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Mapo Korean B.B.Q. 149, 142-24 41st Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (Flushing)

Mapo Korean BBQ in Flushing is unique among NYC's KBBQ spots because waiters cook the meat for you in a tableside charcoal pit. Kalbi, the speciality meat here, is a marinated, boneless beef rib that’s cooked as a whole slab, then snipped into juicy, charred cubes. A typical meal is complemented by sides like creamed corn, seafood pancakes, and spicy squid noodles. The utilitarian space is great for groups, and is usually filled with Korean families.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. miss KOREA BBQ 10 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001 (Korea Town)

Get your KBBQ fix any time of the day at this 24/7 joint, where there's an emphasis on high-quality beef and employing both wet and dry methods to age the meat. Don’t miss the signature clay pot kalbi -- the beef short ribs marinate in the special vessel for a whopping 48 hours straight.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
16. MADANGSUI 35 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001 (Midtown)

Sam Sifton called Madangsui “Manhattan’s best Korean barbecue restaurant” when he reviewed it in 2009, and while we won’t confirm that early-KBBQ-era declaration, Sifton is accurate with his ordering suggestions: get a round of all the BBQ classics, including the ribeye, the pork belly, and galbi. The humble fried mandu is notable as well, and goes well with the order of japchae, or sesame oil-stir fried glass noodles.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
17. Kristalbelli 8 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018 (Korea Town)

Coming to the US from "Asia's leading entertainment mogul", investors like Lil Wayne's manger, and a chef from L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon, this blinged-out, dual-story palace of Korean BBQ has dining areas loaded with marble tables, a whitewashed private party room, and a lounge boasting a crystal-topped bar, though don't count on her pouring shots down your face.

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