Food & Drink

The Best Korean Food in the East Bay

Published On 05/23/2016 Published On 05/23/2016
Korean food
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Dan Sung Sa

2775 Telegraph Ave

It's hard to resist a place referred to casually as the Porno Bar... but if you want to know where the nickname comes from, get your perv self down there for a late-night food fix. Their Korean street-style food, like the ever-popular corn cheese or spicy fried chicken, is delicious, and the bench seating at the bar, private booths, and big table down the middle make this the perfect place to transition from dinner to party all in one spot -- especially as the soju starts to flow.

Sahn Maru Korean BBQ

4315 Telegraph Ave

Inviting and unpretentious, the warm, wooden tables and inviting Korean decor just serve as a backdrop for the real reason to come here: it's all about that black goat stew, baby. Chock full of tender meat, scallions, sesame leaves, and pungent spices served simmering in a stoneware dish, this stuff is amazing. If you happen not to dine on goats, no worries -- the family restaurant has brilliant options like kimchi and vegetable stew or ho bak jun (savory zucchini and jalapeño pancake) that will leave you full of joy.

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Ohgane

3915 Broadway

This place serves upscale Korean food in a relaxed setting -- often with the game playing on their big screens. Boasting mesquite wood charcoal, attentive service, and a table-consuming array of banchan, it's your go-to KBBQ date spot (and word to the wise: there's a very affordable lunch buffet if you're not sure it's really true love). Extra props to Ohgane for the spectacular mural gracing the parking lot wall -- as an added bonus, the parking situation here is seriously easy.

Spoon Korean Bistro

933 Ashby Ave

This Korean hot spot is one of the Bowl’d family dynasty of Korean restaurants. It's not super fancy, but who's really that worried about decor when the food's dynamite? Get the dolsot (hot stone bowl) bibimbap, so the outer layer of your rice gets crispy cracklin’ hot and the egg cooks to perfection. Yum. Super-extra bonus points for the Korean snacks, candies, and drinks you can purchase at the counter... you know you're going to want to bring some tasty Korean snacks home.

Pyeongchang Tofu House

4701 Telegraph Ave

Look, tofu isn't actually bad, just sorely misunderstood. If you're unconvinced, you need to get to know this stuff via Pyeongchang Tofu Houses's rich and spicy soft tofu stew, in which it's a great companion to tender meat and perfectly-cooked vegetables… and has the capacity to contain more flavors than a crayon box. You can order their famous tofu stew mild, but why live life under a rock? Pull up a seat at the communal style tables, embrace the heat, and request kimchi, pork, beef, seafood, dumpling, or some wild combination of vegetables. Life is short, friend -- be adventurous.

FuseBOX

FuseBOX

2311-A Magnolia St

FuseBox is the cutest little joint you ever did see. This West Oakland lunch and dinner spot is more outdoors than in, with a colorful, walled-in patio perfect for sunny afternoon lounging. The inside is charming, cozy, and always bustling with action, as the town comes to eat the minimalist and artistic Korean fusion food. Daily specials like the bacon-wrapped enoki will keep you coming back for more. A pitch-perfect first date spot, this place is both laid-back and sophisticated (just like you'll pretend to be for the first, say, three dates or so).

Von's Chicken

4390 Telegraph Ave

Forget banchan, forget everything, really -- just leave behind your ideas of what makes a balanced meal. You’re here to interface with KFC: Korean Fried Chicken. Crispy chicken that's double-fried (why have we not been double-frying everything?) with just the right amount of spice, and insides so juicy you might cry. Other items of note include the soy and black vinegar oven chicken, garlic chicken, and wine and green onion chicken... or if you're working on getting into fighting shape, the boneless ssam chicken is served with julienned fresh veggies and thinly sliced radish to wrap it all up... tasty, fresh, and sure to save you from the deep fryer.

Koreana Plaza

2370 Telegraph Ave

If you want a delicious take-home option, KP is the answer. While you can grab Korean groceries, fresh fish, produce, and marinated meats here, the far easier option is to pick up packaged and prepared dishes for meals on the go for a quick dinner... or to serve at home and convince everyone you are the second coming of Chef Edward Kwon. They have seasonal kimchi, delicious spicy pork, and best of all, you can pick up a home cooker hotpot and some new socks in their housewares department next door.

Gogi Time

Gogi Time

2600 Telegraph Ave

The focus here is AYCE BBQ and hotpot... which means you should show up in your stretchiest pants. Huge flat screens line the walls of the secondary dining room, so there's no reason not to eat galbi (marinated short ribs) for hours on end while watching the game. There are the standard Korean menu items, but the highlight is grilling your own well-spiced meats and veggies at the table. Be prepared to wait with all the other KBBQ lovers, as the lines can range from one to two hours during a rush. On weekends, reservations are only available before 6pm or for large groups, so get the gang (or eat when your grandparents do).

Kang Tong Degi

3702 Telegraph Ave

Located between Big Daddy's Chinese Restaurant and a local liquor store, you'll find a Korean bar food gem. It's not the most glamorous, but it is just right for a late night food fix washed down with soju. They have killer bar fare, including corn cheese (a sweet corn mayo cheese concoction that will confuse and delight you), fried wings, and chicken gizzards, all set against a background of Korean pop music. Try the military stew, a big, bubbling mix of sausage, tofu, Spam (that’s right, Spam), ramen noodles, green onions, spicy broth, and the rest of the kitchen sink. Buy some rounds of Hite for the bar and party all night with all your new best friends.

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1. Dan Sung Sa 2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

This Korean pub in Oakland is casually referred to as Porno Palace, but it's not what you think -- instead, the nickname has to do with it being named after an old movie theater in Seoul. Dan Sung Sa focuses on Korean street food, and its corn cheese and spicy fried chicken are must-orders. It's perfect for your late-night food fix, especially if you're looking to drink some quality soju.

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2. Sahn Maru Korean BBQ 4315 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Oakland)

This inviting and unpretentious spot on Telegraph Ave specializes in family-style Korean barbecue. The menu is heavy on slow-roasted beef and pork combos, but the most popular dish can be found on the soups and stews portion of the menu: the spicy black goat stew. Chock full of tender meat, scallions, sesame leaves, and pungent spices served simmering in a stoneware dish, the stew is downright amazing. As for Sahn Maru's ambience, the space is spacious and homey with tons of wooden tables.

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3. Ohgane Korean BBQ 3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611 (Oakland)

Maybe 99% of restaurants with no limit on your dining intake are not worth the price of the meal. Ohgane is the 1%, with its optional $25 eye-popping bounty at night (grilled with charcoal or gas) and lavish $12 buffets during the day.

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4. Spoon Korean Bistro 933 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710 (Berkeley)

Part of the Bowl'd family of Korean restaurants, Spoon is more modern than the most of the traditional Korean spots in East Bay. Right near Berkeley Bowl, the indoor/outdoor restaurant serves an extensive menu of stews, barbecue, bibimbap, and pancakes every day from morning til night. If Spoon's sheer variety isn't enough for you, then consider the price: everything is less than $20.

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5. Pyeongchang Tofu House 4701 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Oakland)

Pyeongchang Tofu House in Oakland is a go-to for steaming tofu stew, available in multiple spice levels. Though the menu is heavy on tofu, there are plenty of beef and pork accompaniments, like bulgogi, a marinated beef dish that comes with lettuce for wrapping. Pyeonchang Tofu House is a great place to find a variety of Korean food, and every entree comes with banchan, a rotating selection of sides that usually includes lots of kimchi. The place is casual and quick with plenty of cafeteria-like wooden tables.

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6. FuseBOX 2311 A Magnolia, Oakland, CA 94607 (Oakland)

FuseBOX is a Korean-American restaurant in West Oakland that serves truly fusion dishes like spicy chicken wings deep-fried in rice flour batter, bacon mochi, grilled pork belly, and house-made tofu and kimchi. Located in a nondescript industrial space and surrounded by warehouses, the place feels secret, helped by the fact that there's almost no signage.

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7. Von's Chicken 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Oakland)

Von's Chicken in Oakland is the place to go for the real KFC: Korean fried chicken. Double-fried, perfectly spicy, and oh-so tender, the crispy chicken is worth writing home about. There are a few varieties, like soy and black vinegar oven chicken and garlic chicken, and if you'd rather be spared the deep fryer, consider the boneless ssam chicken served with julienned vegetables.

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8. Koreana Plaza 2370 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

Originally founded in 1973, this massive grocery store in Oakland (with another location in Sacramento) is a one-stop shop for any and all Asian groceries. There's an emphasis on Korean groceries (it has a huge selection of kimchi and marinated meats), but you'll find a variety of fresh fish, produce, and packaged goods from all over the globe. More than the home cook's paradise, KP has a standout selection of prepared meals on-the-go, like sushi, BBQ meat, and Russian pizza.

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9. Gogi Time 2600 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

Gogi Time focuses on two things: all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue and hotpot. The Oakland restaurant serves all the standard Korean menu items, but the highlight is grilling your own well-spiced meats and veggies at the table. The all-you-can-eat menu includes spicy pork, chicken, beef bulgogi, short ribs, and small intestine, and more premium meats are available à la carte. The place gets crowded on weekend nights, so arrive on the early side of 6pm to avoid a long wait.

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10. Kang Tong Degi 3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Oakland)

This Korean brewpub on Telegraph serves up soju and bar fare that's just right for late-night feasting. Expect corn cheese (a sweet corn mayo cheese concoction that will confuse and delight you), fried wings, and chicken gizzards in a bamboo dining room with Korean pop music blasting in the background. Kang Tong Degi is open for dinner, but it doesn't reach its nightly peak until after 11.