Best Korean restaurants in Chicago

From kimchi to barbecue, these spots offer the best Korean dishes in town

Photograph: Martha Williams
With a variety of spicy chicken dishes, Crisp is a top Korean restaurant in Chicago.

With new chicken wing spots and chef driven twists on Korean classics, Korean cuisine has been on the rise in Chicago. Chicago's best Korean restaurants span Edgewater to Randolph Street, so you won't have to look far for noodles or barbecue. There's everything from saucy and sticky Korean-style chicken wings to charcoal-fueled Korean barbecue to a kimchi-topped burger. Here's where to find it all.

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Best Korean restaurants in Chicago

bellyQ

Critics' pick

The third of chef Bill Kim’s “belly” restaurants is an Asian barbecue joint co-owned by Michael Jordan and Cornerstone Restaurant Group. It’s loud, sceney and ten times the size of Urbanbelly and Belly Shack combined. Start with a thoughtful cocktail and the habit-forming Thai-style fried chicken; finish with the rich-but-refreshing soft serve. In between, order with abandon. Even a $4 side of spinach, here tangled with bits of funky Chinese sausage, proves as complex and intriguing as most restaurants’ best entrées.

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Near West Side

bopNgrill

Korean-American mash-ups are certainly nothing new (ditto for the Korean-Mexican eats Kogi catapulted to national fame), but this sparse Rogers Park spot manages to execute its concoctions with enough pizzazz to have you reconsidering fusion as a whole. Sure, straight-shooters can do well with “bop plates," but we prefer the loosely packed burgers topped with an oozing fried egg, funky kimchi and a squirt of kimchi mayo. Surprisingly, the cream of the crop is a side: piping hot french fries drowned in a creamy mess of cheddar, bacon and kimchi. Yeah, we know, others do it too—but bopNgrill does it best.

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Rogers Park

Cho Sun Ok

The intoxicating aromas of soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar and garlic tell you this place is good before you walk in the door. Talk the server into letting you cook your own sliced beef (as is customary at Korean-barbecue restaurants) because the salty-sweet marinated meats we cooked tableside were more tender than the kitchen’s version. Of the giant wave of little side dishes that accompany the barbecue, don’t pass up the moist fish cake, perfect with a bottle of Korean beer.

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North Center

Crisp

The Korean-style chicken at this cheery storefront is fresh, of good quality and comes slathered in three sauces: a sticky barbecue, a hot sauce–laced buffalo and a sesame-soy glaze dubbed “Seoul Sassy.” There’s also a decent bibimbap (best ordered with “marinated” vegetables, beef, an egg and brown rice) and Korean-style burritos whose fresh vegetables benefit from a liberal slather of sweetish hot sauce, but the chicken is the thing.

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Lakeview

Dak

There's a reason a full roll of paper towels tops every table in this mod chicken shack: The signature Korean-style chicken wings are enormous, saucy, sticky and hopelessly messy. They are also hopelessly delicious, so order double the amount you normally would. (Here's a tip: Wings drenched in soy-garlic "Dak sauce" are more craveable than those in the spicier—but less interesting—barbecue sauce). One of the rice bowls—say, the tender bulgogi—is probably in order, too, not so much for the meat but for the rice, which can soak up any sauce the wings leave behind.

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Edgewater

Parachute

Critics' pick

Baked potato bread; warm, creamy blood sausage custard; Korean ssam piled with country ham—Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark's highly personal Korean-American restaurant is the most creative new place in town. But it's not just the food that makes Parachute special—there's an interesting and well-edited beverage list, affordable prices and an utter lack of pretension that makes dining here comfortable.

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Avondale

San Soo Gab San

Critics' pick

You’ll leave here with the essence of ash wafting from your clothes, but that’s no reason to stay away from the charcoal-fueled Korean barbecue. The wang kalbi and dai ji kalbi are marinated, not saturated, in their respective sauces, which gives the high-quality meats a chance to speak for themselves. Don’t want to smell like a campfire? Try the bibim naeng Myun, a big bowl of cold buckwheat noodles and beef topped with a spicy and flavorful chili sauce.

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Lincoln Square

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