Koreatown has slowly become one of L.A.’s go-to destinations for its many around-the-clock coffee shops or dive bars (diamonds in the rough, if you ask us). But while K-town’s unsung gems have yet to be discovered by most Angelenos, the neighborhood’s Korean BBQ is known the city over. DIY, grill-your-own meat is as much part of the experience as brisk waitresses and smoke-filled dining rooms that range from posh to straight hole-in-the-wall gems. You can grill up varying meats from pork belly to marinated short rib—and beer is always a staple. The best part? This group-friendly dining is a meal deal, leaving plenty more change in your pocket to explore the rest of the ’hood.
RECOMMENDED: Koreatown neighborhood guide
K-town’s best Korean BBQ restaurants
Forget the usual Korean BBQ joints; those suffering from kalbi fatigue can fill up on samgyupsal, aka pork belly, at 8 Korean BBQ (formerly Palsaik Samgyupsal). And if that weren’t enough, eight different marinades—hence the restaurant's name—give enough variety to tired tastebuds. Nearly KBBQ-friendly sauce imaginable, including original marinade, miso paste, curry and wine coats swine cooked on the flat top alongside a seafood soup. The meal ends with kimchi fried rice cooked directly in the soup bowl, making this a three-in-one meal.
If Park’s is where locals go, then Chosun Galbee is where to bring the parents and out-of-towners. This Koreatown spot offers an upscale setting with outdoor seating and—gasp—smokeless grills. With the more modern vibe, the food leans on the less traditional side by way of a less-is-more approach to food and the array of banchan. Wine by the glass and bottle add to the posh dining experience, while private rooms can be booked ahead for large parties.
The sign says “Korean Black Angus” and that’s just what you should order at Chung Ki Wa. Order up rib-eye marinated, sliced or bone-in; whichever way, carnivores can get their fill. Prices are reasonable, especially considering the full spread of banchan and attentive, friendly service. Cook on the flat top, but if you must, the kitchen can also do the cooking for you. And to pair, do as the regulars do: Supplement your beef order with nengmyun, cold buckwheat noodles.
Fans of banchan, you’ve reached your destination. This K-town gem offers more than a dozen pickled goods and sides, which of course accompany any of your six Korean BBQ meal options. Sure, you could gun for the à la carte dishes, like the buckwheat noodles or the cornish game hen stew, but you know what you really came here for—so keep your eyes on the prize. Live westward? There’s a second location, in Beverly Grove, for your convenience.
Chapman Plaza is buzzing and lines of people are waiting to get into this celeb-owned Korean BBQ spot. Named after Korean comedian and proprietor Kang Ho-dong, this casual eatery doesn’t disappoint. With top-notch BBQ beef and a raging (as in don’t-expect-to-have-quiet-banter-with-your-date) good time. Groups file in around the open grill that’s outfitted with side pockets of roasting corn, kimchi and egg. Start with the house specialty: The lunchbox is a kimchi rice mix served in a tin box to share. It’s all about group dining here so get into the spirit and fire it up.
Angelenos may be divided on their favorite Korean barbecue spot in this city, but Park’s seems to be the one unifying constant. The quality meat and tried-and-true flavors always hit the spot. The vibe is more upscale with bright, modern furnishings and lines are never too bad with a sprawling bi-level dining room. And for novices, English is the norm here, while parking is never dreaded—there's convenient, onsite valet.
This OG Koreatown spot is a little fancier and pricier than other BBQ restaurants in K-town, but the charm and quality has been unchanged for decades. Original leather booths are stacked in the calligraphy wallpapered dining room, and a back tatami seating area gives an authentic, timeless feel. The order here is the roastgui, thinly sliced rib-eye, cooked with butter on a flat top. Plenty of tasty banchan fill out the table, but, if that wasn’t enough, the best is yet to come: The meal is finished with a kimchi and beef fried rice that’s cooked directly on the grill. Fight the urge to pick from the bottom of the pan, while it’s cooking—the crispy rice is worth the wait.
There’s no avoiding it: Soot Bull Jeep gets smoky and the grilled meat fumes will permeate everything and stick...for a week. Brave diners (and seasoned 'cuers in the know) file into this hole-in-the-wall spot for some of the best BBQ in town. Though the setting is drab and the side banchan is minimal, the star is the charcaol grill, giving marinated kalbi or whole squid a nice smoky char.
Don’t be put off by the location—a dingy plaza in the far reaches of Koreatown. The long lines (expect at least an hour wait or book a week ahead) will tell you that you’re in the right place. Inside, the dining room is more modern with a mixed crowd of locals and newbies. Combination plates of meat are a good place to start for first-timers, while a smorgasbord of banchan appease veterans. The meat’s top-notch and the service attentive for the perfect gateway restaurant into Korean BBQ or more a fancier night out in K-town.
Looking for more shareable meals?
There’s no question Los Angeles is a place where people like to fine in big groups, so it only makes sense that communal stock pot cooking, also known as hot pot, would be big here. Though most commonly Chinese, we’ve got a multitude of East Asian spots from Japanese to Korean and Mongolian. Here are some of our favorite hot pot restaurants.