LA’s Koreatown is a place of legend, filled with all-you-can-eat BBQ, karaoke spots, and seedy places you’ll never know about unless you know about them. It also covers the area seemingly as big as Manhattan. New York’s Koreatown, on the other hand, covers just more than a city block and is built vertically like much of the rest of Manhattan. It is there that I went to dinner at Jongro BBQ.
Koreatown is so damn big that the only way you can possibly figure out which restaurants are good is by word of mouth. Thus, my buddy suggested Myung In Dumplings, which is essentially a Korean-ized Chinese dumpling spot right in the heart of Koreatown. I think he found it by watching some TV show, which generally means delicious food and I was hoping the TV would lead me right again.
All you can eat Korean BBQ is one of the greatest things (not just food things) ever created. It’s meaty, it’s flamey and it is interactive-y. Yet, not all KBBQ spots are created equally, with some charging a bit more than others. Oo Kook in Koreatown is one of those places that goes beyond the $20 mark, but I was hoping it would be worth it.
What do you call a restaurant called Abricott? Do you pronounce it like apricot? Do you slow it down and enunciate everything? Or do you just refer to it as “that Asian place down on Lake”? I prefer the latter option, because at the end of the day that’s really what it is. Abricott is loaded with a variety of different Asian offerings, like Korean, Chinese, Thai, and all that jazz. On this day, though, it was the Thai that struck me.
Korean BBQ, in all its meaty glory, is never a bad decision. Nonetheless, some is clearly better than other at certain things. For example, Ham Ji Park (surprisingly in Koreatown) specializes in pork. This should be obvious considering the word “ham” is in the name, but sometimes things are just too obvious, ya know?
Once every 60 years the world is greeted with the Year of the Golden Pig. The last one was in 2007, yet if you live in Pittsburgh, every day can be a Golden Pig day, assuming you are willing to drive out to Cecil. That’s where Golden Pig, a Korean restaurant that pretty much operates as a small Korean household, is situated. The only difference is that you don’t have to take your shoes off when you enter.
EDIT: Grit & Grace is now a noodle bar, but I’m guessing it is just as delicious as before.
While some parts of the country might have Asian fusion around every corner, Pittsburgh has (most likely for the better) avoided much of this. There is, however, a spot downtown called Grit & Grace that has welcomed that sort of cuisine. It starts with a little something they call American Dim Sum. It’s nothing at all like actual dim sum aside from the fact that it is in small servings, but it is quite delicious. We had some of the Pork Belly Bites (with orange, chili, garlic and ginger) and Kimchi Balls (with rice and cheese). They were both incredible, and the balls surprisingly so because I have a rational hatred of kimchi and these tasted nothing like it.
While Pittsburgh is not devoid of Korean food, there is no city on earth outside of Korea that serves up Korean food like LA. With that in mind, I made my way to Road to Seoul in Koreatown for a final meal before catching a red-eye back to Pittsburgh. Hey, if I can’t give myself the meat sweats on a flight, why even sleep?
With a name like Green Pepper, you might think an unvegan like me would be scared away. But, upon hearing it called the best Korean spot in Pittsburgh from an actual Korean I knew I had to check it out (their awesome website and payment policy didn’t hurt either). After all, I got hooked on Korean food in LA and it was about as meaty as food gets.
After the ill-fated sojourn to Koji BBQ Buffet, I was in need of some good Korean BBQ to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. Fortunately, my friends were more than willing to join me and we ended up at Star BBQ in Koreatown, partly because we had heard great things, but also because it was the easiest place to pronounce. Upon arrival the place was empty, which meant we got personal service that meant not only faster meat, but a waitress to help us with the cooking of it.