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.
A with most entertainment, things are not always as they appear. Reality TV isn’t always reality, “based on a true story” is typically nothing like the truth and Guy Fieri doesn’t actually drive that red convertible to every diner, drive-in and dive. Likewise, food almost always looks better in ads and on TV than in real life. Nonetheless, after watching Seoul Sausage on the last season of The Great Food Truck Race and subsequently learning that the winning crew had put up a bick-and-mortar shop, I knew I had to get some of their sausages in my mouth.
Sometimes the craving for Korean BBQ is so strong it doesn’t matter that you are in Torrance and not Koreatown. When this happens you find yourself at Koji BBQ Buffet, a Korean BBQ unlike any I had ever been to before. Here, the meat seemed to sit out rather than sitting in a fridge or freezer waiting to be served.
In one of my favorite parts of town, Little Little Tokyo (or Little Osaka if you swing that way), there is a Korean restaurant called Tofu Ya. Certainly, the existence of the word “tofu” within a restaurant’s name is a red flag for an unvegan, but while perusing the area one day, I found myself inside checking out the menu. It turned out that it wasn’t simply a vegetarian place and it smelled damn good, so we gave it a spin.
The food court at Century City mall is one of the best. It may have some chains, but it is a long way from the fast food filled food courts of the world. Strangely, there is some turnover in restaurants, but they always seem to be replaced by a similar restaurant with the same name. Case in point: Sorabal, a Korean place, was replaced by Bibigo, a – you guessed it – Korean place. Sure, Bibigo is a different concept from Sorabal, but my point still stands.
EDIT: This spot is gone, but that amazing fried chicken can be found in one of KyoChon’s other locations.
While fried chicken is often considered the domain of Southern cooking and Buffalo wings, it is certainly not exclusive to those cuisines. In fact, some of the best fried chicken I’ve had can be found Asian dishes like the Japanese chicken karaage. But Japan is not alone in this, as a Korean place called KyoChon just may have created the best chicken wings ever. Did I overstate that? I don’t think so.