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At K-Team BBQ in Los Angeles.
The specialty at K-Team BBQ, the new restaurant from the founders of Park’s BBQ, is thinly sliced pork belly, with a spread of some of the freshest garnishes around.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

25 of the best Korean barbecue restaurants in Koreatown and beyond

L.A.’s Korean barbecue landscape is vast and varied. Dozens of Koreatown restaurants specialize in meats for personal grilling, with a cooktop built into the center of each table for platters of (mostly) beef and pork in all their various cuts, providing theater and functionalism at once. It’s an essential, thrilling Los Angeles dining experience.

Each K-barbecue restaurant has its own take on what must be one of the best full-tilt ways to share a meal — primal and modern, elemental and lavish, continually changing.

New restaurants serving Korean barbecue open apace in always-transmuting Koreatown, and the latest include K-Team BBQ, the new Park’s BBQ sibling on Vermont Avenue, and Origin, which has taken over the Chapman Plaza location of Baekjeong (expected to resurface in a palatial L.A. flagship later this year). But long-standing icons keep diners coming back for their charcoal-fueled grills, attentive service, signature cuts or AYCE combos.

“Korean barbecue is becoming more like just regular barbecue” in its prevalence, said Jenee Kim of Park’s BBQ. “It’s not a Korean[-only] restaurant anymore. There’s other nationalities of people opening Korean barbecue. … I think Korean barbecue is becoming like that.”

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Keeping up with what’s on trend is sport. Hanwoo beef at Daedo Sikdang, or dry-aged beef at ABSteak by Chef Akira Back, or yet more prime beef at Jeong Yuk Jeon Korean BBQ. The fatty, tender patties of tteok-galbi at Origin. The cheese fondue dipping sauce at Mun.

Do you prefer pink pickled radish wrappers, or rice paper wrappers? Wang galbi, LA galbi, tong galbi, yang-nyeom galbi or “bomb” galbi? Or maybe the litmus test for your favorite Korean barbecue is among the banchan. Which restaurant serves the best gyenran-jjim steamed egg? The best corn cheese?

Which ones have the best Katy Perry-free soundtrack? Which have the best ventilation? Here’s the thing: There is the perfect Korean barbecue spot for anyone and everyone, whether you love bulgogi or tripe, thick- or thin-cut pork belly, lengua or even duck, chicken or seafood. The world is your oyster — or your prime cut of beef.

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A black-gloved hand arranges meat on a grill, surrounded by various side dishes and sauces
(ABSteak by Chef Akira Back)

ABSteak by Chef Akira Back

Beverly Grove Korean Barbecue Steakhouse $$$
Akira Back doesn’t reinvent any of the established tenets of Korean barbecue at his Beverly Center outpost — one of 17 restaurants with various themes that he operates around the globe — but he does gild the basics with a fine-dining gloss. Beef leans to dry-aged prime cuts, usually New York strip and sometimes rib-eye, and Wagyu mostly from Australia or Japan. Boneless, nonmarinated saeng galbi delivers on sumptuous texture and mineral richness, as it should for $90. Starters attempt to steal the limelight. An extra-fluffy egg soufflé drips melting American cheese from its crown. Beef tartare arrives on a gorgeous stoneware platter with small separate compartments for garnishes (pine nuts, garlic chips, sesame seeds and quail egg yolk, among others), which servers mix together tableside. I’d argue no K-BBQ restaurant in Los Angeles serves a better gin martini. The dining room can be a little vacant and lonely on weekdays, so to feel the special-occasion spirit the prices engender, plan to come on a weekend.
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Galbi at Korean barbecue restaurant Ahgassi Gopchang in Koreatown in Los Angeles.
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Ahgassi Gopchang

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$$
When BTS name-checked Ahgassi Gopchang in an interview during its Permission to Dance on Stage tour at the end of 2021, crowds of fans swarmed the Korean barbecue restaurant known for its grilled beef intestines and stomach (gopchang means intestines). The bustling corner restaurant at 6th and Harvard, where tabletop grills sizzle as the fat from offal drips onto the flames, still fills up quickly on any given night. Grilling intestines until they are caramelized is a smoky proposition, and the adjustable periscope-style fans at each table probably are working in overdrive. But the resulting golden, fatty, chewy meat is worth the wait — and the fumes.

Friendly, attentive servers are always at the ready with their tongs and scissors, checking on the meat, keeping the soju flowing and providing extra banchan. You can’t really go wrong with a combo set, but it’s either intestines all the way or prime cuts only; order a la carte if you want to mix and match. A parade of sides will still ensue.
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Thick cuts of meat on a grill
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Book Sae Tong

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
L.A. Korean barbecue is known for its flanken-cut galbi — a strip of meat thinly sliced across the bones of the chuck end of beef ribs. Book Sae Tong’s signature is the thick-cut galbi, or tong galbi, a.k.a. “whole beef rib” on the restaurant’s menu. It isn’t a whole single rib; like LA (as in lateral) galbi, it’s cut in strips across the bones, but in extra-thick portions instead of thin slices. Here it’s not only meaty but also marbled with fat, and it’s glorious, especially because the restaurant uses charcoal (increasingly rare in L.A.) in its grills.

As soon as you order, a server will fill the grill with a mound of coals and light them up. Because it’s a thick piece of meat, expect longer cooking times (some customers will call in an order in advance). As the tong galbi cooks, your server will begin to snip bite-size chunks of meat from the bone with scissors and return them to the grill to finish cooking. Finally, the bones are placed on the grill — so you can chew the crispy, fatty bits straight off of them. And the best of the sides? Mountains of briny baechu kimchi and the furiously bubbling gyeran-jjim steamed egg.
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An array of small dishes with an order of pork ribs.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Borit Gogae

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
The set menu at Borit Gogae is presented as a dozen bowls of porridge, stew, soup, salad, fried vegetables, herbs and green plum tea on a woven basket in the center of the table. Each diner is provided a bowl of rice and you spend your meal constructing perfect bites of mung bean pancake, perilla seed and chicken soup and freshwater snail with a vinegar dressing. This isn’t technically a Korean BBQ restaurant, but the grilled pork ribs are some of the most addictive in the city. Piled onto a sizzling cast iron skillet, the meat is charred and crusty, lacquered in a sweet and spicy marinade that smacks of garlic and chile.
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An overhead photo of the signature galbi on the grill at Chosun Galbee in Koreatown.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Chosun Galbee

Harvard Heights Korean Barbecue $$$
Picking the right Korean barbecue spot can depend on a number of factors and cravings, but seasoned diners know that when searching for the highest-quality meat, Chosun Galbee is a clear choice. In addition to serving some of the finest beef in Koreatown, the sleek, more traditional establishment prides itself on upscale touches: The staff don formal uniforms, plus earpieces for streamlined communication and snappy service; the spoons are sheathed in branded covers; and the setting — almost entirely concrete, wood and steel — is tasteful and minimalist. Multiple private dining rooms, a spacious patio and roomy partitioned booths see plenty of families, business colleagues, date nights and other special-occasion diners ordering from the lengthy menu of meats and nongrilled braises, noodle soups and mandu.

The most popular choice, according to staff, is of course the namesake: Galbi is king here, served marinated or unmarinated and with two short planks of bone thrown onto the grill. Spicy pork bulgogi, black tiger prawns, marinated chicken and hearty slices of Berkshire pork belly also are available. The focus, however, doesn’t fall solely on the meat. The banchan is artful, with rarer bites such as thick cubes of jiggly rice cake dripping with chili crisp or the lemony, crunchy cauliflower florets in chilled cream sauce, as well as the more ubiquitous options done well: squares of scallion pancake with just the right bounce, potato salad brightened with pear, small whole wedges of cabbage kimchi with flavor seeping through every layer.
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The dakgalbi spicy stir-fried chicken from Chuncheon Dakgalbi.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Chuncheon Dakgalbi Donghae Makguksu 2

Koreatown Korean $$
The first thing you do when you sit down at Chuncheon Dakgalbi Donghae Makguksu 2 is put on an apron. The overflowing pan of dakgalbi, or chicken stir fry, bubbling away in a large pan on the tabletop grill before you is going to get messy. During lunch, it’s not uncommon to see tables of six apron-clad diners all eating from the same pan. Though the chicken is cooked through when the dish hits the table, your server will tell you to wait for the cabbage, perilla leaves and matchsticks of sweet potato to soften. Every few minutes someone will come by to give it a stir. The server gives the go-ahead when the red sauce has formed a sort of paste that grips the chicken and vegetables. It’s warming and spicy with gochugaru, garlic and ginger. It’s the type of one-pot meal I could reheat leftovers of all week. If someone in your party insists on something that better resembles the Korean barbecue down the block, order the salted grilled chicken too. The pieces of chicken thigh are seasoned simply with salt, grilled until just charred and piled onto a skillet with slivers of raw onion that go limp, then sweet, as your lunch progresses.
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Staff cuts into ribeye meat as it cooks on an open grill at Daedo Sikdang.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Daedo Sikdang

Koreatown Korean Steakhouse Barbecue $$
The original Daedo Sikdang has operated in Seoul since 1964, serving a no-nonsense menu dedicated to Korea’s prized, extravagantly marbled Hanwoo beef. In 2021 the restaurant’s first United States location opened on the corner of 6th Street and South Manhattan Place in Koreatown. The airy, industrial dining room is arguably the handsomest space among L.A.’s dozens of barbecue houses: Rectangular LED light fixtures hover above oak tables and gold grill covers conceal cast-iron pans. The rarity of Hanwoo beef makes it difficult to import, but the menu stays admirably concise, highlighting three prime cuts of rib-eye, including the ultra-beefy, spongy-tender rib cap. Dipping sauces (sweet soy and umami-blasting shrimp sauce), salts and dishes of crisp, spicy kkakdugi to juxtapose the meats’ richness all taste precisely calibrated. Yes to the option of stir-fried rice. Soups lean meaty, and unless you’re coming with a crowd hungering for variety you’ll likely be sated from the grilled meats. To extend the evening, the restaurant runs a swank bar and karaoke lounge next door.
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A selection of banchan surrounds a round metal grill at Genwa in Mid-Wilshire.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Genwa Korean BBQ

Hancock Park Korean $$$
The meat selection at Genwa is on par with the best Korean BBQ specialists in the city. The American Wagyu kotsal can go toe to toe with whoever grills your favorite. But the real draw at Genwa is the banchan. With nearly 20 on offer, you could focus the majority of your meal on the tiny white bowls brimming with vegetable pancakes, spicy squid, three different seaweed preparations, pickled radish, boiled peanuts and, of course, good kimchi. The metal trough of salad is also a favorite, the greens cool, crunchy and tossed in a tangy soy vinaigrette. The included bowls of house soup are fortifying and generous with soft radish and chunks of beef. The restaurant also has a wide selection of nonbarbecue dishes that includes dumplings and one of my favorite preparations of black cod in the city. It’s served like a shallow stew of sorts with plump, delicate fillets half-submerged in a red sauce reminiscent of budae-jjigae, alongside fat rounds of radish, triangles of soft tofu and plenty of green onion.
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A Korean barbecue grill featuring a circle of kimchi fried rice. Two hands aim blowtorches at mozzarella in the center.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Hae Jang Chon

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
In a sea of all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue options, one stands the reigning champion. More than 20 years in, it doesn’t matter whether you visit for dinner or lunch, weekday or weekend, rain or shine: There will almost definitely be a crowd forming outside Hae Jang Chon, L.A.’s go-to for endless grilled meat and marinated seafood. The price is right, with 33 items available for $37.99 during lunch and $43.99 on weekends, and while the menu lacks some of the specialty cuts and higher-end items found nearby, all beef is prime or USDA choice. Options like marinated squid, pork neck steak, barbecue chicken, shrimp and beef abomasum, or intestine, help to provide variety as you order up to three proteins at a time, which sizzle on heavy, flat stone grills. Banchan is utilitarian, while the perilla leaves cost $5 extra (and aren’t refilled), but the quality for the price can’t be beat — nor can that party-like atmosphere, especially when the whole restaurant bursts into song for a birthday. No matter how full you think you are, save room for the cheese-topped kimchi rice, which receives a hand-blown torching and can only be ordered at the end of the meal.
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The Korean barbecue at Hanu K in Los Angeles.
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Hanu K BBQ

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
Bring the kids. They’re going to love the robots. Hanu K BBQ, the restaurant on the first floor of the Grand Spa L.A. building, serves trays of banchan and meats for grilling via rolling, blipping, blinking food-delivery robots on wheels, and the novelty is a delight. The wait staff (humans) transfer the dishes to your table and do all the grilling. All combos here come with: a platter of jeon — the pancake-like fritter of assorted battered-and-pan-fried meats and vegetables; a meaty version of the soybean paste stew doenjang jjigae; braised short ribs; and gyeran-jjim, the bubbling steamed egg dish ubiquitous at Koreatown meat palaces. This is in addition to banchan such as various kimchi (cabbage and cucumber among them); sauteed mushrooms and kkwarigochu peppers; and japchae. Plus, corn cheese.

The meat combos — priced at $109.99 to $169.99 — are crowd pleasers, with all your favorite beefy cuts such as Black Angus rib-eye steaks, sliced brisket, outside skirt, marinated short ribs and short rib patties. Pork jowl and pork belly also are options. If you’re a gopchang fan, mountain tripe, small intestine and abomasum (stomach) come with brisket, or a la carte.
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Scallops, clams and mussels on the grill at Jae Bu Do Korean seafood barbecue restaurant
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Jae Bu Do

East Hollywood Korean Seafood Barbecue $$$
For one of Koreatown’s unique dining experiences, follow the beacon of the neon red crab affixed to the corner of a strip mall along Western Avenue. It marks the spot of Jae Bu Do, which puts seafood — not meat — at the center of its coal-fired grills. In fact, there’s no meat to be found at this iconic restaurant, which since 2009 has served an abundance of clams, mussels, abalone, scallops, squid and nearly all manner of ocean delicacies alongside vegetable pancakes, steamed egg, chilled seafood salad, corn cheese and a gratifying, comforting noodle soup.

Many of its specialties are available a la carte, but the best deals are the set meals, which range from $85 (feeds two) to $200 (feeds four to five) and provide an onslaught of shellfish: plump oysters bubbling in their shells; abalone so fresh from the tank it’s still undulating; baby octopus coated in chile; croaker and potatoes that cook in the embers; the spindly hagfish, which twist and turn and crisp up beautifully; scallops served both in-shell and in small tubs of buttery broth; and whole steamed lobster. While some seafood comes dressed and marinated, much of it is left to simmer and char in its juices, allowing for natural flavors to shine. A post-grill quick dip into a sweet-spicy chile sauce can brighten each bite, but Jae Bu Do’s message is simple: When kissed with charcoal, straightforward, fresh seafood needs little else. Don the provided gloves — all the better to grasp those piping hot shells pulled straight off the small grill — and dig in.
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Tongs hold a rib-eye on the round metal grill at Jeong Yuk Jeom, surrounded by small side dishes.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Jeong Yuk Jeom Korean BBQ L.A.

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$$
Jeong Yuk Jeom (the name translates as “butcher shop”) is among the barbecue houses striving to differentiate itself by featuring prime-grade beef, including pricier dry-aged cuts. I’ve always wished here that the dry-aging resulted in more pronounced tang and funk than it often does, but with a group of four I’m always in for a “Butcher’s Pride” trio of galbi, aged tenderloin and dry-aged rib-eye, the latter having the most concentrated richness. Round out the meal with bibimbap and a bowl of spicy cold noodles.

The restaurant, located on the first floor of MaDang mall (above H Mart), does brisk business, particularly during prime dinner hours, and the space is certainly part of the appeal: Reach the main dining room via a theatrical ramp lined with green runway lights. You’ll pass under ancient beams, made from birch and zelkova and brought over from a dismantled temple in China, flanked by walls of glass shelves lined with glowing bottles of soju. Service doesn’t always match the glam atmosphere. I’ve had well-paced dinners here, and other experiences, including my most recent one, where the server grilled our meats in such rapid succession that we were done in less than 40 minutes. When ordering $200 worth of steak, who wants to feel so rushed?
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One hand seasons brisket on the grill at K-Team BBQ in Koreatown while another spoons banchan.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

K-Team BBQ

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
In the same quadrant of Koreatown where legendary Park’s BBQ, Soowon Galbi and the Corner Place are located — on or near traffic-pulsing Vermont Avenue between Olympic and 8th — is newcomer K-Team BBQ. It’s the sibling K-barbecue spot from Park’s, in the former Ong Ga Nae spot in a nearby strip mall, with a bright dining room of checkered-tile tables and crowds of the young, stylish and hungry.

As the sun dips behind the Hanmi Bank building across the street, its final rays stream into the big windows at K-Team and the grills fire up — flat grills slanted so that fat from the meats is caught in a tray at one end, with a corner compartment for transferring anything fully cooked. The array of ssam ingredients is dazzlingly fresh: huge sesame leaves and crispy lettuce along with crunchy bean sprouts, spicy kimchi, slivered scallions and pickled garlic chives. Beef options include tongue, brisket and thin-sliced rib-eye. But the specialty here is pork: thin pork belly, thick pork belly, pork collar steak, thick pork collar or pork jowel. Unlike most Korean barbecue restaurants in Koreatown, K-Team doesn’t offer combos, but all a la carte orders come with steamed egg, spicy rice cakes and all of the aforementioned accoutrements. Don’t skip the add-ons: myeonglan paste (pollack roe) or minari, king oyster, shishito and potato.
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Spicy stir-fried chicken with a selection of banchan
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Time)

Mapo Galbi

Harvard Heights Korean $$
You’ll see the same dish at just about every table at Mapo Galbi. Don’t go against the grain. The dakgalbi, or stir-fried chicken, comes with bouncy rice cakes, herbaceous perilla leaves, cabbage, green and white onions and a spicy red sauce that can be adjusted to your preference. Note that medium-spicy still provides a pleasant, tongue-tingling heat. Servers will cook the dish for you and, once it’s done, you can request a layer of shredded white cheese to be melted on top. For a great two-in-one deal, they’ll also mix the remainder of your meal into fried rice. If you’re going to experiment, do so with beverages, which include raspberry, draft rice and herbal wine, plus soju and a few beer options.
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A steak on the grill at Mun Korean Steakhouse in Koreatown, with banchan, cocktails and salad also on the table.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Mun Korean Steakhouse

Koreatown Korean Steakhouse Barbecue $$$
This is Korean barbecue with flourish that delivers. Billed as a fine-dining take on the cuisine, Mun Korean Steakhouse is full of clubby touches — but don’t let the pulsing music, smoking cocktails, marble tabletops and gold dinnerware and grill accents distract you. The food here is some of the best in the game, extending far beyond the high caliber of the meats (which are brought to the table under a cloche, wisps of dry-ice smoke curling around it for a showy reveal). The prime, beef-centric meats include rib-eye, belly, tongue, short rib, hanging tender and brisket, though pork jowl, truffled shrimp and vegetables are also on offer.

There’s balance to every element of the set meal, including the wine-infused dipping salt; the flavorful, snappy japchae rife with wood-ear mushrooms, peppers and onions; the rich and beefy signature stew; the decadent cheese fondue that simmers on the grill throughout the meal; and the refreshing seasonal slush to finish it all. The bulgogi patties served with mustard salad make it worth ordering the “Mun’s Choice” set, which provides a taste of most of the house specialties for $60 per person, but a la carte dishes like the pear-dotted Wagyu beef tartare are worth supplementing. Bring a date or bring a crew for one of the vibiest Korean barbecue nights in Koreatown.
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A platter of raw disks of pork belly next to a grill with meat.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Origin

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
One of L.A.’s newest K-barbecue spots is already proving to be a staple, but then again, the team behind perennial favorite Quarters knows what it’s doing. On6thAvenue hospitality group’s latest restaurant, Origin Korean BBQ, is located just across from Quarters in Chapman Plaza with a wholly different aesthetic. The retro posters and other decor are inspired by 1960s Seoul, the spacious open dining room makes for a buzzing atmosphere, long tables featuring multiple grills encourage large-party communal dining, and the bountiful set meals turn out high-quality cuts with an array of banchan and ssam fixings.

Beef and pork are both thoughtfully considered, with standouts like the marinated beef short rib patty, or tteok-galbi, which grills as a thick and delectably fatty puck, then is sliced into bite-size morsels, or the thin spirals of pork belly that curl and crisp up at the edges. The house special set is a feast and a bargain at $95 for two or $175 for four, with four cuts of meat plus ssam, steamed egg, corn cheese that sizzles on its own separate grill top, and a cauldron filled to the brim with Origin’s signature soup, the unctuous soybean-paste hot pot with ramen and rolled brisket, with a broth that’s simmered at least five hours for a flavorful final bite.
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An array of meats on a metal grill at Park's BBQ
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Park's BBQ

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$$
Among the literal dozens of barbecue houses that line the streets of Koreatown, Jenee Kim’s operation has set the overall standard for prime beef and hospitality for decades. The clean-lined dining room hums from the sound of the powerful vents drawing smoke from the tabletop grills. Come to Park’s with a group for a meal that ensues in a blur of fellowship and animal protein. Ordering the “Taste of Park’s” No. 1 option makes decisions easy: Its five cuts include hunks of short rib, brisket rolled into tuiles, squiggles of bulgogi, a forearm-sized slab of galbi and the restaurant’s specialty — ggot sal, or “flower meat,” squares of deeply marbled boneless short rib. (If you’re already taken with ggot sal, consider splurging on the Wagyu version.) Service is efficient but never abrupt. Staffers sail by, performing the rituals of turning meats, cleaving them with scissors and moving any remaining cooked pieces to the side to make room for the next round. Extras of doenjang jjigae, laden with tofu and vegetables, and stone pot rice riddled with kimchi bring balance to the meal.
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Pork chadol is part of the Pigya set menu at the pork-centric restaurant in Koreatown.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Pigya

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
The $68 tasting menu at Pigya may be the best deal in town. Designed to feed two but enough for three, it’s a nonstop onslaught of pork belly, pork cheek, pork collar and pork belly chadol. But before the pork, you’re presented with slices of Wagyu carpaccio and a bowl of steamed egg. The meat is cooked on a domed grill your server greases with a nub of pork fat before piling on white onion, sweet potato, mushrooms, a jumble of bean sprouts and a heap of kimchi. A small grate set above the grill holds the finished meat, minimizing the time between courses to just seconds. On the side there’s a triptych of condiments with seasoned salt, a thin chimichurri and a soy-based barbecue sauce. After the meat, there’s kimchi rice. Your server will ask if you want cheese. Of course you want a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. Just be sure to lean back when the server sets it on fire with a blowtorch. And somehow, there’s more food on its way. The last course is a metal bowl crammed with curly instant ramen noodles in a red broth that’s saltier than it is spicy. There are no to-go containers for the ramen, so bring a group and finish what you can.
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Wagyu brisket is part of the Wagyu beef combo at Quarters Korean BBQ in Koreatown.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Quarters Korean BBQ

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
This is where you want to ball out on a Wagyu combination set. Priced at $155, it comes with ribbons of Wagyu brisket, a Wagyu rib-eye steak and bulgolgi. It’s a feast that can easily serve four people. Accompanying the meat are a shaved scallion and green salad as well as kimchi and a handful of other banchan. Two of the three provided dipping sauces veer into Italian and Argentine territory, with a chimichurri and a spicy red tomato sauce our server described as arrabbiata. The third ramekin is reserved for the more traditional soy with white onion and chiles. Most of the meat, heavily marbled and rich on its own, requires nothing more than a pinch of salt. The servers are attentive, switching out the grill grates frequently. And depending on how quickly you eat, they’ll make sure the grill is never bare, adding on your next protein and a handful of vegetables.
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Marinated baby back ribs on a grill at Soot Bull Jeep in Koreatown.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Soot Bull Jeep

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$$
Soot Bull Jeep, the standard line goes, is one of the last remaining barbecue houses in Koreatown to use live charcoal for cooking. While technically true, don’t expect the bygone practice of staffers filling a tabletop pit solely with glowing live coals for cooking. Instead, they scatter briquettes over gas-fueled grills to enhance the smokiness. The modified practice still makes a difference in the flavor — and in how the scent of sizzling, flame-kissed meat permeates every fiber of your clothes. If you’re making the pilgrimage to this low-key Los Angeles institution, focus on the “house special” of marinated baby back ribs, the meat snipped from the bone by an attentive server. The spread of banchan is small but fresh, and the menu (which also includes chicken and seafood options) runs short. A selection of beef cuts anointed with sesame oil and salt leans bland. Better to choose spicy-sweet bulgogi or a robust hunk of nonmarinated rib-eye that nicely absorbs the scents of the billowing, sputtering fire.
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An order of galbi on the grill at Soowon Galbi in Koreatown.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times )

Soowon Galbi

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
The menu at Soowon Galbi echoes the ones you’ll find at most other restaurants offering Korean barbecue. But it only really needs to be one item long. It should just read: galbi. The long bands of USDA prime Black Angus short ribs are rolled around a wide bone. They sit in the house marinade for 48 hours, saturating the meat in the sweet soy mixture. Your server unravels the meat roll and splays it across the hot grill. During the lunch rush, there’s an order of galbi smoking on every table. Once the server deems your meat ready (it’s usually medium rare), he’ll use a pair of scissors to cut the band into bite-sized strips. It’s wonderfully tender with charred bits along the edges. The best part is cleaning the crispy caramelized remnants off of the bone.
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Korean BBQ-style duck at Sun Ha Jang
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Sun Ha Jang

Arlington Heights Korean Barbecue $$
Sun Ha Jang is a Koreatown strip-mall restaurant that’s been around for decades, but since 2005 has been specializing in duck barbecue. Meals cost $48.99 per person, and the bird is the sole option. A fast-moving server sets up your tabletop grill and soon begins pan-grilling rosy, tissue-thin slices of breast meat piled on a platter. As they sputter and sizzle, another staffer delivers plates of lightly dressed greens, mildly spiced radish and seasoned onions and leeks, directing you to compose a salad that incorporates the duck. Then comes the finale. The server pours a mound of seasoned heukmi bap (a blend of white and black rices that turns purple) over rendered duck fat that has been simmering with cloves of garlic and stir-fries the whole thing with a few wisps of kimchi. Patting the rice into a cake, he or she will instruct you to wait a few minutes. Patience is rewarded with a bottom layer of crisped grains so satisfying you’ll be chiseling the final bits from the pan.
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Aside from grilled meats, cold noodle soup is the dish to get at the Corner Place.
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

The Corner Place

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$
For straightforward Korean barbecue in a no-frills setting, there’s the classic Corner Place, one of the oldest restaurants in Ktown, famous for its signature chilled noodle soup, dongchimi guksu. For barbecue, order preferred meats such as beef honeycomb tripe, bulgogi, galbi and brisket deckle a la carte or in one of two combinations of choose-your-own items.

The banchan is fairly simple and you’ll have to add sides such as spicy ssamjang dipping sauce and lettuce to wrap your meat in. The cold noodle soup is the perfect contrast to the juicy meats and a refreshing option for hot summer days. As a bonus, you can park for free in the restaurant’s lot.
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A hand with chopsticks reaches for the galbi tomahawk, massive bone included, on a sizzling tray at Woo Hyang Woo.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Woo Hyang Woo

Koreatown Korean Barbecue $$$
The name is more than apt. Woo Hyang Woo — which translates to “beef-scented house” — might as well have its own cartoon-like trail of smoke and aroma guiding guests from the sidewalk into the dark, sleek setting. Owner Hyun Kim’s upscale Korean barbecue den opened in L.A. in 2020, but his experience began more than a decade ago with prolific restaurant group the Born Korea; since then he’s also branched out with L.A.-area chain Chadolpoong. Kim specializes in high-quality beef, and at Woo Hyang Woo the meats include prime, Wagyu, bone-in, marinated, aged — nearly every variation imaginable.

The star of the menu, however, is the show-stopping, large-format tomahawk: Thick, hearty slices of the prime, aged steak sizzle and pop with heaps of onions alongside the massive bone, drawing the attention of nearly every table in the place. For smaller parties, Woo Hyang Woo also offers short-rib tomahawk for two, where the tender galbi is served in a similar fashion though with a smaller — but still sizable — bone. Diners can pick between grilling meats at the table or letting the kitchen do the work, which is advised for the tomahawks, which can prove unwieldy. Other options include brisket, pork jowl, thinly sliced beef tongue, bulgogi and other K-barbecue standards, plus a la carte soups, fried appetizers and an array of wine, soju, cocktails, beer and sake.
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A selection of banchan from Yangmani.
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

Yangmani

Westside Korean Barbecue $$
A sleek space that’s popular with a young crowd, it’s all about the offal and banchan at Yangmani. The restaurant gets busy at dinner time, so put your name on the wait list and find a seat on the heated patio. Once you’ve scored a table and before your meats arrive, staff will bring out sides such as beef tartare, fermented tofu, seasoned chiles and thick soybean paste stew. You can order tripe and small intestines in an offal-centered combo, or mix it up with a la carte cuts such as pork belly, short rib, prime brisket or prime rib-eye. Yangmani’s attentive servers will do the cooking for you, stacking bean sprouts in one corner of the grill as a bed for finished meat so it doesn’t overcook while you eat. The only thing you’re left to stress about is navigating the chaotic valet stand in the adjoining parking lot.
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