If you’ve never experienced Korean BBQ before, I can safely say that you are missing out (unless you’re vegetarian of course!). Some of my best memories here at USC, and even at home in San Diego, were centered around stuffing myself with all-you-can-eat KBBQ, always with good company. It is definitely one of the more interesting eating experiences, and though it is too expensive to do often, I try to squeeze heading to KTown at least every few months!
I’m not sure if Korean BBQ is consistent everywhere, but here in LA and in San Diego, I’ve found a pretty typical setting. I usually go with at least 4 or 5 friends, and we all get a table with a grill in the center of it. The waiter will bring over different side dishes, like kimchi and sald and rice paper, along with different sauces. Then you get to pick out the various meats to grill directly on the table. I’m a huge fan of the marinated beef (bulgolgi), but the thick-sliced bacon (samgyeopsal) and beef brisket (chadol baki) are also really good. I typically stay away from chicken, because it’s pretty hard to judge when it’s done cooking or not, and I’m nervous about undercooking it. But I’ve never had any problems with other meats at KBBQ places.
The waiter usually brings two or three types of meat at a time and you pile it in the center of the table and cook it right there. It’s ridiculously fun to cook your own food, and it’s also so much fresher because you can eat it as soon as you cook it. There’s always a noisy din inside KBBQ restaurants, since it is such a social place.
One of my favorite KBBQ places close by is Sanya, which is pretty close by in KTown. It’s significantly cheaper then a lot of the surrounding places, but I still think the meat is good quality and very tasty. Plus they have this delicious potato salad as a side dish (don’t think that’s a Korean thing, but oh well). The only downside is that it takes a bit longer to get the meat from the waiter, but as long as you overlap your orders, there should be always be something cooking at your table. On the more upscale side, Manna BBQ is definitely a splurge, but it’s worth it if you’re willing to spend the money. They have a huge selection of meats, and the service is much better. But they can get very crowded on weekends, whereas Sanya is surrounded by so many competing KBBQ places that it’s not too hard to get a seat.
If you come to USC, you will probably have the opportunity to try Korean BBQ, and I would definitely recommend it! It can be a little pricey for a meal, but it’s not bad to splurge once in awhile, right? Thankfully, I had my KBBQ fix last weekend after the football game, so I should be good for another few weeks.