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Where to take "beginners" for Korean BBQ?

meganinlosfeliz Feb 19, 2008 05:15 PM

My in-laws, who live in upstate New York, will be in the area for a couple weeks. They are open to all kinds of food but are limited by where they live (very small town near Lake Placid). As far as I know, neither has ever tried Korean BBQ. I'd love to take them while they are here but I'm sort of a beginner myself--I have gone several times and loved it, but always with experts from work who pick the place and order. So I'm looking for a user-friendly Korean BBQ place for first-timers. I don't think, for example, Soot Bull Jeep would be the right spot. However, I do want a place that's legit so they get the real experience. Would Park's fit the bill?

I know many of you 'hounds are experts in the field of Korean BBQ, so I'd love your help here!

Thanks in advance,



  1. e
    estone888 Feb 19, 2008 05:28 PM

    I was about to recommend Soot Bull Jeep. I've taken many a first timer there and they've loved it. (I also spent a year living just outside of Lake Placid - I even took some Lake Placidians to Soot Bull Jeep once and they were among the ones who loved it.)

    1. ElJeffe Feb 19, 2008 05:36 PM

      Chosun Galbee is one of the more common 'first-timer' places. It's pretty good, has a really nice atmosphere & decor vs. other Korean BBQ places, and has a high whitey ratio.


      8 Replies
      1. re: ElJeffe
        fdb Feb 19, 2008 05:56 PM

        Agree with Chosun Galbee. It's one of the high-end Korean BBQ places. Meat is of good quality, although a bit pricey. The servers actually speak English which I find very helpful for non-Korean speakers.

        1. re: fdb
          ns1 Feb 19, 2008 06:01 PM

          yah, I think chosun galbee or park's is probably best for a "beginner"

          1. re: ns1
            ipsedixit Feb 19, 2008 06:08 PM

            Chosun Galbee? Yes, good for beginners.

            Park's BBQ ... not so much.

            Might also consider an all-you-can-eat place as a "beginnger" type Korean BBQ. Check our fellow 'hound Bon Vivant's recent review of just one such place: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/491325

            1. re: ipsedixit
              ns1 Feb 19, 2008 06:14 PM

              I don't see why not?

              esp. since you don't have to do anything at Park's but order.

              1. re: ns1
                ipsedixit Feb 19, 2008 06:18 PM

                "you don't have to do anything at Park's but order"

                Hmm, and how is this different from just 'bout any other Korean BBQ joint?

                When I say Park's is not good for a beginner, I'm just looking out for the beginner. When all you have is a learner's permit, you don't want your first car to be a Porsche ... it'll ruin you for all the other cars you're bound to drive the rest of your life once you get a real driver's license.

            2. re: ns1
              PayOrPlay Feb 19, 2008 06:16 PM

              A fourth vote for Chosun Galbee. It's attractive, well-run, accessible to non-Koreans, and the food has been quite good in our experience. Here is their website:


              If for some reason you didn't want to go to Koreatown, you could also consider the new Koba on the westside at Sawtelle and National, which struck me as a very good place for newbies. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482993 But it's not in the same league food-wise as Chosun Galbee.

              Park's BBQ
              955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

              Chosun Galbi Restaurants
              3330 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

              Koba House BBQ
              11267 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

              1. re: PayOrPlay
                Lau Feb 19, 2008 08:06 PM

                i agree on chosun

                i think the main reason is that a) the atmosphere is alot nicer than most ktown restaurants (esp versus a place like soot bull jeep) and b) english is widely spoken here. Hence, I think it makes people not used to a korean restaurant more comfortable. I generally think that american people value atmosphere more highly relative to most asian people, so the atmosphere makes it alot easier to just think about the food.

                1. re: PayOrPlay
                  Iceman May 26, 2008 12:15 PM

                  Was very unhappy with Koba on National. Did not think the food was exceptional, have had much better Korean BBQ elsewhere.


          2. PinotPlease Feb 19, 2008 09:57 PM

            I dipped my unfamiliar East Coast toe into the Korean BBQ waters years ago by a few trips to Woo Lae Oak in Beverly Hills. I can't speak for Parks or Koba but for out of towners you get a relatively reasonable BH meal as well as the Korean BBQ experience. It's also not nearly as smoky as Soot Bull Jeep and a nicer room by far as well. Good luck!

            1. n
              namstermonster Feb 20, 2008 09:30 AM

              as a korean in LA i'm happy cuz the best korean food in the country really is in LA. :) i have to agree with pinotplease and the others that woo lae ok and cho sun are the two best bets for non-korean first timers. try having the cold noodle at woo lae ok with the galbi and the marinated crab as an appetizer/side dish at cho sun.

              1. meganinlosfeliz Feb 20, 2008 09:35 AM

                Excellent! Sounds like Chosun Galbee is the right call. For future reference, what is Park's like? I think my husband and I would like to try that another time ourselves. I've never been to Park's so didn't understand the comments about it. Thanks.

                2 Replies
                1. re: meganinlosfeliz
                  Lau Feb 20, 2008 09:53 AM

                  Park's isn't crazy or anything, its just a regular korean restaurant but its probably not as "first time" friendly as a place like cho sun, which is much nicer (decor wise) and more english friendly

                  i think if you go to yelp, they have pictures of it

                  1. re: meganinlosfeliz
                    Dommy Mar 25, 2008 03:42 PM

                    Yeah, I don't understand the comments about it either... we took a couple of newbies to parks a couple of weeks ago and they LOVED it!! Great selection of meats and panchan. With us as guides (An Irish lad and Chicana Chica) we ate VERY very well that night! They raved and look forward to trying other Korean foods... :)


                  2. c
                    CostcoWater Feb 21, 2008 03:20 PM

                    As a Korean living in Ktown, the recommendations for Chosun Galbee is just appalling.. No locals actually frequent Chosun Galbee. It is known as a place to take your white business associates, which means the interior is nicely done, but it lacks the authentic taste of traditonal Korean cusine..

                    Check out Park's BBQ instead, nice selection of banchan(side dishes) and the meat quality is excellent. I recommend the Kobe beef and the unmarinated ribs.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: CostcoWater
                      Das Ubergeek Feb 22, 2008 08:50 AM

                      The whole point is to introduce someone who might otherwise be put off by lack of decor or the traditionally-brusque service. Chosun Galbee is a nice "entry point" after which they can get down to real places like Park's or Soot Bull Jeep, and eventually into other Korean food besides barbecue.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                        Dommy Mar 25, 2008 03:43 PM

                        Parks and Soot Bull Jeep are totally different too... Parks is very nice, clean and wonderful service... Even Valet... way better than SBJ's free for all...


                    2. b
                      bulavinaka Feb 22, 2008 09:29 AM

                      Looks like a timely issue. A few words from J. Gold might help...


                      1. n
                        namstermonster Feb 22, 2008 10:06 AM

                        it saddens me that the flavor of chosun's meat has declined over the past few years... it used to be my favorite kbbq place when it was at the old location. then ppl started learning about the place and they had to move locations. boo.

                        1. g
                          gowest1 Feb 22, 2008 10:18 AM

                          Woo Lae Oak of Seoul is on the expensive side, but very novice-friendly. Hardcore Korean BBQ fans say it's too westernized, but it's still delicious. I haven't been in a while though. Soot Bull Jeep is great too, but not "fancy."

                          1. j
                            jimmyodonnell Feb 22, 2008 08:33 PM

                            Also consider the Gyu Kaku places, there are now probably 5 around LA and they are a good intro to the approach to KBBQ even if the food may not be as authentic as other places. I have taken first-timers there and they have enjoyed it very much, the atmospher is generally more upbeat than regular KBBQ places and the food tastes good too.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: jimmyodonnell
                              ElJeffe Feb 22, 2008 10:35 PM

                              Yes, its very authentic Korean Japanese BBQ????

                              1. re: ElJeffe
                                bulavinaka Feb 23, 2008 07:05 AM

                                The hybridized version is very popular (and very tasty) in Japan - and inexpensive even in Tokyo... about $75 for five last summer...

                              2. re: jimmyodonnell
                                Waverly SGV Feb 23, 2008 08:52 AM

                                Fusion, "hybridized" versions, or cultural interpretations/adaptations is fine for the uninitiated. I think it's the process of exploring and the social experiences that become memorable. Jimmy, where are the five Gyu Kaku places in L.A.?

                                1. re: Waverly SGV
                                  ns1 Feb 23, 2008 09:19 AM

                                  I would avoid guy kaku at all costs....

                                  but the ones I know are in...

                                  pasadena, beverly hills, topanga plaza (still open?), sherman oaks

                                  1. re: Waverly SGV
                                    exilekiss Feb 23, 2008 09:38 AM

                                    I agree. As the OP's request is for somewhere for the uninitiated, Gyu-Kaku fits the bill nicely.

                                    And, the one thing I *do* appreciate at Gyu-Kaku over the hardcore places (which of course I love more because of the food :), is their great Venting System: (FYI) At Gyu-Kaku they have a recessed Grill, and the Vent System sucks in the smoke and oil from the grilling meats before it rises up and gets all over you. :) I've been to Gyu-Kaku a few times and every time, we're all able to still go out and do something (and not smell like Kalbi for the rest of the night :).

                                    Waverly SGV, here's the current Gyu-Kaku Locations listed:

                                    Beverly Hills,CA
                                    Huntington Beach,CA
                                    Sherman Oaks,CA
                                    Topanga Canyon,CA
                                    Rancho Cucamonga,CA

                                    1. re: exilekiss
                                      bulavinaka Feb 23, 2008 09:59 AM

                                      Don't know if the one on Pico in West LA is still open... Just west of Westwood Blvd... Agree with the ventilation system being a huge plus for any of these places to be considered...

                                      1. re: bulavinaka
                                        ldodb Feb 23, 2008 07:03 PM

                                        Definitely still open. I try and hit them up for their happy hours.

                                      2. re: exilekiss
                                        Waverly SGV Feb 23, 2008 10:43 AM

                                        Thank you so much for the link, exilekiss!! Looks like a fun place to hold a business lunch or happy hour.

                                  2. J.L. Feb 23, 2008 03:50 PM

                                    Warn the newbies that they'll smell like the restaurant when they leave!

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: J.L.
                                      rickym13 Mar 20, 2008 06:00 PM

                                      never been to either park's or chosun. we have group of 9, do either place take reservation? what would be the average price per person at both places?

                                      1. re: rickym13
                                        trishyb Mar 20, 2008 06:19 PM

                                        Chosun takes reservations. You might want to request seating at one of the outside tables, which are very popular. (They have heating lamps above if your worried about the evenings being too chilly.) Expect to pay at least $30 per person for food at Chosun, if not more, depending how much you order. They also have a full bar.

                                        Sorry, no info on Park's. Maybe someone else can fill you in.

                                        1. re: rickym13
                                          samse Mar 20, 2008 09:19 PM

                                          Chosun has private rooms. You might call them to see if 9's enough. Amen on the smell. The valet parking is convenient.

                                          1. re: samse
                                            rickym13 Mar 20, 2008 11:46 PM

                                            do they allowed "byo" wine with corkage?

                                            1. re: rickym13
                                              samse Mar 23, 2008 08:28 PM

                                              Their website doesn't address corkage and I kinda doubt it. If you don't speak Korean I think it might be a little difficult to negotiate. My picky cousin, who is even more of a banana than I am, loves Woo Lae Oak, 170 N. La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills. If she likes it, everyone should like it.

                                      2. p
                                        pharmnerd Mar 25, 2008 03:12 PM

                                        How's The Corner Place compare to all the previous recs?

                                        It's been over 10 yrs since I've been to Ktown & that used to be my fave stop, though admittedly I'm a novice to Ktown eats. Does it exist still? AFAIK, the branch in Cerritos has new ownership (maybe a year ago or so).

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: pharmnerd
                                          wilafur Mar 25, 2008 04:18 PM

                                          haven't been in a couple years but from what i recall.....still good. the corner place was where my kbbq cherry was popped back in college. =)

                                          1. re: pharmnerd
                                            samse Mar 26, 2008 07:58 PM

                                            Went there in May '07 with several of my cousins. By then it had already changed ownership. We were a mix of 1st & 3rd gen Koreans. Food was pretty good and the service was outstanding - it always helps to have someone conversant in the culture and language

                                          2. Frommtron May 26, 2008 12:44 PM

                                            Seriously, just go to Park's and call it a day. Yes, Chosun Galbee has a more comfortable atmosphere and a higher caucasian ratio of diners. It is easier to navigate the menu and get help at Chosun Galbee and I still say it's one of the top KBBQ restaurants in LA despite it sinking in so many posters' esteem.

                                            But the bottom line is Park's is in fact better and you can defintely navigate the menu. While I understand ipsedixit's Porsche metaphor, in the end you seem adventurous enough to handle Park's so you might as well get the best.

                                            If you're nervous about handling the menu, ask for advice on how to order the basics from the board and you'll get more help than you can employ in one visit.

                                            You can't go wrong with either one, though.

                                            1. Pepsi Monster May 26, 2008 01:28 PM

                                              I would take them to Manna or Gui Rim. Lower their expectations and progressively taking them to better places. It's also an all-you-can-eat places so it'll minimize the cost of meat.

                                              Manna Korean BBQ
                                              3377 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

                                              Guirim Restaurant
                                              3977 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Pepsi Monster
                                                Frommtron May 26, 2008 01:50 PM

                                                The problem is that they are out-of-towners so the gradual step up in quality could take years.

                                                Also, we're talking about KBBQ here. I adore the stuff but it's not like fine wine in that one doesn't need to spend time developing a palate. Even if it were, most of us have been eating beef of some type all of our lives so we can appreciate the high quality stuff.

                                                I say, bring on the best and I bet they can appreciate it.

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