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May 4, 2009 10:50 AM

Non-speaking Korean wants to go to Seorabol

Help! I want to take a big group to Seorabol, because I've read that they're one of the best in Koreatown, but when I tried to call for a reservation, I was told "No English!"

So . . .

1) Does anyone know if it will be hard for me to get a BBQ table for ten on a Saturday night without a reservation?

2) Does anyone know if they tend to be biased against non-speaking Koreans? I've experienced this in other places run by Koreans. When they see me, they expect me to speak, but I'm adopted, and never learned the language. Then when they learn I don't speak, they get hostile and give me poor service.

3) Almost everyone else in the group is non-Asian. Will the servers take that as a signal to give us the white person stuff?

Thanks for any advice you can give.

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  1. I don't know whether you'll get attitude for being Korean but not speaking the language, but we've gotten great food and service without knowing Korean. The servers were very nice, and spoke English, at least enough to get the job done. Perhaps the person that picked up the phone didn't speak English, there certainly is waitstaff that does.

    I've found that the Northeast Philly Korean places are more than happy to bring non-Asians the full-on traditional foods. They might pause and ask if you know what it is, but they'll bring it if you seem to know what you're doing.

    I've only gone to Seorabol on weeknights, and it's been pretty empty, so I'm not sure about how your luck would be going in on a saturday with ten people and no reservation. You can always call again and see if you get someone who speaks English. Or just go, it's a large place. If they're booked-up, you're not far from Everyday Good House, which is also good-sized, or Kim's which is smaller (but has some large tables) or Pan Dol Re (even smaller, so might not fit ten at one table, and even less English is spoken, but it's worth trying.)

    In any case all those places have good barbecue, and they'll bring you whatever you order - I don't think there's any way for you to get "white person stuff." I'm not sure what that is at a Korean restaurant! They only serve you bulgoki, and refuse to bring the samgyeopsal?

    1. Interesting - I've had almost the opposite experience. My Chinese is astoundingly bad (my family only spoke English at home), and I have to be careful where I break it out. Sometimes Asian immigrants get offended if they think you think they CAN'T speak English.

      For what it's worth, I don't get up to NE Philly much, but I've been spoken to in Korean at Kim's, Cafe Soho/Bon Chon, and Pandolne, told them I don't speak Korean, and gotten good food anyhow. The ladies at Kim's were super friendly, and the bbq is better there than Pandolne anyhow. Never been to Seo Ra Bol. I'd worry more about getting white person stuff at places more white people go, like Chinatown.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dib

        You weren't trying to day that you wanted the "white-person" stuff were you?
        If not, no need to'll get what everyone gets. Trust me, they have no time to do anything different for anyone.

        I agree with Dib...usually they'll be more offended if you assume they can't speak english. Unfortunately, this is usually when you're right, and they don't.

      2. email at and I'll make a reservation for you. Saturdays are usually busy but I'm sure you can get a reservation for 10. Plus you might even be able to get a reservation for a room if the rooms still available.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PhiladelphiaKoreanRestaurant

          I sent an email to the email listed on the website, which is I will send another email to this email address.

          Thanks to all for the comments, and thanks for the help getting the reservation! I can't wait!!!!