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Philly's Best Korean?

I'm in California, and I took as visiting friend from Philly out for a Korean dinner last night. He had never tried Korean before, but LOVED it, and said that he was sorry that Philadelphia (to his knowledge) had no Korean community and no Korean restaurants. Can he possibly be right? If not, where should he go?

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  1. We don't have many Korean places, but two I can think of are Pastoral and Giwa.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Buckethead

      we don't have any good korean or any big korean communities downtown, so he can be forgiven for his slip....

      there is also a hole in the wall korean joint called koreana off of 38th and chestnut. the food is auhtentic but they use a lot of shortcuts (probably because they are so cheap and fast), for insatnce the kimchi is excellent but they use frozen veggies in their rice dishes. random, but still v tasty (but is defintiely NOT a korean barbecue place).

      follow bigley9's links for a korean update. :)

    2. We have a significant "KoreaTown" In the Olney/East Oak Lane into Cheltenham area of the city (North 5th street to Cheltenham Ave. Here is a link to a recent discussion:
      and another with a link from someone who is apparently very involved with Korean food in Phila

      1. I second the rec. for Giwa... simple, fresh, spot on Korean food... 15th and Sansom Sts.

        1. Philly has a HUGE Korean community. A lot of Olney and the Oxford Circle areas have a lot of Korean restaurants and clubs. Castor Avenue in NE Philly has a great place at Magee Street.

          Sarah M.

          1. Out here in the western 'burbs we have August Moon in Norristown (Japanese and Korean) that has gas bar-b-ques at each table for grilling your own entrees. Also, in the strip mall on Township Line Road at DeKalb Pike in Blue Bell (the one with Sae Han Oriental Market), there is a small Korean restaurant at the other end, but the name escapes me. I've liked both but that's the extent of my Korean culinary exposure.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Chefpaulo

              Chef- I believe the place you are referring to in Blue Bell is Korea Garden. There is a second Korean restaurant that has opened up in Blue Bell on Skippack Pike - Gaya. I ate at Korea Garden years ago.. I have not eaten at Gaya.

              In Philadelphia, I think Kim's is the best place for Korean BBQ as they use wood for cooking which adds more flavor as opposed to the gas.

              1. re: cwdonald

                The restaurant on Township Line Rd in the same strip mall as the Korean market is To Dam Gol and it is much more of a hole in the wall than Korea Garden, but less expensive and more authentic.

                Korea Garden
                1720 Marlton Pike E, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003

                1. re: thehungrything

                  Right, Korea Garden is on 202. Of the three, I find Gaya to have the best food quality and it is large and comfortable. Korea Garden is hit and miss, I was there tonight and one dish we ordered was great, banchan were terrific but the octopus was gummy and awful.

            2. Good timing as usual on this board. A Korean BBQ spot, Miga, just opened downtown on 15th St in the old Pasion! location. As far as I know the only Korean BBQ joints (where you cook your own meat at the table) outside of the Olney Korea Town are this one and International Smokeless BBQ at 6th & Washington--if that one is even still open.


              1. I like Pastoral (205 S 13th St) and Han Wool (36th and Chestnut) a lot, but I think Giwa is blah--it's fast food and tastes like it. As has been noted, there is a lot of Korean in/near the 'burbs. I'm very excited about Miga--I love Korean BBQ.

                1 Reply
                1. re: feklar42

                  han wool is way too expensive for what it is. they closed for renovations and when they reopened everything doubled in price. do not waste your time there.

                  i also forgot about a yummy korean and japanese lunch truck, koja, on 38th near chestnut. it is a very good lunch truck, but it is still a lunch truck. their bulgoki is crave-able.

                  also, miga, as someone mentioned, just opened. they have a limited menu now but the korean bbq business will be integrated within the next few weeks.

                2. Miran, 2034 Chestnut Street (CC West/Rittenhouse Square area). I tend to go for lunch. Very good dolsot bi bim bap. They have BBQ at the table, although I have never tried it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PattiCakes

                    I've been meaning to try Miran's BBQ for ages and finally made it Saturday night with my SO, who was a Korean food virgin. I've been to Miran before for lunch on my own and liked it, but never for dinner. A few quick thoughts:

                    1. Sevice very slow and minimal. But they only seemed to have one waiter working the place that night who would disappear for long stretches into the kitchen. I just remember very long waits to get glasses for our wine, taking our order, etc. Check came quickly when asked for, though, as there were some folks looking for tables by then.

                    2. Waiter advised us against the pork belly. I'm not sure if it's because he thought we were ignorant white folks not up for it or if it just wasn't good that night (I remember when Miran was a great little Japanese/Korean market, and the guy at the fish counter there was awesome about being honest with what fish was the best for the day vs. what he wouldn't recommend to his good customers.) Given the SO's newbiness to Korean food in general, however, I didn't press the issue and we went for short ribs and rib-eye instead. And an order of seafood pancake.

                    3. Banchan was good if not especially unique. I do love their kim chee. The SO enjoyed the bok choy which was a bit garlicy for what my system can handle. I wish they would sometimes serve those tiny dried fish...

                    4. Seafood pancake hit the spot - nice and airy, lots of squid and scallion! I would go back and order just that for late breakfast/lunch some day...

                    5. BBQ meat was really lean and nicely marinated, and our waiter did keep an eye on the temperature of our grill and turned it down a touch when it seemed too high at first. Was also quick to bring out more lettuce on request.

                    All in all a really good meal and a fairly "non-scary" introduction for my sweetie into Korean food. I'll definitely go back and do the BBQ there again, and next time I'm not going to let them talk me out of the pork belly...

                  2. I won' t repeat what has already been said but he's a significant factor to know about Korean BBQ in Philly. All restaurants use gas grills for the BBQ. Some may throw in a few pieces of charcoal and say it's charcoal but it's really not. The only (to my knowledge) Korean restaurant in the area that uses charcoal in their BBQ is Kims which is also the first Korean restaurant in Philly. i found it to be significantly better apparently all the other americans who go out of their way to go there agree.

                    1. Kim's BBQ is great. A favorite outing for us when we have a group of friends in town.

                      Also love Cafe Soho and their bonchon chicken wings... you can also find some threads on this.

                      1. I've always been disappointed by Han Wool and Pastoral. If you want great Korean, you have to go North Philly (there is actually a Koreatown!). My favorite is Seorabol (http://www.philadelphiakoreanrestaura...). The prices are good, and they have the best pajeon I've had in Philly. It's crispy outside, without being greasy, and fluffy inside. They're generous with the banchan, AND they use charcoal, not gas (at least they did the last I was there). I needed to make a reservation, b/c I was going with a big crowd. When I called, I didn't get someone who spoke English, but when I mentioned something on Chowhound, I got a quick response and an email, and made the reservation, no problem. That was the only sticky point, service-wise. When you go, they are very friendly and nice--even to non-korean speakers. I've had bad experiences in some restaurants b/c I'm a Korean that doesn't speak. I definitely do not experience that at Seorabol.

                        1. Any new opinions related to this thread? We went to Kim's last night for the first time in a couple years and it was really weak - undermarinated meat, bland banchan. The blah food made the grimy decor and non-service seem a lot less endearing than it did back when the food was (seemed?) better.

                          The newest reply to this reply is already almost a year old. Are there any new places, or new discoveries for Korean bbq around the city?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: GDSwamp

                            There is a significant Korean community in the Blue Bell area with a church(?) and a Korean Restaurant (www.gayarestaurant.com). I have not eaten there but the reports I hear are that it is very authentic and well executed Korean food. It is west on Rt. 73 (Skippack Pike) just beyond the intersection with Penlynn Blue Bell Pike where the Blue Bell Inn and Chef Salvadore's is located. It is a very nice venue with ample parking that had for many years been an Italian restaurant.

                            1. re: Bacchus101

                              And around the corner on 202 you have Korean Garden in the same shopping center as Radice.

                              I am very surprised about your experience at Kim's. For me it has been the best experience of Korean food, short of either eating in Manhattan or at friends of mine who are Korean. Wonder if it was just a bad night?

                              1. re: Bacchus101

                                For those who remember...Gaya is where the old Johnny Cross used to be (for eons).

                            2. Very late to the party, but I finally got to try Miga for lunch this past week. I was really pleased with the meal overall.

                              I went for a solo lunch - about the only chance I get for Philly dining these days after moving to the Jersey 'burbs. Place was quiet at around 1:30 with just a few tables occupied. Service was super-friendly and pleasant if just a little bit too quick, getting asked if I knew what I wanted soon after I just sat down. Took them a little while to figure out how to bring a glass of wine over as their bartender wasn't on duty, but eventually got a pleasant white for $7 that was perfectly acceptable for a hot summer day - and with some spicy food.

                              Anyway, I knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in - Seafood Sundubu jjigae ($11). It's my Korean restaurant test dish, one of my favorite "comfort foods" (if a food that, if prepared properly, will cure any hangover, clear your sinuses and burn out your intestines for a day or so can be called "comfort food"). I stressed I did indeed want it spicy (the menu lets you specify) and boy howdy did they deliver. Like I haven't had in any Korean place in CC yet to date. That was eyes-roll-back-into-sockets spicy on first bubbling taste but soon settled into a satisfying burn, comforted by some decent if not overwhelming banchan (good kimchee, bean sprouts and tofu, ok potatoes and baby cabbage...I really was pining for something a little more briny on the side like some seaweed or those tiny whole fish fry).

                              Anyway it was easily the best sundubu jjigae I've had in Philly, though admittedly I haven't made it out to the places outside of CC to compare yet. But way better than Giwa, more seafood and spice than Miran (though I tend to still like their banchan better), and leagues better than Pastoral's sorry version last time I tried it. Been ages since I've been to Han Wool though that was where I originally fell in love with the dish back in my U Penn days...but this was easily in league with versions I enjoy when I get the chance to eat around Korea Way in NYC.

                              I'll definitely be going back to try more of their menu...