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Soot Bull Jeep vs. Parks BBQ

which one would you go to? there is only 2 of us. 1 is a beginner at Korean food (me). pros? cons? thanks for helping!!

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  1. or other suggestion. i am open to any ideas. thanks again :)

    1. Park’s BBQ – superior Korean BBQ due primarily to the quality of its meats, including Kobe (Wagyu) beef and "Tokyo X" pork selections. I know of no other KBBQ restaurant that offers comparable meat quality. Two Japanese Korean-style establishments, Anjin and Tsuruhashi – both in Orange County come to mind. However, for genuine Korean BBQ in LA, Park’s wins hands down over Soot Bull Jip, or any other for that matter. Great panchan too. Excellent service. The staff virtually insists upon cooking your selections for you to ensure their proper preparation.

      Park’s BBQ
      955 S. Vermont Ave.
      Los Angeles, CA 90005

      (213) 380-1717

      18798 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

      3033 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

      7 Replies
      1. re: degustateur

        Great suggestions degustateur.

        As an FYI for NYCnowLA, Park's has renamed their "Tokyo X" Pork. Just look for the plainly named "Pork Belly" for what used to be "Tokyo X Pork Belly" etc.

        1. re: exilekiss

          If you want great pork -- and I mean, "great" pork -- go to Park's sister restaurant, Don Dae Gam.

          Look for the large pig sign out on front as you head down Western between 11th and 12th.

          Go to Park's for beef. Go to Dae Gam for pork. Simple as that.


          1. re: ipsedixit

            I love Don Dae Gam, but I have issues with their consistency as compared to Park's, which is understandable since cooking pork is a lot trickier than cooking beef.

            With pork, your timing has to be near exact. Undercooking pork can pose health risks but overcooking it by just a little can render it tough, chewy and rubbery. With beef, you have a lot more room for error. You don't have to fully cook the beef so the meat stays juicy and tender, and at the same time you're not subject to the same health risks.

            So while I do like Don Dae Gam and think the marinade and pork itself are great, I think the final product can be disappointing if the server cooking for you is not 100% focused on the grill.

            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

              So while I do like Don Dae Gam and think the marinade and pork itself are great, I think the final product can be disappointing if the server cooking for you is not 100% focused on the grill.

              That's why you do it yourself.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                And what supposed health risks does under cooking cooking pork entail that under cooking beef does not?

                1. re: Servorg

                  Uh, you asking me? Or hong kong foodie?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Just adding to the general incredulity of the premise... ;-D>

      2. Soot Bull Jeep is a lot of fun because it is a real hole in the wall. It was also one of the first places I went to for Korean BBQ. BUT, Park's has better meat and better panchan.

        We only eat at Park's because most of our other places ended up going AYCE and the quality of the meat suffered. We decided that it was worth it to spend the extra $$. We don't eat Korean BBQ as much, but when we do, we know it is top-notch.

        Soot Bull Jeep
        3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

        1. Both are good, but different in their own ways.

          To take a NYC pizza analogy.

          Soot Bull Jeep is sort of like Joe's Pizza. A piece of pie served casually (usu. by the slice), without much pretension or banter about the pedigree of ingredients. Very very good stuff on its own, but nothing you would consider haute or artisan.

          Park's is a bit more like Lombardi's, Co., and Lucali. Pies are touted as either formed in a coal oven or wood fired. Certainly more artisan in nature -- hewing o the Neapolitan standards -- than your traditional street-slices offered by places like Joe's.

          Both Soot Bull Jeep and Park's are fantastic in their own right. If I were taking someone on their first outing to Korean BBQ, I think I would opt for Soot Bull Jeep, then move on to something a bit more refined like Park's.

          That said, you can't go wrong with either place.

          Soot Bull Jeep
          3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

          11 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Your analogy rings true, ipse...

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I respectfully disagree with ipsedixit's advice. I think Park's is the place to take someone unfamiliar the cuisine because it's really clean, and you won't smell too bad after eating. (I didn't even realize they used charcoal until my second visit.) Once you acclimate newbies in a safe environment, that's the time to move onto something more down and dirty. I also disagree with the pizza analogy (Lombardi's is pretty mediocre -- has Park's similarly gone downhill?) but suppose that's an argument for another board.

              1. re: a_and_w

                a and w,

                Couple of thoughts.

                1. I think one of the reasons I would take a first-timer to Soot Bull Jeep (over Park's) is because of the surroundings. To me, Korean BBQ should be eaten in a down-home, hole-in-the-wall type environment. BBQ shouldn't really be set and eaten in a refined culinary environment. And, really, a person hasn't fully experienced Korean BBQ until they've walked out of a meal and had a weird uncontrollable urge to soak for a couple of hours in a bath tub filled with Febreeze.

                2. The analogy to NYC pizza wasn't a commentary on the quality of Joe's v. Lombardi's (or any other place). We can debate all we want about whether a slice of Joe's is still as good as it was 20 years ago, or whether Lombardi's has "jumped the shark" but that wasn't the point of the analogy. Rather it was meant to demonstrate the different types of pizzas (be they good or bad) offered up in NYC, and to illustrate the different approaches to Korean BBQ that Soot Bull Jeep and Park's epitomizes.


                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Thanks for the clarification. I think some Koreans would object to the claim that Korean bbq should be enjoyed at smelly holes in the wall LOL. But...I have to admit making the same basic claim as you in arguments with my relatives about where to eat LOL. Still, trying a new cuisine can be intimidating enough. I really think it makes more sense to do so in a neutral setting, particularly when there's no sacrifice in taste or authenticity.

                  I also understand your pizza analogy a little better, but still find it kind of misleading. I think it's too strong to say Soot Bull Jeep and Park's offer different styles like neapolitan and street pizza. If you served me food from them in a blind taste test, the only real indicator would be the quality of the meat, which we agree is better at Park's. The latter's panchan could be from anywhere in K-town. Except for the superior freshness, it's the same stuff.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Well, think about it this was re: the pizza analogy.

                    A Soot Bull Jeep dinner isn't really about the meat as much as it is about the experience of grilling the meats over a smoky coal powered grill. In much the same way, a slice of pie from Joe's isn't so much about the cheese or pepperoni, but more about the experience of ordering up a slice, folding it, and eating it while trying to make your next subway stop.

                    Contrast that with Park's. When you go to Park's you're almost obligated to try the Pork X, and really the appeal of Park's is as much about the quality and rarity of their beef and pork than anything else. After all, they make a point of telling you their beef is either Prime or Kobe-style. Similarly, at a place like Lombardi's or Motorino you are reminded that the the red peppers are roasted in house daily (Lombardi's) and the restaurant takes special care to go so far as to note the origins of its mozzarella in the Margherita pies (Motorino).

                    That said, like I mentioned above, can't go wrong with either place b/c each offers a different type of dining experience.

                    (By the way, I think the variety of panchan at Park's is higher than that at SBJ).

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      while i am enjoying the lively debate, i still don't know which to choose! since i can't really go wrong with either, maybe i will have my sister, who is coming for the visit, be the one to pick. anyway keep the discussion going. it's making me excited to go to either/both! :)

                      1. re: NYCnowLA

                        here's another two cents:
                        park's food is better, but soot bull jeep is more fun.

                        1. re: NYCnowLA

                          This might break the tie:

                          If you want to proudly walk out of the joint smelling like you've just had a good food & a great time at a KBBQ, then go Soot Bull Jeep.

                          If you want better food in general, then Park's...

                          Park's might ruin a beginner for any other KBBQ restaurants afterwards, though...

                          Soot Bull Jeep
                          3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                          1. re: J.L.

                            You'll smell regardless of which place you choose, but moreso at SBJ.

                            The quality of the meat at Park's is high, and the panchan are good, but I didn't walk out of Park's dying to go back, when I consider the price and the overall experience. However, if you're dead set on Korean BBQ and LA, then I suppose there's no place better than Park's. I prefer Japanese yakiniku at Tsuruhashi in Fountain Valley.

                            18798 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          I definitely see your point, ipse. I just don't want people to get the misimpression they're going to some kind of refined frufru place if they opt for Park's. It's somewhere four sweaty dudes can comfortably go eat belts of beef, drink beer, and generally have a hell of a good time.

                    2. re: a_and_w

                      I totally agree with a_and_w's rebuttal to #1

                      Years ago, I took my central Missouri mom to SBJ for her first taste of kimchi and bulgogi. We went on a busy Saturday night and the place was packed with people and blue smoke. It was a chilly winter night-- perfect setup (in my mind). However, the sparks flew, nearly singing her scarf. The ventilator fans were doing their thing (which is to say, not doing anything at all) and the smoke got in her eyes and irritated them. On subsequent visits she rebuffed all my Korean BBQ suggestions until I finally convinced her to try Park's. Crisis reversed... she now loves Korean BBQ (but it was a long, 5 year process to shift her perception!)

                      Mr Taster

                  2. I haven't been to Parks yet but plan to as I know it is very good. Soot Bull Jeep is good but the interior is a comparable to a VERY dingy coffee shop. And yes, you will stink. I like Chosun Galbee www.chosungalbee.com. It is very pretty, the service is very attentive and they have pretty good panchan. I do not like their kimchee.

                    Soot Bull Jeep
                    3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Fru

                      Almost ten years ago now Chosun Galbi blew my mind with the quality of its ingredients and preparation. I went back several year back and it had converted to an all you can eat place and so the BBQ was barely edible. Did Chosun Galbi switch back to quality?

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

                      1. re: nhb2009

                        I haven't been eating there for 10 years so I guess I'm guilty of liking it as is.

                        1. re: nhb2009

                          I've eaten at Chosun many times over the last five years and it's never been AYCE. Maybe it was a short lived experiment? Either way, while I wouldn't call it mind blowing, it's very good.

                          As for the original poster's questions, definitely go to Park's. As everyone said, the meat and panchan are much better than SBJ's. Quite frankly I've only been to SBJ once and was so unimpressed with the uninteresting panchan and sloppy service (servers dripping raw chicken and pork juices all over our tables and plates) that I never went back and don't understand the appeal. Also, I felt like it was a bit pricey for the divey setting.

                          1. re: nhb2009

                            It's definitely not AYCE now. It's very expensive and not worth it imo unless you're looking specifically for someplace with nice outside dining.

                        2. Grungy and average or clean and delicious? Parks, hands down.

                          1. another contender is soowon galbi. the place is clean, their ventilation system actually works and they are non-korean speaker friendly.

                            1. I noticed you mentioned that your sister is coming for a visit, and I would say this... if she's coming from out of town and you guys are going to only eat 1 korean bbq meal together, I think the only place to go is Park's.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: andytseng

                                is there a significant price difference between the the two?? i'm leaning towards Park's and my sister is leaning towards SBJ!

                                1. re: NYCnowLA

                                  It's been a while since I've been to SBJ - probably before Park's was even open! It wasn't cheap by any means - high average for non-AYCE Korean BBQ. Park's is about 10-15% more expensive I would guess. I don't think there is any comparison, Park's wins in everyway (except the lung damage, of course).

                                  1. re: NYCnowLA

                                    Depending on what you order, but generally speaking Park's is more expensive. Think anywhere between $10-$20 more.

                                    For example, the bulgogi at Park's is around $24, while at SBJ it's around $20, if I recall correctly. Of course, if you get the Kobe beef or any of the Prime cuts at Park's, then all bets are off. I believe the Kobe beef at Park's is probably at least $10 more expensive than anything on the SBJ menu. Same with the Prime selections.

                                    1. re: NYCnowLA

                                      Just go to Park's.

                                      It costs a bit more as ipse says, but the food more than makes up for it. SBJ is an old smoke-in-your-eyes, dingy place with average-decent food that long time Angelenos cling to for nostalgic reasons. I went there once to check it out and didn't feel it was worth a second visit, not when there are many other, better BBQ places competing for your dollar.

                                      If you were to ask which one a Korean would rather go to, the vote will overwhelmingly point to Park's.

                                      1. re: WBGuy

                                        ok, we/re going to Park's. i'm excited. thanks for EVERYONES input especially WBGuy. i really needed someone to just tell me what to do. i may need to consult you in other areas of my life! :)

                                        1. re: NYCnowLA

                                          Hehe, sorry I don't think I can't help in areas other than Korean bbq.

                                          In this one narrow field I have much expertise :).

                                        2. re: WBGuy

                                          Well, I'm Korean, and I was completely unimpressed by Park's. As was my mother. Maybe it was an off night, but I don't think so.

                                          The meat was high quality. But everything else was utterly mediocre. Their panchan was, frankly, terrible, especially the kimchee. In fact, the waitress actually apologized about the kimchee, acknowledging that it wasn't very good. She explained that the people coming here didn't care about stuff like that. And judging by the overwhelmingly positive posts about Park's, I guess she was right. Why it gets such glowing reviews is beyond me. I'd put it close to Chosun. A great place to take white people that are just getting comfortable with the idea of wontons ;)

                                          Soot Bull Jeep is far tastier, with superior panchan. My father, a self-styled galbi connoisseur :), loves it. Still, the atmosphere is utterly dismal. You are only going there for the food, which is excellent. I'd compare it to a southern hole in the wall bbq place. Kind of scary, but great q. And don't plan on going anywhere else except the shower afterwards to wash off the sooty smell.

                                          Sa Rit Gol was the THE place to go. Sadly, its gone, and personally, I have yet to find a reliable replacement. Soot Bull Jeep is currently the stand by, but only when I'm jonesing, because of the aforementioned negatives.

                                          Soot Bull Jeep
                                          3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                                          1. re: cheesewhiz

                                            That sounds like an unfortunate experience. Reports like this are useful because as places, like Park's, which was once probably a connoisseur's den for good BBQ among Koreans has been "discovered" by the general populace, it may indicate that the restaurant has "jumped the shark" or decided to go with a different business model to appeal to the wider public. This might be a signal of that shift, or it might has just been an off-night (maybe the expert panchan person was sick or something). Maybe the main staff has now moved to their other pork-oriented operation (forgot the name of the place). But as more reports like this filter in, it could be a wider indication of something going on with the operation. I certainly don't doubt that you had the experience you had, as other posters seem to be more dismissive, and I thank you for reporting it.

                                            Besides Soot Bul Jeep, do you have any other favorite BBQ joints? SBJ offers the best price/quality ratio, but I never cared for their panchan.

                                            Anyway, I've had similar experiences at well-known Japanese places in LA. The waiters/itamae have apologized to my parents and me for their lack of good ingredients, or whatever they had to be apologetic for. And it seemed for the exact reasons of trying to appeal to a wider public rather than the small issei/expat Japanese community. But I'm sure they're doing a better business because of it. I just won't go to those places anymore.

                                    2. Aside from the quality difference of ingredients between the two places, there's another issue that should be raised. The cooking part. I really enjoy Korean BBQ, but I don't like how some places kind of bully you into cooking more than you want. I notice that Soot Bull Jeep does this when it's crowded, with the servers sliding most of the meat from the platter on to the grill. Don't let them do this, so you can eat at your own pace and ability to eat the meat at a good medium-rare to medium range. Also putting the contents of the entire platter on the grill makes them steam more than grill, giving you a less than optimal texture. I also don't like how the grill is set too high, far from the heat, so that it doesn't get a good quick char. I've had to adjust this myself many times, and the servers try to adjust it back, and I tell them to buzz off. If you're planning to go on a busy weekend evening, I'd avoid SBJ and find a place that isn't so frenzied.

                                      Actually the hurry-up meat cooking by the servers has happened to me at more places than I care to remember, but taking a stand is key. I've also been invited to Korean BBQ sessions where the hosts were pretty lousy at grilling, and I just couldn't stand it anymore and had to take over the grilling. Even with great quality ingredients, it's easy enough to screw it up. It can be more stress inducing if your dining companions are less than sure about what they're doing, so I tend to only go for Korean BBQ in smaller numbers. Try it out and learn as you go. It's not that difficult, and it is fun to be involved with the cooking. Just go at it at your own pace and not the restaurant's. And be cautious not to overcook the food.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: E Eto

                                        "I've also been invited to Korean BBQ sessions where the hosts were pretty lousy at grilling, and I just couldn't stand it anymore and had to take over the grilling."

                                        Ah, good ol' chowhound. I've tried to complain about this to non-CH friends, and they just think I'm crazy. Although, I've never taken over the grilling, the main problem for me seems to be when friends bring their girlfriends along and the girlfriend insists on doing all the cooking. I think the intent is to show that they're nurturing and can take care of you or whatever.

                                        Then they crowd the grill, push down on the meat thinking it'll cook faster, and overcook everything. I don't know what I'm supposed to do in this situation! I've politely offered to cook my own food, but they always insist on doing it. What can I do?!?

                                        1. re: andytseng

                                          Argh! I am a female and an excellent griller who cringes when I see the guys "tap and pat". That being said, I know my place. I back away and head toward the kitchen with the rest of the hens. At Korean BBQ, we're all picky about the grilling. It's almost like who can wait the longest before turning. It's a fine line between perfection and obliteration!

                                        2. re: E Eto

                                          For once, you and I agree completely.

                                          Mr Taster

                                        3. I evaluate this way:

                                          If you want the best quality and selection of meat, the best selection of side dishes, attentive service, and a beautiful atmosphere, it is hard to beat the $43 Wagyu at Parks.

                                          1. just to follow up...went to Parks and it couldn't have been better. looking forward to going back! we had the prime ribeye and the prime short ribs. both excellent. next time i would like to try the short ribs with the marinade. all the panchan were superb. hopefully one day i'll get to SBJ, but Park's certainly hit the spot! thank you all! for all your words of wisdom.