Anyone who lives in Orange County has likely committed communal gluttony at the county's many Korean barbecue restaurants. We veterans know the drill: you pay around $20 for endless plates of brisket, bulgogi, and pork belly, which are brought to you raw and ready to be grilled. You've come in clothes you don't mind inflicting the smell of flesh upon, and you're eager to sit at your table for as long as possible, where you measure your fullness levels in intervals to determine if you can handle another plate of beef. In fact, you know the county's Korean barbecue spots so well that you already have a top five in your head. We've made our own list, and perhaps we share a few in common.
10. Incheonwon BBQ House (Garden Grove)
One of the cheaper Korean barbecue spots, Incheonwon BBQ House has a $15 lunch special and starts at $19 for dinner. After a round of brisket, tongue, bulgogi, prime steak, and other meats, go for some strawberry, green tea, or vanilla ice cream and take up the server's offer of pumpkin juice to aid digestion.
13321 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove, (714) 638-9292
9. Shik Do Rak (Multiple Locations)
Shik Do Rak doesn't just have a $15 AYCE lunch special–they also offer the same special after 9:15 p.m. on weekdays. This might explain why it's always busy there, along with the fact that their meat is consistently tender. Here's more on Shik Do Rak from Edwin:
The Black Angus Deckle is the easiest to cook and consume. Red, cylindrical curls of thinly shaved beef are presented frozen, but not for long.
Whatever you do, do not pass up the rib eye: two flat slabs thicker than a fashion mag. Slap one on the grill and let it sear. When a good crust develops, flip and repeat. With the scissors they provide, snip the steak into bite-sized pieces. It's rich and butter-soft. Your tablemates will toast your grilling prowess, but the meat is so well-marbled, even a kid with an Easy-Bake Oven can look like Emeril.
14805 Jeffrey Rd, Irvine, (949) 653-7668
9691 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, (714) 534-7668
8. WAKO Honey Pig and Honey Pig (Multiple Locations)
The Honey Pig brand stretches from LA's Koreatown to Buena Park, both connected by the owners' loose family ties. Each location focuses on samgyeopsal (pork belly), where different types are served in tiered pricing. To start off your meal, a server dumps kimchi and marinated bean sprouts on your grill, and then you move on to cooking the meat. One of the best complimentary dishes available is the freid rice, which comes with lettuce and nori.
7212 Orangethorpe Ave #1, Buena Park, (714) 739-4504
14171 Jeffrey Rd Irvine, (949) 651-9005
7. Morangak (Garden Grove)
Morangak isn't AYCE, but that's a good thing if you don't want to feel sick after eating. Unlike an AYCE restaurant, the servers cook the meat on the grill for you, and there different dishes available like hot stone squid fried rice, spicy cold noodle soup, and bibimbap, which Dave Lieberman has listed as a favorite dish before.
9651 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, (714) 638-1177; facebook.com/pages/Mo-Ran-Gak/153974058030614
6. Bulgogi House (La Palma)
Originally from Rowland Heights, Bulgogi House is more than a Korean barbecue restaurant: it also has sushi, fried dumplings, and desserts. Like several other restaurants on this list, they also have a weekday lunch special for $15, which is a steal for their Duroc pork jowls and pork belly, which easily melt in the mouth.
6901 Walker St, La Palma, (714) 522-2996; bulgogihousebbq.com
5. Star BBQ (Garden Grove)
At Star BBQ, you can choose between two AYCE options–a $17 one and an $18 one–and each consists of a long list of meats, tofu soup, steamed egg pot, and other soups. Your classics–the bulgogi, pork belly, brisket–are delicious here, and because nothing says gluttony more than dessert after eating obscene amounts of meat, they've got a self-serve frozen yogurt machine too.
8295 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, (714) 530-5388; starbbqoc.com; facebook.com/StarBbqGardenGrove
4. Mr. BBQ (Fullerton)
Mr. BBQ opened just last year, and it has quickly become one of the best quality Korean barbecue restaurants in the county. The meats here–sirloin, chicken, different pork varieties–are exceptional in quality, especially for being AYCE. Don't forget to ask for some soju slushie, soju sangria, soju kpopsicle–as they call it–on the side.
305 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, (714) 441-0000;www.mrbbqfullerton.com
3. All That Barbecue (Irvine)
Besides its well-marbled meats, what makes All That Barbecue memorable are its pun-filled names, like "Don't Rib Me Off" (rib meat) and "Skinny Dipping Cow" (chadol). Here, you can choose between completely raw meats to cook or pre-cooked ones–the boneless beef ribs and flap-tail steak, for instance, are pre-cooked and meant to be finished off on the grill. Unique to this Korean barbecue restaurant is something called "Rice Hot Dog," which is essentially a ground-beef patty with rice cake in it.
5333 Culver Dr, Irvine, (949) 336-8965; .facebook.com/allthatbbq
2. Cham Sut Gol (Garden Grove)
Cham Sut Gol remains one of the most popular Korean barbecue spots in Little Seoul–its bulgogi, kalbi, and spicy pork enough reason to keep coming back for. Just as mouthwatering is the banchan, where the potato salad is one of the most addicting. Pull it all together with a pot of steamed egg custard to keep your stomach balanced and warm.
9252 Garden Grove Blvd., Ste. 10, Garden Grove, Garden Grove, (714) 590-9292
1. Gen Korean Barbecue (Tustin and Westminster)
One of the best lunch deals out there is Gen's $15 AYCE on weekdays, where you can get as much food as you want without waiting. They've got the juiciest bulgogi, pork belly, and prime steak among others, but if you're feeling a meat-break, try their squid bulgogi, calamari, and octopus, and japchae. Those who want something different from the traditional Korean barbecue experience should try Gen's Korean fried chicken. When you're finished eating, don't forget to grab a pastel-colored macaron ice cream sandwich on your way out.
13741 Newport Ave, Tustin, (714) 505-1800
16300 Beach Blvd, Westminster; (714) 596-8833