The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games begin today. To get in the mood, we’re shining a light on some of the D.C. area’s best Korean food. Since there are 5 Olympic rings, we’re first highlighting our 5 favorites.
This place is the real deal. You can tell just from the fact that it’s in a suburban strip mall. Yes, it’s in a hard-ish to reach location in but hop the Metro to the Glenmont Station and a cheap Lyft to the restaurant–trust me, it’s worth the trek. Also, there’s a bizarre little karaoke box across the street where you can belt out (or mumble along to) K-Pop to your heart’s content. There’s also a DQ across the street, so make a whole night of it. But back to the real reason it tops my list of Korean BBQ joints: the food is authentic. The staff is Korean and most of the diners were Korean when I went, so you know it’s legit. The menu is in English and Korean so you won’t feel total adrift if you don’t speak the language and the menu has pictures. You get all the trimmings with your Korean BBQ meats immediately and without asking (cooked at your table) and they’re all real yummy: the kimchi, the potato, the egg, the cucumber. The menu is also HUGE so if you’re vegetarian or pescatarian you will find options. For the carnivores, the bulgogi was some of the best I’ve had. -Diana Metzger
If you’re into extremely flavorful meats on grill, Kogiya is the place. They have a reasonably priced all-you-can-eat option which includes the best selection and cuts of meat than any other Korean BBQ place in Northern Virginia. The marinade in their meats is pretty magical. It puts other BBQ spots to shame.
Leave your jackets/coats/sweaters in the car and definitely don’t wear nice clothes. The savory meat wafts permeate through your threads. Not even dry cleaning will get it out. But don’t let that stop you from having the best Korean BBQ experience in all of the DC/MD/VA area.
Yes, it’s better than Honey Pig. -Amy Vong
I know Mandu is kind of bougie Korean BBQ but it’s seriously delicious and they have great happy hour deals and late night eats. It has to be more upscale prices to pay the rent in it’s tony location (453 K St NW) but if you want a classier date night version of K-food it’s the spot. The biggest upside to this Korean BBQ will also be it’s downside to some people: no meats cooked at the table. They do serve all the traditional grilled meats and veggies with lettuce wraps but they’re brought to you. Now this does take away from that fun, communal experience typically associated with Korean BBQ, but it also saves you and your date from reeking of smoke, which isn’t the best aphrodisiac. For something completely different in D.C.: They also do a really cool brunch platter along with their traditional menu that includes a Korean spin on steak&eggs: chive and zucchini pancakes, Gim Bap (seaweed rice rolls), a Korean omelette, and your pick of their signature grilled meats. This joint has been open since 2011, so they’re definitely doing something right, though I still miss their location right below Adams Morgan. They always rock a unique post-drinking menu with Korean tacos and delicious wings. -Diana Metzger
To Sok Jip has long been a favorite of Korean food fans, and with good reason. The small restaurant in Annadale straight-up bangs; it’s not uncommon to see lines out the door and around the block for weekend lunches. Upon being seated, you’ll see nearly every table with one of the restaurant’s signature seafood pancakes – join the club and order one immediately, as it’s 90% (perfectly cooked) seafood and 10% pancake. Soups and stews are the star here: your table has to have either a Dduk Guk (a not-spicy rice cake soup) or the classic Boodae Jeongol, the Army-base stew that combined a number of items from the commissary with Korean ingredients, making an outstandingly delicious mix of Spam, hot dogs, ramen noodles, rice cakes, tofu, and cheese in a fiery gochujang and kimchi-laced broth. Honestly, though, you’re just going to want to point at the menu and hope your server is nice enough to deal with the language barrier. Either way, To Sok Jip is worth the wait. -Logan Hollers
The first time I walked into Yechon was also a time I don’t completely remembered, though I’m sure it involved lots of whiskey and a sober hero willing to drive a bunch of savages to Annandale for Korean food at 4 a.m. Open 24 hours 7 days a week, Yechon is an institution of late nights; a place where Gopdol Bibimbap, with its godly marinated beef and fried egg, is ready to soothe you where it hurts. If you to happen to come at normal human hours, the Hoe Deopbap (rice mixed with assorted sliced raw fish, vegetables, and sesame oil) or the Kimchi Jigae (Kimchi and sliced pork casserole) are must haves. The four different buckwheat noodle dishes, which help break the usual go-to gluttony of the Korean BBQ dishes, are also standouts. Some of my best nights have started or ended at Yechon; say what you will about my questionable life choices, the decision to go to Yechon is always the right one. -Ruben Gzirian
There are more than five great Korean sports in and around D.C. In fact, there may be more good Korean options than any other type of cuisine in the area. Here are some more spots we enjoy.
Your friend’s best friend’s favorite Korean dining experience makes the list because if you’re living or hanging out in the Navy Yard area, it’s easily my favorite dining experience there. Spicy and soy garlic wings are their specialty. The spicy wings are HOT, but good. More spice than heat, and well worth the wait. There’s a full menu of main dishes, salads, and sides, and the tteokbokki (Rice cakes and fish cakes simmered with scallions and onion in Bonchon Hot Sauce topped with mozzarella cheese and kimari) is unlike anything your Asian food palate has ever tasted. Also, sliders, potstickers, tacos, french fries, and onion rings appear on the menu, all with a Bonchon twist. With the Nationals and DC United now being game day staples of Waterfront culture, there’s upwards of 100 days at minimum worth of wonderful Korean dining to be had. -Marcus Dowling
Adams Morgan newcomer BUL does a wonderful job in delivering Korean street food favorites with an American twist. Ramen may appear to have the Asian fast-casual market cornered, but it’s an order of extra crunchy Korean fried chicken with red pepper sauce and wedge cut potato fries in honey butter sauce that’s wholly different but impressively just as delicious. For your friends who are noodle meal fanatics? BUL’s seafood udon meal dishes look amazing. But yeah. Literally around the corner from Popeyes is a place that maybe improves upon one of the world’s best fried chicken recipes with a Korean twist. -Marcus Dowling
OK, fine – this one isn’t exactly textbook Korean…but when all-star chefs of this caliber combine forces to radically define the fast casual genre, AND happen to be pumping out some amazing interpretations of Korean food, how can you exclude them? -Logan Hollers
I hope you’re ready for dinner and a show because Honey Pig delivers both in spades. Walk into any of the four locations in Maryland and Virginia and you’ll get hit with the heavenly smell of smoke and meat (plus the sounds of sweet K-pop). That’s because after picking out your protein (or proteins) of choice, you get to watch as they cook before your very eyes. Hell yes. The pork belly and bulgogi are classics, but don’t skip out on the kimchee pancake and be sure to grab yourself a beer, or some soju, to go with it all. You might come out smelling like smoke, but you won’t regret it for a second. -Kaylee Dugan
This place is overshadowed by its k-pop blaring neighbors, but it’s a real hidden gem. I don’t even like tofu and I love their kimchi and beef tofu soup. It’s like a bubblin’ and brewin cauldron of goodness where they crack an egg into it and the tofu melts away and it is glorious. Also the best pickled cucumber kimchi I’ve ever had and the bulgogi is perfectly marinated. -Cale
This Takoma Park mainstay is a true treasure. While seen by many diners as less of a Korean spot and more for their vegetarian friendly menu, for me it’s ALL about their Korean food. Mark is Korean so a lot of delicious Korean dishes are incorporated into the menu. My personal favorite, their japchae, is so delicious, especially with their house made chili paste. -Diana Metzger
Adams Morgan’s favorite Korean-themed karaoke spot may seem like an unlikely choice, but if you actually think about it, it makes all of the sense in the world. Bulgogi (stir fried BBQ) and bibimbap (a rice bowl topped with assorted sauteed vegetables with/or without meat and fried egg, topped with Korean red chili pepper sauce) isn’t necessarily going to be an Asian cuisine neophyte’s first-choice meal. However, add in renting a room for a night of singing any number of 70,000 songs in English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish,Thai, and/or Vietnamese, and there’s literally something for everyone. Korean food is absolutely delicious for some of us, Muzette is fun for everyone. -Marcus Dowling
Nak Won (the one in Annandale, not the one in Baltimore)
If you’re a Georgetown roamer (as I am on occasion), you’ve probably walked past Wisconsin Avenue’s Zannchi roughly a dozen times and missed a delicious Korean meal delivered in a pastoral setting was probably right in front of your face. If looking for a full scale and more traditional Korean dining experience, look no further. And I love this description from their website which sums the experience up perfectly: “Zannchi was brought to life by owner Eunjung Kim and his cousin Jungsang Yoo, who brought influences, recipes and expertise from their family’s decade-old restaurant in Korea. This, mixed with years of her time spent in Florence and New York, has provide her with a cultivated palate and sharp eye for the next big thing.” -Marcus Dowling
Let us know what we missed in the comments.