In Austin, barbecue isn't all brisket and ribs. Korean barbecue makes for an arguably even more perfect group outing: everyone gets various cuts of plain or marinated meats, like bulgogi, short ribs, and vegetables, and usually cooks them up right on the tabletop grill using tongs or chopsticks. All of that is served alongside a wide array of banchan, traditional side dishes and palate cleansers such as kimchi and pickled daikon, as well as lettuce for handy wraps. The massive meal is enhanced with the air of beer and/or soju, too.
While Austin’s Korean barbecue options aren’t overly abundant, Eater researched, polled friends, and tasted the offerings from four of the city's most talked-about spots to arrive at the two that are most worthy of your attention.
The setup: The large Korean restaurant has been serving North Austin since 2008. Score one of the roomier booths (especially for groups), where the sunken grill with coals sits in the middle of the table. The server places initial pieces onto the grill using functional tongs and scissors to turn and cut the roasting meats. After that, customers are mostly left to their own devices, with occasional help if needed. Booths are even outfitted with nifty service buttons to ask for help or the bill.
The meat: If you go the a la carte route, there’s a minimum of two orders for barbecue, ranging from $16.95 for shrimp to $28.95 for beef short ribs. Note that each of these orders provides enough meat for about two people, depending on appetite. Our advice? Make things easier by getting the massive assorted barbecue option, which might seem like a lot at $80.95 for the table, but makes the most sense if you're in a group of three to six people and will split the check. There's a mess of meats from piles of beef to exactly three giant shrimps. Use the outer edges of the grill for quicker cooking. End the meal with one of the cold noodle soups ($10.95) to cool off.
Chosun Galbi, 713 East Huntland Drive
Charm Korean BBQ
The setup: This newcomer to the Korean scene opened just last month. Barbecue is the only thing available on the limited menu, making your choice that much easier. Even better: it’s all-you-can-eat. The catch: seatings are only up to two hours, so no lingering grazing.
Compared to Chosun’s arrangement, the grill is slightly smaller and domed, which means meats can easily stick to the surface. There might be some splatter. But the extremely friendly servers help the process with utensils and scissors, plus they replace dirty grills with clean ones often.
The meat: The best bet is to pick one of the three meal plans. The basic offering ($24.99/person) comes with the usual meats and other dishes like noodles and kimchi stew. Level it up with fancier additions like prime rib (under premium for $34.99/person) and short loin (special at $49.99/person). The final extra splurges is worth it here. Make sure you don't miss the marinated beef short rib, the best meat in the house.
Note that discounted prices are offered for children between five and 11 years old. Leftovers that weigh over two and a half pounds will cost you the price of an extra seat, and no, you can’t take anything home, so don't over order.
Charm Korean BBQ, 1200 West Howard Lane
Test your grilling skills some more over at Manna Korean (6808 North Lamar Boulevard) where tables with built-in grills are available in the back of the house. Or venture over to Korea House (2700 West Anderson Lane) if you're craving more plated Korean dishes than straight-up DIY barbecue. Want to spare your clothing from a smoke bomb and let someone else do the cooking? Head to Together (9200 North Lamar Blvd) for a pleasingly authentic experience, complete with marinated short rib served on a sizzling platter.