Like many college students living in Los Angeles, I'm a self-proclaimed Korean BBQ fanatic.
Whether you're a carnivore or not, KBBQ is arguably the best deal (money wise). Pay a flat rate of $18.99 (or $23.99 if you're feeling boujee for Premium) and you get unlimited plates of meat passed your way—not to mention side dishes, cheesy corn, spicy tofu soup, and free rice. You can go to celebrate the new year, a birthday, a first date (now that's an ideal dream date) or hang out with your friends, to pig out and enjoy a few boozy drinks before collapsing in bed from a major case of galbi-induced food coma.
Ever wonder how you could possibly get a better deal out of your money's worth? Here are some of my tips and recommendations to have your most thorough yet enjoying meal.
1. Pass on the riceGiphy
There's a reason why free bowls of rice are given out to you before you manage to cook your first round of bulgogi—to fill your tummy. A server that keeps refilling your rice knows that you'll be KO-ed after your third round. Not only is rice very inexpensive and easy to serve at restaurants, but it also prevents overly hungry customers from depleting their entire meat arsenal in the kitchen. So the next time you're served rice, set it aside for a while.
2. Avoid starchy banchan itemsGiphy
Banchan, if you are unfamiliar, is the array of side dishes that are laid out in front of you. Look around and you'll see kimchi, glass noodles, potato salad, macaroni salad, fish cakes, rice paper…..notice a pattern? Starch, gluten, cream, and the usual suspect—rice. Most KBBQ's see the opportunity to exhaust you with an excessive amount of carbs and dairy. Same goes for cheesy corn or cheese fondue. Next time, avoid these items and go for pickled radishes, jalapeños or kimchi to clean your palate and wake up your taste buds
3. Start and end with brisketGiphy
Brisket is your standard thin-sliced meat option. A perfect way to start your meal, since it's not marinated and you can try out the different sauce options you're offered. Starting with something heavy or overly marinated (I call this an MSG bomb) is a rookie mistake. End with brisket to round out your meal and to avoid running to your fridge in the middle of the night for a liter of water.
Less marinate = Less dehydration.
4) Order several meat selections at onceGiphy
One of my personal KBBQ nightmares is to actually run out of things to cook when I'm extremely hungry and the waiters are too busy serving other tables.
So, my advice: Put in an order of three, maybe four different meat selections every time you order. Solves the problem like a charm. Not only will you never run empty-handed during your feast, but you also don't have to flag down someone in the middle of chewing.
5. Go with a large crowdGiphy
Many KBBQ places will have special promotions during sporting games or campus events. Making a large reservation to watch a game will guarantee you better service from waiters and in some cases might help you get a group discount or free item. Just wear your UCLA sweaters and make sure the owner isn't a USC fan.
Case in point: I once went with my extended family (table of 10+) and the manager brought out free chicken wings for our table.
6. Ask for real Sesame OilGiphy
If you love sesame oil, you will love it on your galbi, guaranteed. Sadly, many KBBQ places dilute their sesame oil with veggie/canola oil to prevent customers from wasting it and also to avoid people from complaining about the strong odor. Next time, ask them to bring out a little dish of sesame oil for you to dip your meat in. It's totally free and for some places, highly recommended.
7. Take advantage of their soup optionsGiphy
All KBBQ places will let you order either (or both) spicy tofu/kimchi or soybean soup along with a free steamed egg dish they give out. It's included in the regular menu option and commonly ignored. Next time, order these soups when it's time to start on your bowl of rice. It elevates your experience a notch and transitions your meal from stuffing meat in your mouth to fine Korean dining with soup, rice and side dishes.