Dinner Is Fire

A Meaty Guide to Seattle's Best Korean BBQ

Grab those tongs and get grilling.

By Allecia Vermillion Photography by David Jaewon Oh Illustrations by Jungyeon Roh Published in the Spring 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Meet Korean BBQ makes barbecue high-end.

Dinner begins with the turn of a deal, waking up the (usually) gas grill set in the middle of the table. But the fun truly starts with a platter—or tower—of raw meat, ready for you to cook. Great Korean barbecue used to require a fitful I-5 journey to Federal Way or Lynnwood. Newer spots closer to the city center mean that drive is now optional—but no less rewarding.

Meet Korean BBQ

Capitol Hill

Current trends in South Korea inform Heong Soon Park’s meandering house of tabletop grills on Pike/Pine. Meet favors cuts you might find in an upscale steak house and keeps banchan fermented and often seasonal. A wood grill preps marinated cuts with a hint of smoke, and dishes from seafood pancake to corn cheese mark this place as a finer-dining sort of establishment. Once your platter of Wagyu zabuton and Kurobuta pork arrives, so does a grill specialist, ready to oversee these pricey cuts of meat so you don’t eff them up (see page 73). The service style may be modern, but the plate of lettuces and perilla leaves—ready to wrap that meat into a ssam—is a classic Korean touch you don’t always find at more casual stateside KBBQ restaurants. 

At Meet Korean BBQ, grill captains ensure meat is perfectly cooked and a ssam platter is at the ready.

Baegopa

Chinatown–International District

One of the many upsides to the restoration of Chinatown’s historic Louisa Hotel: a stylized KBBQ hangout where beer comes by the pitcher, pint, or somaek tower. Fat pork belly and tissue-paper brisket appear as all-you-can-eat, a la carte, and combo options—but blame side dishes for your overstuffed state at the end of the night. Bubbling soondubu (tofu soup) and detail-oriented fried rice supplement memorable banchan like spicy squid and cucumber kimchi. The only thing more exciting than finally having Korean barbecue in this part of town is finding it in a place that’s this well-rounded. 

SuRa

Lynnwood

The interior: giant, overarchingly beige, with high-backed booths upholstered in a floral nod to yesteryear’s hotel bedspreads. This is no slam—more a testament to how long this massive space has satisfied cravings for brisket and bulgogi. SuRa emits comfortable diner vibes, from the pages-long menu shrouded in vinyl to the motherly servers who will set up your rectangular burner, then return to chide you for not grilling the mushrooms and sweet potato slices that garnish a combo platter. Nobody’s passing up nutrient-rich veggies under their watch. 19226 Highway 99, Lynnwood, 425-771-2502

Old Village Korean BBQ

Shoreline

Sure, the all-you-can-eat route is fun. But this stalwart on Aurora Avenue lets you dine old-school, grilling over a brazier of white-hot charcoal (with a natural gas assist) in a darkened setting that resembles a whiskey bar gone Gangnam. This undeniably more complicated process imparts a subtle smokiness to both the meat and the large parking lot out front. (Ordering AYCE consigns you to regular propane-style grilling.) 

Ka Won

Lynnwood

The scissors that await on each speckled tabletop look swiped from an office cubicle but handle like a Monaco Grand Prix contender. The tongs operate with similar precision—just a few small reasons Ka Won stands out, even in Lynnwood’s density of KBBQ. Inside this strip mall hideaway, servers present a Technicolor parade of banchan and shipping container–size portions of pork belly. Some specialty yangnyeom kalbi (short ribs marinated in sesame oil) and black pork belly make for an excellent starting point. This place is a throwback from the days when American KBBQ restaurants also served a giant menu of other Korean dishes, and yet Ka Won nails a broad range of soups and hot pots. 

Ka Won's decades of experience means top-notch banchan and deeply effective scissors.

Son of a Butcher

Eastlake

SungJun Park grew up in his parents’ restaurant (Sottukkeong Korean BBQ in Lynnwood). Eun Song has cooked in higher-end Seattle kitchens. Together, they give tradition a sheen of soju-swilling cool. Son of a Butcher uses high-tech tabletop burners to grill cuts that exude quality, if not pedigreed wagyu designations. But venturing beyond the grill feels essential. You don’t find many Korean restaurants in town serving the steak tartare–esque raw meat dish known as yukhwe or dak galbi, the spicy chicken and rice cake stir-fry. You definitely won’t find another spot that riffs on chimichurri with Korean ingredients like chives. The cheeky name is just the first clue—this urbane next-gen barbecue haunt crosses cultures with ease.

Exit 5

Renton

Vibrant lights, gleaming steel tabletops, pulsing K-pop, and a facade that mimics street stalls make it easy to forget you’re dining in a Renton shopping complex with a fullscape view of a Regal cinema. Owner Mison Kang keeps tabs on KBBQ developments in Seoul (and LA’s Koreatown). Her Korea-based business partner sends chefs to impart training, like a recent visitor who upped the game on some already great fried chicken wings. Housemade marinade energizes the cascading platters of galbi and pork belly, but Kang’s biggest Korean export might be the hands-on style of hyper-attentive service. 

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