When it comes to Korean food, NYC is definitely no L.A. (or even New Jersey, for that matter), but there are definitely some great authentic restaurants in the Big Apple. While non-traditional downtown spots like Dok Suni's, Se Ja Mah, and Momofuku are fine for rookies, if you want the real-deal Holyfield, you gotta go to one of two places—Koreatown on West 32nd St. or Flushing, Queens. For the first post in our ongoing Springtime in NYC series, we're giving you an insider's tour of the best 10 Korean restaurants in New York...
Specialty: Fried chicken
28 West 32nd St. (2nd Floor) NYC
Korean fried chicken has been the rage for a minute now, and while newer spots like Bon Chon (a.k.a. Mad for Chicken) and the new Manhattan chain of Kyochon are OK enough, we still prefer the familiarity and consistently good food at Baden Baden. If you're looking to eat sweetened drumsticks in a place that looks like a noisy nightclub or an obnoxiously cute cafe, go to one of the aforementioned spots. But if all you need is solid chicken, no-frills service, and fewer "I just read about this place in the NY Times!" d-bags, then Baden is the move.
HAN JOO RESTAURANT
Specialty: Pork belly and cold noodles
41-06 149th Place, Flushing, NY
This hole-in-the-wall spot is renowned for its naengmyun, which are cold buckwheat noodles served in an iced broth—perfect warm-weather eating. Less famous at Han Joo but just as tasty is its sam gyup sal: fatty slices of pork belly that you grill at your table. Order the two dishes together and you can't lose.
Specialty: BBQ meat
17 East 32nd St., NYC
Just east of the main K-town strip on 32nd St. (across Fifth Ave.), this is essentially a fancier version of a standard Korean table-top BBQ place. The cuts of meat are good, the hostesses are pretty, the prices are competitive, and the smoke-machine thingies above each table will help reduce that Eau de Charcoal effect on your gear. An impressive first date, this one.
SAM WON GAK
Specialty: Jajangmyun and other Korean-Chinese food
144-20 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, NY
The sign says "Chinese" food, but don't order General Tso's over here. Korean-Chinese food refers to delicacies like jajangmyun (noodles smothered in soybean paste), jambong (spicy seafood noodle soup), and tang su yuk (sweet and sour pork). Everything's oily, fatty, hearty, yummy—the perfect comfort food. (Manhattanites can get good Korean-Chinese at Hyo Dong Gak at 51 West 35th Street.)
BCD TOFU HOUSE
Specialty: Tofu stew
17 West 32nd St., NYC
The popular tofu stew known as soondubu jigae is threatening to become the new Korean fried chicken, and BCD is a fairly new (to NYC) restaurant at the head of the pack. The stews come with different fillings (meat, seafood, dumplings, veggies, etc.) and you can set the spiciness level to your taste. Don't forget to crack an egg and plop it in as soon as the broth hits the table.
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GAM MEE OK
Specialty: Beef soup
43 West 32nd St., NYC
This place specializes in sullongtang, which is a Korean beef soup that is the ultimate late-night (or hangover) meal. Also notable is its ultra-tangy kimchi and a large appetizer called bossam, which consists of steamed pork, cabbage, kimchi, and raw oysters, and is about as fucking delicious as it sounds. Like many restaurants on the strip, this is a 24-hour spot and worth checking out after-hours so you can eat off the liquor.
Specialty: BBQ buffet
14742 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, NY
This buffet spot is frequented by Queens heads of all races, and for good reason: At around $20 a head, it's all-you-can-eat meat (of all kinds, including seafood) that you can grill at your table. The food itself isn't exactly top-notch, but what buffet is? Go here with an appetite on a weekend afternoon and see if you get shit accomplished for the rest of the day.
Specialty: Korean bar food
15 West 32nd St. (2nd Floor), NYC
This second-floor K-town spot is built to resemble a low-budget pojangmacha street stall in Seoul, and it serves sharable pojangmacha classics like budae jigae (essentially Korean gumbo), cheese-covered ddukboki (spicy rice cakes), and all kinds of soju. We hear the watermelon soju (which is served in a hollowed-out watermelon) is the shit but we'll stick with the green bottles, thanks.
162-10 Crocheron Ave., Flushing, NY
What, you thought the Japanese were the only ones to fuck with raw fish? This Flushing restaurant has super-fresh sashimi on the daily—the earlier you go, the fresher. We recommend the hwe dup bap—it's the Korean version of the Japanese dish chirashi (raw fish over rice), only less composed and much messier and in-your-face. That's basically Korea vs. Japan in a nutshell.
Specialty: Grilled clams
161-29 Crocheron Ave., Flushing, NY
Our last spot is sort of a cross between a pojangmacha and a regular restaurant, and is highly popular among the younger, hard-drinking Koreans in the area. Food across the board is pretty good, but the grilled clams (modum jogae gui) are a must. On weekend nights, the place is filled with rowdy youngins, so if you want a glimpse of the true Korean eating steez in all its glory, here's a good place to get your cultural anthropology on. After you eat and drink yourself stupid, there's a karaoke spot right down the block. Score.
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