After scoring over 150 restaurants with our own metric, the Restaurant Delight Index (RDI), we’ve concluded that the five best Korean (non-kbbq) restaurants in California in ranking order are: Buil Samgye Tang, Bart Grocery & BBQ, Yup Dduk LA, Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo, and Soy Tofu.
Table of Contents
Best Korean Restaurants (non-BBQ) in California
1. Buil Samgye Tang
Address: 859 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Recommendations: Anything on the menu, but add some abalone
Restaurant Delight Index: 90/100
I love specialty restaurants that cut down on all the choices in lieu of providing a few amazing, unbeatable, dishes. Buil Samgye Tang literally only has five items on the menu, all variations of samgye-tang. Samgye-tang is a warm ginseng chicken soup said to improve your health (practically everything healthy in Korea has ginseng in it). Koreans love this soup so much that restaurants like Buil are commonplace in South Korea, whereas us Americans have to pretend we’re sick in order to get our moms to make it for us.
The paradox of choice is real, which could contribute to how highly they scored in our restaurant delight index. You’ll already know what you’re going to get as you walk in, and you know it’s going to be amazingly delicious. Not only is the food delightful, I have yet to see a review fail to comment on how Buil has the kindest and warmest owner in town. No wonder Buil scored so highly on our RDI. Major props for putting out the most delightful traditional Korean food experience in California. Plan on not finding a parking spot, thankfully it’s in a residential area so alternative options should be available.
2. Bart Grocery & BBQ
Address: 108 Los Olivos Ave, Daly City, CA 94014
Recommendations: Kimchi Fried Rice, Japchae, Bulgogi
Restaurant Delight Index: 84/100
You know how some moms (the best moms) when they pack a lunch it feels like they’re trying to feed you for a lifetime? Well, Bart Grocery & BBQ does just that on the cheap. You can feed a family of four off their generous portions for just $8 (don’t quote us on that with Bart). Combing their super affordable prices, generous portions, and delicious food they pulled out the second highest delightful experience. Bart is more a deli than a restaurant so expect to take it to go. Parking is also terribly limited.
3. Hangari Kalguksu
Address: 3470 W 6th St Suite 9 10, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Recommendations: #4 Seafood Kalgooksoo, #5 Chicken Kalgooksoo
Restaurant Delight Index: 83/100
Hangari has made a name for itself with the best kalgooksoo (aka kal guksu) in California. Kalgooksoo, AKA “Knife Noodles”, are handcut noodles served in a large bowl with steaming seafood or chicken broth (there are tons of variations now but those two have been most prevalent). Hangari serves them piping hot enveloping you in a cloud of steam and smells you can taste before even picking up a spoon.
They don’t skimp on the add ons either, a contributing factor to their high RDI. If you visit their Yelp page you’d probably think the pictures were manufactured or staged, but according to the reviewers they look just as good or even better in person. Their handmade noodles are commonly described as perfectly chewy and homemade, which is everything I’m looking for in a kalgooksoo. Like the other restaurants on this list parking is almost impossible unless you valet (wonder if it’s a coincidence). It looks as though Hangari has perfected the art of the kalgooksoo earning them #4 on the list of California’s best Korean food.
4. Yup Dduk LA
Address: 3603 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Recommendations: Yup DDuk with Ramen and Sausage, Rice Balls
Restaurant Delight Index: 81/100
If you love spicy Yup DDuk LA is right up your alley; if not, you should probably find another street. Self proclaimed “spiciest Korean restaurant”, they focus your entire experience around surviving the heat, if you so dare. Former victims have cautioned against not getting duped by the so called ‘mild’ as it will make your eyes water and nose run. Like toothpaste, you can’t remove heat after the fact, so I suggest ordering the extra mild and adding your heat gradually until it’s just right. They have a fresh and modern approach to Korean cuisine. You start off by ordering their take on tteokbokki, then add sides and toppings such as ramen, cheese, eggs, sausages, etc. Parking here like the others is limited and the space is small. If you’re heading there on a weekend get ready for a wait.
5. Soy Tofu
Address: 3470 W 6th St Suite 9 10, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Recommendations: Mushroom Tofu Soup, Seafood Tofu Soup
Restaurant Delight Index: 91/10
Soy Tofu earned the last remaining spot on the best Korean restaurants in California! If you haven’t guessed by now, they specialize in sundubu jjigae, which is a soft tofu stew and a traditional mainstay in Korean cuisine. Soy Tofu is powered by a husband-wife duo; she serves the entire restaurant up front while he does all the cooking in the back. It’s impressive that they are still able to delight their customers with such a small team. Major props to them! Despite running around, serving bubbling soup in cast iron pots and banchan, she’s more than happy to stop and explain what everything is if you need help. People characterized her as very sweet and funny with a great vibe. One reviewer said they’d come back just for her. Another reviewed, “I’ve now been to a handful of tofu houses after my mom took me here once, and this place slays all the others.” Their soups are full of flavor, regardless of the type of sundubu you order. A common mistake in cooking sundubu is making it too salty, but here the salt ratio is on point. Great food, great service, great vibe, all of that notwithstanding they have complimentary ice cream, so they’re the best in my book.
We’ll be updating this post regularly over the year to keep up with the mass amount of reviews Atlanta Korean BBQ restaurants accumulate. This way, we can see which of the thirty-four KBBQ places are truly the best. Until then try out these delicious spots Atlanta has to offer and pro tip: it’s always better with friends. 🙂