99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong

photo by Anne Fishbein

Beer bars Gaam and Toe Bang always draw crowds to Koreatown’s Chapman Plaza, but the spot with the most daunting lines is Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong, the barbecue restaurant opened in 2012 by Korean wrestler-turned–television personality Kang Ho-dong. What you’ll find at Baekjeong are the sort of high-quality meats you’ve become accustomed to at high-end Korean barbecue places such as Park’s BBQ, but in an environment that feels like a rowdy, college-town beer hall. The menu, for one, looks like a hardcover comic book, and the tabletop grill is surrounded by a shallow trough partially filled with that classic Korean bar food, corn cheese. It also will be partially filled with scrambled eggs by a server who will nonchalantly pour the eggs out of a kettle before asking for your order; at that point, you’ll ask for a set of either beef (which comes beautifully marbled) or pork. The cheese will melt over the corn, the eggs will be softly scrambled, the meat platters will arrive and, with the server’s help, will be cooked as you desire. Maybe you’ll also grab some greens for balance. And some more of that corn cheese.

-- Tien Nguyen