If there is one thing we love, it is unlimited meats coupled with unlimited amounts of alcohol. If you have read our All-You-Can-Eat hot pot article, you know the way into our hearts is by putting meat to fire while wearing a comfy pair of sweatpants. Hot damn.
Given the rise of Korean BBQ from something that was once enjoyed by ethnic Korean-Americans, to something much more mainstream that crosses cultures and ethnicities. That in itself, is a cause for celebration. Hence, what better way to celebrate than by figuring out which are the best All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ places in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hang onto your butts cause this is going to get tasty.
All That Barbecue
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All That Barbecue hails from Southern California where it has multiple locations including Irvine and Arcadia. Having spent the time to work out all the kinks to their operations, they’ve finally brought their grilling expertise up to the Bay Area. Geezus, what took so long?
Setting up shop in Cupertino(aka Arcadia of the North), All That Barbecue is a fine establishment for all the meat lovers out there. I wouldn’t necessarily classify them as no frills, but suffice to say, you ain’t coming here for the ambience. Huge swarms of grey smoke billows out from each table, meat juices dripping down into the fire, I can’t tell if I’m on a set of a porn film or getting ready for Korean BBQ. Whatever your reason is for coming here, you’ll love it. Solid cuts of meat and an extensive, but succinct menu makes the $25 price tag absolutely worth it. Just note that they will charge you for leftover food, so do plan accordingly. Extra points for the humongoid macaroon that will just decimate your night for only $3.50. Totally. Worth. It.
GEN Korean BBQ House
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If ever there was a time where you thought “I wish I can go clubbing and eat Korean BBQ at the same time” GEN Korean BBQ House would be that place. When you step into GEN, the decor smacks you in the face and screams “let’s go clubbing” but the smell of the food says “welcome to heaven, muthahugger.” Blue neon lights are the decor-of-choice and a young, but, really friendly staff is there to help you with life’s tough decisions on which meat to pick.
Like All That Barbecue, GEN Korean BBQ House is a Los Angeles transplant. Upon landing in the Bay Area, they really made their mark with some choice words for the type of employees they are looking for(see first picture). The assumption is they have found a ton of people who have a brain and have decided to forgo any scarecrows in their hiring process because their meats are just baller.
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Long time residents of the Asian food scene in San Francisco all know this place as the only spot to get all you can eat Korean barbecue in the city. Otherwise, your other alternative is trek down to Oakland or the South Bay to get your hands on some of the scrumptious meats this side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Every single time I go to YakiniQ, there is a line as though these guys were selling Justin Beiber tickets. So point being, get there early. Preferably right when they open. While the quality of the meats aren’t anything to write home about, the variety of cuts, the unlimited amount of foods and the soju are what keeps San Franciscan coming back over and over again. Give these guys a go, you won’t regret it.
Bob Sang Korean BBQ & Tofu
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While Fremont is home to some of the best Taiwanese restaurants in the Bay Area, one of the most understated restaurants is Bob Sang, the only AYCE Korean BBQ in town. Like YakiniQ, its come here early or go home hungry cause the lines are out the door and spilling over into the parking lot every weekend.
Unlike the other restaurants on this list, Bob Sang doesn’t give you a “grill” per se. Rather, you get a hot plate/wok style contraception that is setup alongside your table and meats are tossed onto it for grilling purposes. On top of that, you get unlimited short ribs, bulgogi and other meats that are cooked and brought to your table. I imagine this is what heaven must feel like.
Beque Korean BBQ
Beque offers up multiple locations, but for this review, the focus is on the Newark location which offers up an AYCE option. Lauded for their decorative interior(upscale, modern, not-clubby), Beque cranks up the love by offering up four types of meats – pork belly, chicken, spicy pork and beef bulgogi. Not an extensive menu, but for the $20 price tag, you can do a lot worse elsewhere. The key difference is that there is no grill and the staff makes the food for you prior to it being serve. So if your hands are tied up with other things, like reading more Foodamentals articles, then you’ll have no problem getting waited on hand and feet.
Charcoal grills are the holy grail of Korean BBQ. Nothing beats the smokey flavor of meat cooked over hot pipping charcoal and the satisfying pop of the meat fats falling into the flames. Yup, Gogi Time has that. Selection here is off the HEEZY. You get meats, soup and seafood option to make sure your sweat pants still fit.
Double points for the Yakult at the end. These guys know how tips are won.
A photo posted by Kenneth Roque (@bootihole) on
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If you look in the dictionary for “under appreciated’ there would be a picture of this place. It’s as if the owners decided “we don’t need no stinking’ branding” because its pretty obvious they spent no money on coming up a name for their restaurant. And that is just fine by us.
Located on El Camino Real in a deluge of Chinese restaurants and… more Chinese restaurants, Korean Bar-B-Que is the only place in the Peninsula for AYCE Korean BBQ. Food is served buffet style, meaning you get up out of your seat and pick what you want from a central buffet area and bring it back. I’m sure in some countries, that is considered a workout. Lots of choices for you to choose. Best part is that everything is cooked over charcoal, so similar to Gogi Time, the meat is extra good.
Ohgane Korean Restaurant
With over 1000 reviews and coming in at 4 stars on Yelp, Ohgane is legit. Patrons have proudly declared this as one of the best Korean BBQ places in the Bay Area. My guess is that since it is so close to Berkeley, the students there must go wild for this place.
AND for good reasons. Pork belly, rib eye and short steak make up just a small portion of their menu. For an $4.99, you can add on stuff like fried rice, kim bop and soup noodles. Just make sure your doctor gives you a clean bill of health prior to coming here because you are leaving in a (food)coma.
Jong Ga House
BAN CHAN. BAN CHAN. BAN CHAN. There are multiple things that Jong Ga House does well, but the way that they do Ban Chan is otherworldly. Although that shouldn’t’ factor into this article, we do want to make sure to point out the photo opportunity the ban chan does present.
Jong Ga offers 7 types of options when it coms to selecting your meal. None of them suck. I can vouch for ‘em. A gas grill helps put the pedal to the metal so you’ll be putting meats into your stomach in no time.
The Grill Story
The newest entrant to the list, but definitely not the least. The Grill Story is situated on Castro Street in Mountain View, right next to all the tech guys/stuff and close to copious amounts of Asian food options nearby.
Despite the options, The Grill Story is not one you want to pass up. Modern decor gives this place an upscale vibe whereas 6 types of meats will keep you happy.
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