In the early 1990s, New York City’s Koreatown had fewer than 10 Korean restaurants. Since then 32nd Street has grown into a vibrant center for Korean culture, drawing expats and Americans alike. Due to increased demand for Korean food and a steady stream of diners at all hours of the day, it’s attracted the attention of many Korean chains attempting to break into the U.S. market. This has led to skyrocketing rents, and now over half of the restaurants on 32nd Street are part of restaurant groups and chains. Despite this, there’s never been a better time to eat Korean food in the city, as other restaurants break away from the main hub into surrounding neighborhoods. Here are the places to venture around Midtown for — where owners are experimenting with different styles of Korean cuisine, prices are generally lower, and the wait for a table is far shorter. Some are chains, and some aren’t, but all of them worth trying.Read More
Where to Eat In And Around NYC’s Koreatown
From Korean fried chicken to inventive, homey fare, here’s where to eat near 32nd Street
Yoon Haeundae Galbi
As an extension of the family’s first restaurant in Busan, the space is decked out in reclaimed wood and stone tiles imported from their restaurant. Unlike most Korean barbecue restaurants in NYC, Yoon Haeundae Galbi specializes in just one cut of meat: The short ribs are portioned into what they call a Haeundae Cut, which the restaurant claims yields a more tender piece of meat. To start, order another Busan specialty, a seafood and short rib pancake similar to the ones served in the Dongnae district in Busan, topped with whole scallions and a partially-scrambled egg. Order the fresh short rib, and after it’s cut and cooked, dip it in the caramelized soy. Most tables finish their orders with the potato noodles, which are cooked in the soy marinade poured alongside the grill.
Turntable Chicken Jazz
To skip the wait at Turntable Chicken on 32nd, head over to 33rd for the owners’ new flagship location, with the same menu, same neon beer coolers, and much more space to stretch out. Unfortunately, this location does not have a coffee shop, but it is also open for lunch. KTown host Matthew Kang says you’re here for the chicken.
Grace Street Coffee & Desserts
The third-wave coffee boom mostly skipped Koreatown until Grace Street popped up in the old BCD Tofu space in 2012, offering espresso drinks from a variety of coffee roasters and hotteok, a Korean donut with cinnamon, sugar, and walnuts. Owners expanded the menu as a way to serve the diverse Asian clientele flocking to Koreatown. This was the first place in Manhattan to serve Taiwanese shaved snow, and it consistently adds new drinks and desserts that are trending in Asia before they blow up stateside. Instead of industrial creamer, the shaved snow uses milk from local dairy farmers Battenkill, real ube instead of powder, and the shop’s matcha drinks are made with ceremonial grade matcha — rarities in most Asian dessert cafes in the U.S.
King's Street Coffee
In general, the third-wave coffee boom hit Korea far before it hit the U.S., in the early 2000s, so Seoul has more coffeehouses per capita than San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. Several dedicated Korean cafes have come and gone on both borders of Koreatown. King’s Street Coffee, which opened more recently in 2017, luckily has the seating and the WiFi to offer a spot for people looking to work or study later in the day. They also offer a variety of alternatives to milk for their drinks, using coffee from Joe’s.
No other bar has made its mark in Koreatown quite like Pocha 32, which introduced many New Yorkers to the wonders of soju and budae jungol, a spicy stew with kimchi, spam, hot dog, ramen noodles, and rice cakes, topped with cheese. It is still open until 4 a.m. every day to feed the post-nightlife, post-karaoke crowds. Save the chopstick wrapper, which can be added to the collection hanging in the fishnets along the walls with a personal note or drawing.
Pelicana Chicken Koreatown
Korean fried chicken is commonplace in NYC now, as are chains supplying the crispy, often sauce-covered birds. Though a slew of Korea-based companies have come to New York, Pelicana has become particularly popular. The chain, which started in the ‘80s, has an outpost in an upstairs food court on 32nd street, serving the thick-battered fried chicken. Go for the original Pelicana sauce.
All of the hand-rolled kimbap (a seaweed rice roll) here are made to order, with fillings like spam and bulgogi with vegetables. While there have always been flashier options in Koreatown, E-mo offers a quintessential Korean experience, and husband and wife Jae Won Kim and Yoon Og Oh have developed a loyal following that’s kept this kimbap operation chugging along after they took over a city newsstand in 2002.
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
Possibly the most buzzed about opening in Koreatown in the last five years, many publications were intrigued by this Korean barbecue chain named after a comedian/wrestler, which opened to acclaim in Los Angeles in 2012 and in Flushing in 2013. While it was always seen as a more expensive option to Koreatown barbecue spots, its prices have not gone up as much as others in the neighborhood. As an added bonus, it’s usually about half the wait time of Jongro’s.
Gopchang Story BBQ
Gob is short for gopchang, which refers to grilled small intestines. Established as “Gopchang House” in Seoul, Kisung PJ Corp. operates over 50 restaurants in Korea. On top of gopchang, try the daechang (large intestine) and makchang, or tripe, served in jjeongeol (stews), soups, fried rice, or as a grilled main course. Unlike most Korean barbecue restaurants, the meat is partially cooked in the back and finished on the grills. Though kimchi is not on offer here, other Korean barbecue staples — like short ribs, brisket, and bulgogi — are available.
Osamil carries a standard Korean beer and soju list, along with a variety of spirits not usually found in Koreatown, including Japanese whiskys. The restaurant specializes in Korean skewers and bar food, and most diners come for a side honey butter chips. Catering to those looking for a more relaxed vibe one block over from 32nd street, Osamil also offers late night drink specials, including a beer bucket with Hitachino White, Hite, Kronenburg, and Peroni for $35, and daily food specials.
When Her Name is Han fills up, guests often venture next door into Take 31, the owners’ more modern restaurant. “Havana-style” corn pancakes are an upgrade over the typical corn-cheese dishes found in Korean restaurants: It’s a crispy corn fritter dusted with parmesan cheese. Dduk bo ssam, a Vietnamese rice paper wrap more commonly seen in Korean barbecue restaurants in Los Angeles, makes an appearance here as a wrap over a slightly sweet, slightly salty pork belly; it’s served with pickled jalapenos. At lunchtime, Take 31 transforms into a daytime cafe called Cup and Cup, with a menu of lattes and katsu curries — and free wifi.
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Her Name is Han
One of the best introductions to non-barbecue Korean food in New York City, Her Name is Han excels in traditional comfort food dishes and stews, like the kind found in Seoul. Thanks to the nostalgia factor and relative novelty in NY, Han attracts a younger crowd of Koreans and Americans who’ve had their fill of KBBQ. Try the yangnyeom gejang (a spicy raw crab), tofu with black sesame, or fried chicken.
The follow up to Danji, the first Michelin starred Korean restaurant in America, Hanjan has shown Korean food can thrive just outside of Koreatown in Nomad, where it’s settled into a groove after five years. Now open seven days a week, it is still changing up its menu regularly. Considered the wagyu of crustaceans, the highly popular and seasonal ganjang gaejang — a raw blue crab marinated in soy sauce — is a recurring seasonal special. Check out chef Hooni Kim’s Instagram for regular menu updates like his take on popular classics, like curry rice or doenjang jjigae (soybean stew).
One of the surprise hits of 2016, Atoboy offers a unique interpretation of banchan in a prix fixe setting, using Western ingredients and European technique. Instead of a typical canned corn with melted mozzarella, Atoboy serves corn with taleggio, bacon, and doenjang (soybean paste), and a mackerel served with green chili instead of gochujang (spicy bean paste) Occasionally, chef Junghyun Park will source desserts from La Tabatiere, a baker who also worked at two star Michelin-restaurant Jungsik.
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