While Manhattan’s Korean destination restaurants flaunt the shiny tip of the iceberg that is Korean cuisine, Queens’ Korean establishments make up a foundation for the local Korean American residential community. Since the 1970s, New York’s Korean immigrants have been putting down roots in Queens: Almost half of the population live in Flushing and Bayside, according to U.S. census data.
Murray Hill is a hotspot in particular, covering the area surrounding the Broadway and Murray Hill stops on the Long Island Rail Road and the commercial corridor of Northern Boulevard that runs in between them. The boundaries have helped define what’s now colloquially called “먹자골목,” “Let’s Eat Alley” or “Food Alley.” It houses cozy joints where groups of halmunis (grandmas) go out for breakfast dates of kongnamul guk (bean sprout soup); golfers pack in for barbecue after hitting the greens; karaoke and bar crowds satiate their midnight munchies; and parents take a break from cooking with more elaborate restaurant-style takes on their family recipes.
“It’s the closest thing to how Korean people actually eat at home,” says Ahyoung Kim, director of economic empowerment at the Asian American Federation. It’s where the team behind Korean-Southern tapas spot, C as in Charlie, find “jeong,” that kind of familial hospitality where the “eemos” (aunties) with the grilling skills of a Michelin-starred restaurant are happy you cleared the dishes, says co-owner David JoonWoo Yun.
The meals in Murray Hill still hew to traditional eating customs. The majesty of banchan — an endless spread of colorful veggie-forward side dishes eaten throughout the meal — still dazzles the table. And the stiff competition here, as well as the diverse backgrounds of the Korean immigrants themselves, have produced restaurants that specialize in a regional cuisine or a specific dish, some dishes surfacing only during a customary season.
From barbecues that go way beyond bulgogi to spicy crab soups, crispy oyster pancakes, hours-simmered beef bone soups, and banchan, here are 19 Murray Hill restaurants that showcase the diversity of Korean cuisines.Read More