Never seen an AMA like this, so I thought I'd give it a shot. If anyone even cares haha. proof

Some context,

I'm a 22 years old 1st generation Korean-American dude.

I work in the greater Atlanta area. There's a decent korean population here and it's littered with authenthic and also americanized korean bbq spots.

I've worked at 5 korean bbq places so far as a server. I cook and provide service at the table. I consider myself quite knowledgeable and know the ins and outs of this side of the industry.

An example of the food offered at my current restuarant workplace is shown here in this picture link:

Ask me anything and I will answer. What's it like, recommendations, etiquette, etc. No questions are off limit :)

My favorite questions so far:

Tips for noobs/first timers?

Authentic vs Americanized

Worst experience with customers?

My most memorable customer?

Why are all servers Korean and the people in the back are Hispanic?

What is Nurungji?

Why do you feel the need to flip/touch my food?

Any tips on how to avoid grease splatter?

How to tell a KBBQ is legit browsing online?

Food poisoning from using the same tongs?

Must try at every place, and what to avoid?

My favorite cuts/order at a KBBQ restuarant?

As a Vegetarian, what are my options?

Who are the most dreaded type of customers?

How much tip do you expect & where do the meats come from?

You started serving at 17?

How to avoid smelling like BBQ?

Strangest KBBQ ritual from a customer?

Is the corn cheese meant to fill you up faster?

How is the beef brisket prepped?

Any tips on how to make the beef brisket not stick on the grill?

Did you serve any Korean celebrities?

Favorite Korean places in general, to eat at?

edit: i am at work and will answer questions when i come home. Send me a DM if you're around the Buford/MOG area, I can serve you :)

edit: I am now home.

edit: Thanks for 1.5 million views! You guys had some interesting questions! I will continue to answer questions, but I need sleep. It's 8:19 AM and I have been writing comments for the last 9 hours and I have work in 7 hours lol. I will continue after work. Good night everyone.

edit: i am now done here, thanks reddit

Comments: 1269 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

waylan1574 karma

Ive been a patron of one particular Korean BBQ spot in Atlanta for 16 years And have tried almost every other spot in town. what makes a restaurant considered “Americanized“ vs authentic in your opinion?

corychung860 karma

I'd say there's a multitude of factors that makes a KBBQ restaurant Americanized.

Definitely the way food is made and cooked is important.

Overly sweet BBQ meat. Had bulgogi at this one restaurant and it tasted like candy meat, was so awfully sweet to me. Authentic bulgogi isn't even sweet, or its barely sweet.

All their meats are processed and preserved in a sweet marinade of some sort.

Limited side dish selection. If they don't have garlic, jalapeños/Korean chili peppers, sesame oil, perilla leaves, or lettuce wraps (sometimes you have to request these); this could be another sign of them not being authentic.

No Korean alcoholic beverages to be seen like soju or Korean plum wine for example.

Americanized KBBQ spots tend to be All you can eat.

The menu is only in English.

They only offer fried rice, not white rice.

And so on..

By the way, I don't mean that a Americanized KBBQ spot is bad, there are great ones too!

edit: yes bulgogi is traditionally a little bit sweet, but man i promise it shouldn't be like candy that I've tasted at some places these days.

AaresLoL114 karma

You're not talking about Iron Age Hawaiian bulgogi are you?

corychung153 karma

Maybe.. Iron Age is ok haha. I've worked at the 1st original location too lol.

It's more of a fun go out to eat with friends, get full till you drop type of place.

allergicaddiction135 karma

Korean reporting in. I always grade the authenticity of spots by their banchan (side dishes) offerings and what they give you to wrap your meat in.

Authentic spots will give you perilla, pickled radish rounds, and rice paper to wrap your meat in. When I try a new place and they don’t offer it, I usually don’t come back because I’m a snob and I need those things when I’m paying money at a restaurant. I can’t get off on just lettuce wraps.

The flavor of the kimchi is also a good indicator.

corychung42 karma

facts perilla leaves, rice paper, radish, lettuce wraps for sure

Shanamat475 karma

Maybe not specifically kbbq. But I was recently in a Korean restaurant and white rice came out in one of the super hot stone bowls. The lady scooped out the middle part and the stuck bits remained and then she poured ice water into there and left on the table. What was I supposed to do with it? It was just u seasoned warm water with rice bits.

corychung748 karma

Oh that's called Nurungji. But why would she use ice water lol? But you said it was warm?

My grandpa likes it when the server adds hot water or korean barley tea to the crispy rice stuck on the hot stone bowl. So that its easy for the rice to come off. It becomes like a little hot water rice soup lol. Grandpa said he ate that when he was a kid cause he was dead broke!

frizzynizzy374 karma

As a fellow Korean ATL native, which KBBQ spot is your favorite? Where would you go on an off day? 9292? EM BOP? Miss Gogi?

corychung363 karma

ATL korean native as well! Honestly, I'd go to 985 or 678 on a weekday. Faster service when it's not busy. It's close to where I live to. And has that high quality taste I look for, and a rich side dish selection.

Draymond_Purple23 karma

Is there a reason both those places have numbers for names? Seems like an interesting coincidence

corychung8 karma

678, 770 are area codes. there's a restuarant called 985, it's from the 985 intersection nearby. pretty basic but easy to remember.

The owner of 678 sold 770, and the new owner of 770 opened up 985.

9292 was suppose to be business partners with 678, 770, 985. However there was a dispute.

(disclaimer: This may or may not be accurate, I could be completely lieing or not know what I'm talking about)

joedaelephant201 karma

Never been to a Korean BBQ place, but I have always wanted to. What are some tips for a noob?

corychung370 karma

TELL HIM/HER it's your first time. Ask your server for a full break down of the menu. Ask a lot of questions to your server. He/she will gladly tell you what will happen, what the side dishes are, what meat is being cooked, what to pair side dishes with, how to eat it, what something is made out of, etc.

If he/she doesn't have many tables, we love spending time talking to our customers because we are at the table so much cooking for them.

Where I live, you definitely want to avoid the cheap all you can eat places, unless that's what you want.

I work at a no all you can eat (Non-AYCE) place, and the quality really shows. We only offer combo meat platters and A la carte. The marbling and presentation is real. Remember, quality over quantity! You will get full from the meat and side dishes in combos anyways. I always have to pull out a to-go boxes for my customers cause its too much food even though its not all you can eat! haha

Ask if theres sesame oil, lettuce wraps, garlic, korean chili peppers, rice paper, perilla leaves, ssamjang, soybean soup, etc. We have a lot of hidden menu items that we don't give to regular people unless they ask for it lol. And its usually only the korean people and seasoned veterans that know lol.

Once you are a veteran kbbq eater, watch and learn how servers cook their meat, if he or she is a good cook. Knowing how to cook your own meat and control the fire switch will yield greater taste. Cause servers can't always be at the table cooking, so the meats won't always come out perfect. Maybe its burned, dried out, smushed, etc. But when you know how to cook it yourself, you can cook it to how you like it and not have to rely on a server who is busy with 4 other tables. Girls love it when you know how to cook too!

Start with non-marinade meats, and then try marinated meats. Not the other way around.

Request grill changes often, to maintain good quality of the meats being cooked. Sugary marinades tend to ruin a grill easily.

If it sounds good, try it! Come to a KBBQ place with an open mind.

Bring a large group of friends so that you can try all the different meats and drinks offered.

Throw some kimchi on a grill and cook it, same with bean sprouts.

Hope you learned some new tips :)

phaedrusTHEghost43 karma

Wait. So is your banchan not refillable either?

corychung174 karma

Banchan is always refillable at any korean restuarant where i live. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to compete haha.

tiffniecakes163 karma

Was there a table that was really memorable for all the wrong reasons?

corychung702 karma

Wrong reasons, as in awful experience? Yes. I had 4 highschoolers that were eating for 3 hours, back when i worked at a cheap buffet kbbq. Not only did they eat so god damn much, they were messy. Throwing rice at each other, dropping all their utensils, and adding random side dishes on the grill that arent even meant to be cooked.

Loud group of kids, giggling the whole time while i cooked.

When they checked out, they left no tip and drew a fat cock on it.. lol

I mean it is what it is

xKING_SLAYERx150 karma

I’ve been to a few Kbbq joints, and sometimes the staff insist on cooking and serving the food, which seems kinda against the point? Is it because they don’t think I know what I’m doing? And if so, is there a polite way say I’d prefer to do it myself?

mohvespenegas23 karma

You can just ask to do it yourself, or direct them politely. “I prefer my pork more well done/cooked”.

corychung11 karma


AisleOfTextusPeach150 karma

Can you hit me with a good authentic kalbi or bulgogi marinade? I love the stuff but live a long way from the closest Korean restaurant.

corychung307 karma

I can't think of a recipe at the top of my head, but I know Maangchi on youtube has cooking recipes and tutorials of galbi. She's pretty friken legit if you ask me! Reminds me of my mom :)

piegirl85 karma

My husband I taught English for a year in Seoul back in 2008. We LOVED the little family owned Korean bbq restaurants. Can you tell me the name of the little side dish that looks like blades of grass and if it’s available in America? I can’t even remember if they were cooked or raw but I could eat four bowls of them!

corychung99 karma

wow So cool!

Korean Chive salad.

or might be Pa Kimchi? (Green onion kimchi)

tardiswhoosh67 karma

I am Mexican American and I just put my cooked meat in rice paper and eat it like a little taco, is this acceptable?

Edited to include this: which beer is better Cass or OB?

corychung87 karma

Of course its acceptable. I don't care how you eat your bbq. There's really no wrong or right way to pair a korean bbq bite!

corychung31 karma

Cass imo

303198362 karma

I’ve been experimenting with Gochujang lately. Do you like this ingredient and what’s your favorite way to incorporate it into a dish for home cooking?

corychung90 karma

gochujang marinated porkbelly. so good!

love gochujang with korean peppers.

gochujang fried chicken.

gochujang is a must with the super healthy dish known as bibinbap. gotta try this.

an incredible amount of ways to get creative and use gochujang considering koreans use gochujang or dwaenjang for so many dishes.

giro_di_dante58 karma

What are some favorite memories or interactions with people? Especially those trying for the first time?

Now that my question it out of the way, I’d like to say…

I live in Los Angeles — a place with a large and active Korean community.

As an Italian-American native Angeleno, I have a few things to say to you:

I spend a ton of time in Koreatown, because it’s my favorite neighborhood in the city. It’s vibrant and raucous and cool and familiar and unique and experiential all at once.

I think that KBBQ is as quintessentially LA as pastor tacos. It’s a mainstay of culture and life here.

I have shared many meals with many friends over the years at a number of Korean restaurants, but I very clearly remember my dad taking me to his favorite KBBQ restaurant for the first time when I was around 10. He got me hooked early on. Years later, after a difficult divorce and being in a bad place, I was in need of a major parental pep talk. My dad chose a KBBQ restaurant for us to talk and enjoy each other’s company, because they are places that we have long enjoyed going to together. I was in a dark place, and just being in a favorite and familiar place with my dad started to put me on a right path again.

I have introduced my Romanian girlfriend to the brilliance of KBBQ, and she is obsessed and begs for it any time we go out to eat. I also took her very Romanian parents for the first time, and her family loved it. And this was a really big moment for me, bonding with her family in my city for the first time. I still laugh at her dad’s facial expressions and reactions trying everything for the first time. He was amazed at how good it all was.

My mom, who mainly eats Italian or Mediterranean focused food and who only eats Mexican outside of her “norm,” and who also doesn’t even really eat red meat, went to her first KBBQ restaurant with me and fell in love with the whole experience.

Whenever friends and family from out of town visit LA, going to a KBBQ place is an absolute must on my regular stops. So I’ve shared countless fun and meaningful meals with people I love at these kinds of restaurants.

I’m very lucky to have a great Korean community here in my city.

I’m just writing all of this to say…thank you for your work. Thank you for your knowledge and passion. Thank you for providing a fun, hospitable, and communal atmosphere for anyone.

It’s because of people like you — Korean immigrants and Korean-Americans alike — that I have such amazing memories and happy experiences. So many nights of laughing and sharing and getting drunk and eating amazing food.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled all over this world, and lived abroad in several countries. There are many things in this world that I love. So many great traditions and memories.

But there’s something special about sitting down in a favorite KBBQ restaurant right here at home, with people I love, and enjoying great food and great company.

Thank you, my dude.

corychung5 karma

this was very nice of you to say bro. Thank you.

I'm glad you and you're Romanian girlfriend enjoy Korean cuisine.

I've told my favorite interaction with a customer before in this thread.

But man some other favorite interactions would be when friends come by to eat, and you're able to serve them and hang out with them.

Some other fun interactions would be when lit customers give you some soju shots under the table while you're working. Now you're tipsy, cooking meat, hoping you don't drop a burning hot plate on someone's face. Obviously though, I know how to control myself and when to stop.

I love when customers genuinely are very satisfied with their korean bbq experience, especially if it's their first. Some people are so nice and patient with me, and generous with their tips. It really makes my day.

Nice, understanding, patient, and good vibe customers are always a good interaction.

kamikashi2141 karma

What is a must try at every place, and what is something that should be avoided (if anything)?

corychung189 karma

you definetely want to try and make your first lettuce wrap. It's fun and it's healthy when you pair it with vegetable side dishes. A very wholesome mouth experience, cause you're suppose to eat a whole lettuce wrap in 1 bite. You will look like you have a jaw breaker in your mouth like that 1 show Ed and Eddy.

Definetely try soju. Soju is a distilled spirit usually around 17-20% alc. It's the most consumed alcohol in the world believe it or not, look it up. Koreans are some alcoholics man, and soju is very common at the kbbq table.

First timers should try getting a flavored soju like peach, mango, lychee, green grape, etc. Flavored ones are so sweet and tasty.

For meats per se, I'm not sure. Every place is different. However if your KBBQ restaurant offers beef brisket or pork belly, try those first at least, it's a must introduction to KBBQ. If they offer beef ribeye, marinated short rib, pork jowl, marinated rib fingers. Try to try those as well. I love these meats.

If you are trying to get your money's worth at a All you can eat, avoid the salty meats and side dishes at a kbbq spot, they're called fillers to make you drink water. Especially avoid rice, its a cheap carb.

I avoid chicken or seafood at KBBQ spots.

edit: soju is the most commonly consumed spirit*, beer gets the title of most consumed alcohol. thanks to whoeever corrected me.

scshah0038 karma

As a vegetarian, what are my options?

corychung122 karma

Koreans are terrible at vegeterian options. Even a lot of our vegetable side dishes have mini salted shrimps in them to make it salty. We use beef or anchovy broth for many things, etc.

At the kbbq place where I work at, kimchi fried rice you can order and some free side dishes for vegeterians.

wolamute28 karma

What's your tell tale sign when looking at kbbq places online that it's legit and what you would definitely eat vs something obviously commercialized chain bullshit?

corychung111 karma

Always look at the pictures and reviews on google/yelp. I make sure the reviews are above 4 stars at least.

I avoid the "$14.99 All you can eat!!" restaurants. There's no humanely way to provide high quality meat at that prices here in the U.S.

I like having charcoal fires cook my meat rather than gas grills. Check to see if they have charcoal fires by browsing through the pictures.

Look at the meat pictures at the restaurant. Look at the marbling, quality, quantity, and freshness from appearance.

The place should look clean because KBBQ restaurants can get dirty with all that butchering, prepping, and grilling.

Look at the side dishes offered there. It better not be like french fries or something. If you're new to Korean food, the side dishes should look like stuff you've never seen or tried before!

peacebuster15 karma

What did the worst customer that you've ever had do? What did the best customer that you've ever had do?

corychung80 karma

I don't have too many bad customers. I don't mind if you're needy. Unless I'm cooking for 6 tables and they ask for way too much and expect me to get it in 30 seconds.

I answered on another comment what my worst table probably was.

My most memorable best customer was a guy who tipped me $100. He came with his dad who served in the korean war. It was a slow day and man we just talked. The son was a funny guy! I loved the stories he told about his dad, And seeing a korean war veteran in person, I had a lot of respect.

RancidRance10 karma

Is the egg mix put on the side of the BBQ just pure egg yolks? I also never know when it's fully cooked and I should start eating it.

corychung16 karma

Good question. its eggs that are mixed up so the whites and yellow become one. green onion added on top. edit: there's water in it as well.

You will know when its fully cooked when you try to spoon it out and it just looks like fluffy egg. Shouldn't be too runny or watery. Should'nt be overcooked either, where it starts to look dried up and brown on top.

Mix it around with your spoon for it to cook faster

xMikeyStyle9 karma

any tips on how to avoid grease splatter?

corychung21 karma

Good question.

Avoid super high heat. Especially when cooking the high fatty meats like pork belly.

At home drain out the grease. use paper towels to soak up the oil, by lightly touching the pan or meat.

A little grease splatter is inevitable. My hands at this point have lost nerves lol. I don't even react to grease splattering on my hands when im cooking.

Make sure there's a good amount of water beneath the grill at a charcoal fire to avoid grease fires. no water = huge flames and overly hot temperature. Servers will know what you're talking about.

Azeda_8 karma

I travel to Atlanta for KBBQ. What are some of the best? Are the ones near H. Mart great? All the signs are in Korean so I assume authentic

corychung21 karma

Near Atlanta try "Thrill" or "D92". Near Duluth (mini korea town), try 678 or Honey Pig.

Thrill isn't exactly authenthic, but its still pretty damn good. Authenthic doesn't always have to mean better

cj_cusack8 karma

What's the hottest/spiciest dish you've served and how did the patrons react?

corychung13 karma

Hmm no crazy hot things we offer. People think the peppers we offer on the side are hot. they're just jalepenos or korean green peppers!

Im_inappropriate8 karma

If you're unlimited, what's the most you've seen someone eat?

corychung9 karma

When I worked at 678, I've had a 6 top group of young college dudes. They had 41 plates of meat servings. They weren't even fat. It still baffles my mind to this day lmao

SpecialpOps7 karma

Do you feel that if a Korean fried chicken restaurant opened up near you it would be overly competitive?

corychung13 karma

Hmm yes because big chain olive bbq chicken, choongman chicken, and other local korean chicken spots are within a 5 mile radius, so i'd have to say yes.

choongman and olive bbq chicken is pretty solid.

sippinupngo7 karma

Does everyone really just use the same tongs they picked up raw chicken with to do everything else? I’m always scared I’m going to give myself food poisoning. Any advice on best practice for handling the meat! Thanks

corychung30 karma

You are always free to ask for new tongs if they have decent business practices.

Keep your tong hanging off the fire/heat, if you worry. Bacteria and viruses will most likely not survive.

I've ate out to kbbq restuarants at least 100 times in my life, and never gotten food sick. Just massive shits the day after from eating too much lol.

Pterodactyloid6 karma

My parents and I went to a Korean BBQ place for the first time a couple years ago.

We got a bunch of random things and put them on the grill and ate them but later a friend who goes to Korean barbecues frequently said that they neglected to give us some kind of wrap or something to put the ingredients in.

The cynic in me wants to think they did it to laugh at our ignorance. Why else would they neglect that part?

corychung14 karma

They didn't give you lettuce wraps? it might of been a hidden menu item. Ask for it next time.

Cheap owners who don't give out that stuff on a mandatory basis, you'll just have to request for lettuce wraps

Fullspectrum845 karma

How long are you supposed to cook the kalbi? I literally have some marinating right now lol.

corychung13 karma

Depends what the temperature setting the grill is on.

I like my marinated galbi medium. When it's kind of pink on the inside. When it's still soft, and not overcooked and well done. You don't want the juicy fat in the marbling of a good galbi to dry up in my opinion!

Enjoy that galbi my friend!

DarkDarkness4 karma

What's your go to orders / cuts?

corychung23 karma

If they got appetizers, I'll get a Korean seafood pancake.

My favorite meat is Marinated galbi, fresh/non-marinated short rib that comes rolled up, marinated rib finger, beef brisket, pork jowl, pork belly, rib eye, hanger steak. I like to finish off with some korean cold noodles or hot pot noodles (kalguksoo).

I avoid chicken or seafood at kbbq places around me.

edit: i will add korean names of meats later.

myfootsmells3 karma

I haven't seen this asked, but are you able to wash the kbbq smell off or is it forever seeped into your pores? I had kbbq last night and my right arm (the cooking one) still smells like it.

corychung6 karma

I haven't seen this asked, but are you able to wash the kbbq smell off or is it forever seeped into your pores? I had kbbq last night and my right arm (the cooking one) still smells like it.

Make sure the KBBQ place you're going to has good ventilation from a fan directly below the grill or a fan directly above the meat, at a very close distance. Especially if you're on a date, you need to go to a place with good ventilation. You're just going to have to just wash that arm though man, sorry.

But man as a Korean BBQ server it's inevitable. You body and hair will smell like BBQ after every shift. And you need to take a shower immediately.

When I put soap on my body and rinse off, I can literally see the black water coming off of me. The black is from the charcoal smoke that gets on me.

TrainerLight1 karma

Hey! Recently moved to the Atlanta Midtown-Buckhead area. Like yo mentioned there's a seemingly endless amount of choices (especially in Duluth!); can you recommend any of the KBBQ restaurants? I have no idea how to choose!

corychung4 karma

welcome to ga!

i'll gladly serve you up some authenthic kbbq! shoot me a dm.

try 985, 678 in duluth. I know a good spot in atlanta that offers all you can eat is called "Thrill".

richcournoyer-5 karma

Why do you feel a need to flip/touch my food?

corychung9 karma

Most people want us to cook cause they don't know what they're doing, and they want to just be served.

We love it when customers cook their own food lol no joke. Makes our life much easier especially when its busy.

Just ask your server politely that you can cook it. I would gladly say ok. But if you need anything else or any help, let me know!

juzzle-15 karma

The BBQ meats that are used seem to be highly processed (which is always a red flag). What meats do you prefer?, presumably on accounts of their unprocessedness

corychung11 karma

That seriously depends on location. We have an army of honduran butchers in the back who cut the meat as soon as you place an order.

For the marinated meats we leave it in a tub of the marinade overnight.