Korean BBQ Strategy From An Actual Korean

While Korean food offers a ton of culinary delights, nothing packs more thunder than traditional Korean BBQ. As far as barbeque venues go, few spots offer more volume than All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ. Most restaurants have double digit offerings of delicious animal proteins along with native Korean beer and soju, all for prices that would put a standard steakhouse to shame. The experience could be considered an exercise in gastrointestinal grit, but thankfully I, an actual Korean and BBQ vet, am here to guide you on the path to maximum gastronomical triumph.

Look lively, the grills are on and the Hite is cold, let۪s do this.

When In Rome
Depending on the Korean-ness of the AYCE establishment you frequent, there are a few traditions you want to observe when it comes to dining practices. With any type of drink, never pour for your own glass. It's up to your tablemates to pour and refill for you, and for you to return the favor. It takes a little getting used to, but it works out in the long run, and doubles as a lesson in good manners. Also, it's a bad look to place the business end of your chopsticks on the table. More often than not, tables are cleaned up rather hastily, and residual nastiness should stay off of what you're using to eat. There are better ways to lose weight than by food poisoning.

Style Matters
Expandable pants are a model for efficiency when it comes to expanding your gut, and these days you can find a bit of stretch in almost every type of pants or shorts. Even tailored sweatpants can fit the dress code for fancier AYCE restaurants when paired with a button up shirt. Emphasis on tailored, though. Don't catch a bunch of side eyes by rocking stained housework sweats, just because you're there to eat through the pain doesn't mean you have to look like Mick Foley while doing so. Have some pride in yourself bruh.

Don't Date There
You roll to all-you-can-eat spots to eat until you hate yourself, not to potentially turn a date into a coital sleepover. Even with state of the art industrial sized ventilation ducts, everyone leaves AYCE spots with a monster case of food coma and skin greasier than a deep fryer. Good luck trying to get intimate when you both smell like a smoked carcass. Save the date night for a spot that's decidedly less focused on eating a cow from head to hoof and consuming enough booze to drown a small village.

Eyes On The Prize
Some restaurants will offer up a separate buffet full of banchan (side dishes) to dine on while your food is cooking, and unlimited rice. To quote Admiral Ackbar, IT'S A TRAP. The real money is in the protein, so don't get distracted by the side dishes meant to prematurely fill you up. Stick with veggies (for digestion), a minimal amount of rice, and ditch the soda. Water, beer, and soju are the thirst quenchers of choice.

Prioritize
A common trick among BBQ establishments is to hit you with better cuts of meat for the first plate or two, then lower the quality as time passes. Armed with this knowledge, order the more choice cuts of meat right off the bat. Yelp will provide a serviceable guide for what each place specializes in, so start your research there. Otherwise, a general rule of thumb would be to swoop up the kalbi, sliced ribeye, and brisket first. Consider everything else second tier.

Don't Mix And Match
Banish anyone from your table that asks for some goddamned squid or prawn when everyone else wants beef. The "specialty" menu that has seafood usually costs more, and if one person at the table gets the increase in price, you all do. Plus, grills are typically switched out each time seafood needs to be cooked, so requesting weird stuff to eat tends to mess with the flow of incoming food. Offenders are to be blacklisted from further BBQ gatherings. Your wallet will thank you.

Don't Neglect The Details
Many integral KBBQ accoutrements don۪t automatically get served to you, but they are included in the price of your meal. So man up, speak up, and reap the rewards. While service in most solid KBBQ spots is probably indifferent at absolute best, all you have to do is flag someone down politely. Make sure you ask for garlic, served in whole cloves to roast and flavor the grill, lettuce leaves for wrapping and eating, the soft and sweet steamed eggs, and the grand finale of kimchi fried rice. This glorious masterpiece is prepared at the end of your meal on the now smoking hot and now packed-with-flavor grill in order to pick up all the delicious cooked-on delights that remain. Do not miss.

Bring A Ringer
That is, go with an actual Korean if you can, especially if they speak the language. Even if you۪re a pack of white bros, bringing along a few actual Korean friends will ensure you۪ll be treated with a whole new level of attentiveness and will guarantee you have access to some of KBBQ۪s most delicious off-the-menu delights typically unknown to inexperienced stomachs. Trust us, it۪s worth it.