Korean food has become increasingly popular in recent years. One only has to look to the cultural rise of kimchi to see how mainstream Korean dishes and flavors have become. There are more thriving ethnic food restaurants in the U.S. these days. You can also find a lot of upscale eateries and fusion restaurants serving up Korean-inspired flavors.
If you follow food trends, you may have recently seen menus including bulgogi and wondered what it is. The word actually means “fire meat,” which refers to how the protein is cooked, not how it is spiced. Bulgogi is usually grilled on a barbecue or in a kitchen on a griddle. Some places also stir-fry this dish. Typically, bulgogi is made from beef or sometimes pork, which is sliced thin and marinated in a combination of garlic, black pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil for flavor.
Unlike some other proteins common in popular dishes, bulgogi is usually made from prime cuts of meat, such as sirloin, rib eye or brisket. The end result is something tender, flavorful and incredible with noodles, vegetables or even soup.
Bulgogi is definitely trending as a popular protein at both Asian and fusion eateries. You can find it all over town, but some places have better flavor and cooking methods. Whether you’ve had it before or are totally new to this dish, we’ve found some great place to enjoy bulgogi around San Diego.
Friend’s House Korean
Location: 4647 Convoy Street, Suite 101A (map)
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 p.m. to midnight, Closed Sunday
With a casual atmosphere that’s also kid friendly, seating indoors or outside, and even beer and wine for diners, Friend’s House Korean Restaurant has something for everyone. Their menu has plenty to offer as well, with rice dishes, Korean BBQ platters and seafood.
Their bulgogi is available as a stand-alone platter, served with mushrooms, green onions and sliced onion, as well as rice. They also serve a sweet bulgogi beef with veggies, rice and a side salad. That same sweet and flavorful beef comes in a soup with tofu, veggies and thin noodles.
Before you dive into a dish with bulgogi beef, however, you should explore an appetizer or two with your dining companion. The menu here features spicy rice cakes, fish cakes, dumplings, kimchi with veggie pancakes and even a Korean blood sausage.
Don’t forget to try a hot or cold sweet Korean coffee with your meal. It’s the perfect finish after an amazing meal at Friend’s House Korean Restaurant.
Buga Korean BBQ
Location: 5580 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you find yourself hungry while in Clairemont, pay a visit to Buga Korean BBQ. They have a great menu that combines affordable lunch boxes with dinner dishes, soups and more.
Their bulgogi lunch box, for example, has a generous mound of freshly cooked bulgogi beef, a cup of seaweed/sea vegetable soup, salad, assorted tempura fried vegetables, rice, fish cakes and kimchi. Of course, you can also enjoy this box with any other protein they offer on their menu for either $12.99 or $11.99, depending on the meat you select. A word to the cost-conscious: the lunch boxes are a weekday special. You can’t order them on the weekend, sadly.
Of course, you can order their bulgogi combination with a thin noodle dish any time of the week. You can also enjoy a large platter of bulgogi. In the mood for seafood? They serve everything from salmon and whole cooked fish to abalone and octopus.
If you want soup or a bibimbap rice bowl, they make that as well. There are also Korean stir-fry dishes on the menu that will tempt even the most cautious eater. Buga Korean also makes dumplings of several varieties, meaning you can’t go wrong if you stop in here for a quick, tasty bite.
Taegukigi Korean BBQ House
Location: 7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite 501 (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Find yourself craving the rich flavors of Korean BBQ late at night, after a long day at work or after drinks with friends? Taegukgi Korean BBQ House has you covered. They are open until midnight or later, and they have been serving up incredible, authentic Korean cuisine since 2013.
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When you come here, be sure to bring your appetite. This restaurant actually offers all you can eat Korean BBQ during lunch for only $20.99, all day for $25.999 or their premium option for $29.99 with an expanded menu. On Tuesdays, that AYCE price drops to only $16.99.
Their bottomless Korean BBQ options for lunch include beef bulgogi, as well as brisket, beef belly, chicken BBQ, spicy chicken, pork belly and more. Premium options include sirloin and short ribs, as well as beef tongue, shrimp, Kabocha squash, king trumpet mushrooms and eggplant.
They have seven different beers on tap, most of which are brewed right here in San Diego. They also serve bottled domestic and import beers, teas, juices and more.
If you want to try their food but don’t like the endless food options, you can order from an a la carte menu that boasts bibimbap, bulgogi, short ribs and several soups.