10 Great Korean Restaurants in Orange County

Edwin Goei
This list was a difficult one. How to just pick 10 restaurant out of the rich bevy of delights found at our Korean District? Or the burgeoning centers of Korean cultures in Buena Park and Irvine?

No list could ever be definitive enough to be absolutely conclusive or comprehensive enough to cover them all. So we approach this list how some of our favorite Korean eateries approach their meals: with a little bit of everything. Think of this list as little panchan tastes of what we think are the best of the best. We're also going for breadth rather than specificity; because we could've just as easily rattled off a list of just Korean BBQ's. But what's the fun in that?

In this list, we offer a representative from Korean fried chicken camp, a sullungtang joint, and even an obscure Korean taco truck called Kogi.

And if you don't see your favorite in here, add it in the comments! Like panchan, the more, the better.

10. Cafe Seventh Home
Photo by Meranda Carter

At Cafe Seventh Home in Buena Park, you can sip a sweet potato latte. One part milk and two parts sweet potato puree, this isn't so much a drink as it is a meal you suck through a straw. So sit idly and drink it slowly, sip by fulfilling sip, over meaningful conversation. Let the homemade waffles follow, topped with chopped fruit and ice cream, or better yet, the patbingsu, a mountain of fruit-and-red-bean slush in an oversized crystal washbowl. For the latter, you need to muster the cooperation of at least four persons to conquer this shaved-ice Everest. 6291 Homewood Ave., Buena Park, (714) 735-9291; www.cafe7thhome.com

9. Pizza & Chicken Love Letter
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Edwin Goei

Pizza & Chicken Lover Letter's "Crispy Fried Chicken" wears a crust more akin to batter than breading. But even here, the bird exhibits the common link to all Korean-style fried chicken: a skin thoroughly rendered of fat to become wisps, and often thoroughly absorbed and fused into the batter. The flavor is concentrated with a light touch of soy sauce, but the meat tastes of pure poultry-ness. Like its competitor BBQ Chicken across the parking lot, Love Letter does not seem to brine their birds, letting the meat become the platform on which the flavored crust and pickles build upon. The chickens are cooked well and juicy, even the white meat. The breast pieces are cut up into smaller segments so that no one person hogs it all...which is not to say it won't still happen.2600 Alton Parkway Irvine, CA (949) 852-2900. Also at 8891 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 530-8800.

8. Past Memories
Edwin Goei

When you need more soju (and you will), simply push a button to summon the wait staff. But even before you ask, they'll supply free snacks to offset the alcohol. A basket of Korean-style Funyuns or shrimp chips will be topped with freshly roasted dried squid, chewy jerky swatches best chased with cold beer. Beer also pairs perfectly with their fried chicken, which bears no resemblance to the now-popular version made by the Korean chain Kyochon and its ilk, though this one is just as good. Battered lightly to insulate, then cooked to golden shimmer until the meat collapses in moist, marinated mouthfuls, it's the kind of chicken a Korean mom would make at home without the aid of commercial equipment. 9252 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-7818.

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