10 Great Korean Restaurants in Orange County

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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
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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
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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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7 comments
mickerat613
mickerat613

#5 Myung Dong Kal Guk Su also should also be noted as having the best kimchee in OC.


Mr.Kim
Mr.Kim

Kogi should NOT be on a korean food list.  Its a fusion taco place that's mediocre at best.  Places that should be on this list but not, Cham Sot Gol, and Hashigo.

Joan
Joan

Kaya has always been overlooked by you people and I'm glad someone has finally noticed it, even though it's incredibly hard to find, tucked behind Super Irvine.

Jen
Jen

I was tottaly excited for this list and ready to put all 10 places on my "yelp bookmarks". I believed you would guide me in the right direction. Your descriptions made my mouth water and I wanted to clear my schedule tonight just to go eat at one of the places. UNTIL I got to number 3... My jaws dropped and I teared up a little. My hopes have been crushed. KOGI?!? REALLY?! The truck is purely hype, and when the excitement is over you are left with a greasy plate of "Stuff". I must admit, Chef Roy's Chego and A-Framr are pretty good, but the truck food has lost its magic. Having second thoughts of trying the rest of the places on the list... ::insert super sad face::

James
James

I think Jang Toh is better than Past Memories - try their  "dak do ri tang" (not sure how to describe it except as a kind of chicken stew). Also, try the raw beef with garlic, sliced pears, and raw egg next time you go to Past Memories. Ye-Won's spicy pork ribs are awesome, along with most of their menu items. And it may not be in oc, but the corner place in cerritos has the best dongchimee gooksoo. As far as korean bbq goes, shik do rak is great but i think Market Street Korean BBQ in Hawaiian Gardens and Mr. Lee BBQ House in Artesia deserve shoutouts for being 9.99 for all you can eat. I personally don't think Mo Ran Gak is that special, but my picky Korean dad insists on going there for every family dinner, so that might mean something.

Jang Toh - 9872 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92844 (714) 530-5756Ye-Won - 9732 Garden Grove Blvd Ste 2, Garden Grove, CA 92844 (714) 636-5836The Corner Place - 19100 Gridley Rd, Cerritos, CA 90703 (562) 402-8578Market Street Korean BBQ - 12201 E Carson St, Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716 (562) 865-1178Mr. Lee BBQ House - 12300 South St, Artesia, CA 90701 (562) 809-1339

Tabascoprincess
Tabascoprincess

I'd add Mo Ran Gak for their Nang Myun (chilled noodles)--either in soup or dressed, but what I absolutely have to have is the beef broth "drink" they serve with it--salty, warm, so delish!

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