I have always been a bit puzzled by the lack of American-style barbeque in Asia, particularly in Korea where American culture is often embraced, and BBQ is so popular. It seemed like a natural fit to me, and I’m glad to see it’s finally getting some attention.
With an empty stomach, and an eagerness for a little taste of home, I set off to Charcoalo, one of the more promising new American-style BBQ places that has popped up in Seoul. Finding it in Sinsadong proved to be an easier task than usual, as it’s hard to miss since the whole place is bright red, in addition to having both a grill and a smoker out front (not actually used as far as I can tell). The building itself is made from shipping containers that have been welded together, an aesthetic decision that I think actually works in this instance. The decor is a little spartan, but it’s clean and functional, my only minor gripe being that the skylights cut into the roof almost made wearing sunglasses a necessity with the mid-afternoon sun bearing down on us. I brought along some friends, so we could taste several items on the menu.
We ordered a rack of ribs (of course), a burger, and a chili-dog along with some beers, and fries. The ribs were cooked perfectly, and I would say they were done in a close approximation of Memphis wet-style ribs, with a heavy smokey flavor. To that end, they could have used a little more sauce on the side. The burgers were solid. Nothing special or shocking, just a really good burger. The chili-dog was delicious. Be warned though, this dish was catered a little more to Korean tastes, as it came drenched in a cream sauce to cut the spice of the chili. The fries were thin cut, and cooked with garlic, and absolutely fantastic. I prefer thick cut fries, but I ate more than my share of these (and several whole cloves of garlic, much to the chagrin of my compatriots during the car ride home I’m sure).
Beers and beverages were mostly domestic, with Pilsner Urquell being the odd import choice, a fine beer indeed, but not my first choice to pair with BBQ. We opted for Cass beer and Chilsung (think bubblegum flavored 7UP).
Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles
Charcoalo (open 12:00 – 22:00)
Phone: 02 515 3983
654-12 Shinsadong, Gangnam, Seoul
And for more stick-to-your-ribs goodness . . .
Beale St. (open 12:00 – 23:00)
Phone: 02 322 0755
3F, 363-28 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Beale St., in the Hongdae section of Seoul, is garnering some serious attention. They also offer Memphis-style ribs, but here you can order them wet or dry. We prefer the dry, but to each his own. The pulled pork sandwich makes a nice alternative if ribs aren’t your thing, and they smoke their own thick-sliced bacon. Yummy. Their craft beer selection is also very good, one of the best in Seoul. Owned by the same folk who do great burgers at Burger B, this place is in our experience thus-far unrivaled for dry rub ribs.
Linus’ Bama Style Barbeque
Location varies, check website for event times/places
One of the more interesting BBQ additions to Seoul is Linus’ Bama Style Barbeque. Linus Kim is a Korean-American who hails from Alabama, and does he ever love his pork. The tricky thing about getting your hands on some of his culinary crafts is that he’s runs a pop-up restaurant. While we haven’t been able to catch up with him yet (at least not while there was any food left – get there early, or you’ll go home hungry like we did), it’s high on the list. The best way to track his events is to follow him on his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/LinusBbq). We’ll be sure to search him out when he returns from his current U.S. trip.
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Photo Courtesy of Crewe