Korean Restaurants and Food in Philadelphia
So you got your Korean fried chicken and your Korean street tacos, both of which became fads that cemented themselves in the culinary gray matter of borderless grubniks. There’s kimchi, which is so popular now, it’s surprising Lay’s doesn’t have it as a chip flavor. And yet despite the fact that Philadelphia has a thriving Koreatown right in Olney, this is still a cuisine whose more traditional aspects are foreign to many eaters in the city. If you’re looking to amend that blind spot, start here.
Kim’s BBQ (OLNEY)
Korean BBQ isn’t really barbecue; it’s grilling. Despite any semantic quibbles, this cool, serene spot in Olney has been serving the classic Korean-style grilled meats and vegetables for decades. The pork belly and galbi are excellent 101-level dishes, and always come braced by a spread of Korean side dishes. Bonus points go to the staff, who’ll come around to your table and help you grill the meats if they see you having trouble. 5955 North 5th Street, 215-927-4550.
Pajeon are a big (and often overlooked) part of a proper Korean meal. The egg, wheat, rice flour and scallion pancakes make great snacks or starters, and a good place to get them is at this cavernous Korean restaurant with a sushi bar and a voluminous menu. There are four varieties of pancake on the board — haemul (seafood), gochoo (hot pepper), kimchi and oyster — and all arrive hot and crisp around the edges, stuffed with green onions and whatever main ingredients you ordered. 5734 Old 2nd Street, 215-924-6865.
Jong Ka Jib Soft Tofu Restaurant (OLNEY)
Sundubu is the ultimate Korean comfort food — a spicy soft-tofu stew with anything from oysters to beef to cabbage and mushrooms thrown in for kicks. And there’s no better way to get your first taste than to wait for a kind of gray, rainy day and then head to this North Philly restaurant, which specializes in the traditional Korean stews. 6600 North 5th Street, 215-924-0100.
Korean flavors, a fast-casual vibe and a Center City address all make Giwa a perfect introduction to Korean cuisine. The seafood pajeon, mandu dumplings and crisp, fresh bibimbap with spicy pork are all awesome, but the Korean tacos are still the big lunchtime draw. 1608 Sansom Street, 215-557-9830.