It’s only been a few years since Charlotte’s Korean food scene started to emerge. We had some bulgogi and kimchi, but you had to search for it.
In the past few years, we’ve seen Korean food make its way closer to center city with the addition of hip fusion restaurant Seoul Food Meat Company, fast-casual Bulgogi Box, and all-you-can-eat Let’s Meat and upscale MOA Korean BBQ & Bar just steps from the corner of Trade and Tryon.
- Of note: One of our favorites, Choi’s Korea and Wing, shut down last fall.
Here’s a look at Charlotte’s 6 must-try Korean restaurants — from a food stall in an international market to fancy date night spot. (Listed in no particular order.)
Upscale Korean barbecue restaurant with a fancy steakhouse-like atmosphere
Background: Before opening MOA and his sister restaurant 929 Kitchen & Bar in Columbia, Sean Kim noticed a gap in the Korean-American dining scene. All-you-can-eat Korean barbecue places often used less expensive meats like pork belly to increase profit margins, he says.
When he thought about the other Korean options in the city, very few were right for special occasions or a business meeting. MOA fills that need, he says, with an almost steakhouse-like vibe.
What to order: To start, order a Korean pancake (with seafood, kimchi, or seafood and kimchi). Then go big with a Korean BBQ combo ($80-$200, feeds 2-5).
Location: 128 S. Tryon St. in Uptown.
Related Agenda story: Upscale Korean restaurant with tabletop barbecue is now open in Uptown
Small Korean restaurant in the back of a Korean market in Matthews
What to order: Yaki mandoo ($7.99 for 10 fried dumplings) and bulgogi marinated Korean BBQ ($12.99) over rice with banchan, side dishes typically come with a Korean entree like kimchi.
Location: 10920 Monroe Rd., Matthews
Korean Restaurant inside Super G Mart (takeout only)
A mother-daughter duo runs this food stall located in the back of Super G Mart
Background: Nancy Park and her daughter Jade Chong own the aptly named Korean Restaurant, which under normal circumstances is open six days a week in the back right corner of the Super G Mart in Independence Square.
What to order: The dolsot bibimbap ($11.99) here nails the crispy rice at the bottom. It’s No. 11 on the menu. (Currently unavailable because its only for dine-in service. Alternatively, you can order the classic bibimbap.)
Location: 7323 E. Independence Blvd., inside the Super G Mart.
Korean-inspired pub food with a late-night scene and karaoke rooms
What to order: The wings. They come in two flavors — soy garlic or spicy barbecue. Order half and half ($9 for six to $29 for 30) and then order some drinks.
Location: 1400 S. Church St., Ste. A, South End.
Related Agenda story: Seoul Food Meat Co. is now open. View menu, food, interior and Asian craft beer list
All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ from the Seoul Food owners
What to order: The all-you-can-eat BBQ experience costs $29.99, and you’ll have a two-hour limit. Just order a little bit of everything — brisket, pork belly, shrimp, and more. If you’re getting takeout, go with a bento box.
Location: 1400 S. Church St., Ste. B, South End. It’s next door to Seoul Food.
Related Agenda story: 8 quick takeaways from my first trip to Let’s Meat
Fast-casual restaurant with Korean BBQ bowls
What to order: The namesake dish — beef bulgogi box ($16) with thin slices of grilled beef and Korean BBQ sauce, sautéed onions, and white rice.
Location: 1750 Camden Rd., Ste. 104, South End.
More Korean food: Hawker’s has dishes from countries across the Asian continent, including South Korea. There’s also GOGI and Hiya, Korean food trucks. And Fujiyama in Latta Arcade Uptown has plenty of Korean dishes like galbi and bibimbap, too.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in August 2020. It was last updated on Feb. 5, 2022.