While most Americans head to the nation’s east coast to catch flights to eastern continents like Europe and the Middle East, the far east is actually closer to West Coast states. Consequently, some of the largest immigrant populations in California and other west coast states come from Asia. California’s picturesque city of San Diego has the fifth largest Asian population in the nation, which is great news for its culinary scene.
During my most recent trip to San Diego, I wanted to take advantage of the heavy Asian influence by touring San Diego’s many Korean Barbecue restaurants.
Korean barbecue in San Diego is a wildly popular cuisine niche, and friendly, authentic restaurants serving Korean barbecue have popped up around town.
With locations in Mira Mesa, Chula Vista, and Convoy, Manna BBQ is San Diego’s only Korean Barbecue chain. Opened in 2010 in Convoy, Manna BBQ creates a trendy, casual, and social environment to share a meal.
Founders claim that Korean Barbecue is a cooperative effort, with the whole family involved in cooking it, so it should also be enjoyed family-style.
Manna BBQ uses the highest quality meat to deliver the tastiest selection of Korean barbecue. The menu is an all-you-can-eat menu with 46 dishes in total, including 32 Korean barbecue dishes along with lettuce wraps, fried rice, fondue, and dumplings.
7905 Engineer Rd, San Diego, CA 92111
DJK Korean BBQ is a family-friendly, casual Korean eatery in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood minutes away from San Diego’s Montgomery Gibbs Airport. Each table at DJK Korean BBQ has a grill at the center where families can cook the meat dishes to their liking. Interactive cooking is fun for the whole family and authentic practice that’s popular in Korea.
DJK has meal combinations for every party size, from 2- 8 people, but you can also order meat a la carte, not to mention a slew of other traditional Korean dishes. I loved the Bulgoki, grilled thin slices of beef marinated with soy sauce.
4690 Convoy St #104, San Diego, CA 92111
Another Kearny Mesa neighborhood favorite, Jeong Won BBQ Buffet, is a cute, casual, mom-and-pop Korean BBQ buffet where you can eat freshly prepared Korean vegetable dishes and Korean barbecue to your heart’s content.
The buffet has a wide array of accompaniments, while each table has a grill for you to cook the meat you choose from the day’s selection. Jeong Won also has a selection of imported Sake and Korean-inspired cocktails. The buffet has cold and hot dishes like kimchi and beef short ribs.
They offer Wagyu grade beef, the vegetables are always fresh, and the rice is always hot and fluffy.
7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #501, San Diego, CA 92111
Located inside a giant warehouse dining space in Kearny Mesa, Taegukgi Korean BBQ is a lively atmosphere to enjoy a family-style meal. Every table not only has a personal grill, but it also has a fan to ensure that family members across the table aren’t shrouded in smoke.
While no alcohol is served, there are plenty of big-screen TVs with sports games, evoking a sports bar feel. The varied menu packages come with a lunch and dinner pre-fixe meal of cooked and uncooked beef, pork, and chicken, along with salads, sides, garnishes, and various sauces.
They make a delicious spicy pork belly and beef brisket. Their king trumpet mushrooms are so flavorful and could themselves pass for meat.
5580 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117
Established in 2003, Buga Korean BBQ has been serving authentic Korean cuisine to the Clairemont neighborhood for nearly 20 years. The refined yet inviting dining room has sectioned-off booths, separated by tasteful glass barriers with Korean letters and patterns etched into them, giving each family a more intimate dining experience.
The presentation of food at Buga Korean restaurant is stunning, and even the raw meat you grill yourself comes immaculately plated with elegant garnish bouquets. They do a hopping lunch take-out business, with countless bento box combos to choose from.
My favorite was the grilled mackerel with two pan-fried gyoza dumplings, salad, rice, and soup. They also make a delicious Korean seafood pancake.
4620 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Located in Kearny Mesa, a quick walk from Lindbergh neighborhood park, Prime Grill AYCE Korean BBQ and Restaurant is a casual family eatery with the best quality beef and pork for tableside grilling along with a vast menu of Korean and Japanese favorites.
The friendly service and large dining room make Prime Grill a great spot for celebrations and large parties. There’s the typical all-you-can-eat selection of grilled meats, dipping sauces, and sides. I love the other traditional dishes you can get as appetizers or a la carte add-ons like corn cheese, hearty bowls of ramen, noodles, and soft tofu combos.
4373 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Located in Kearny Mesa right across from a boba tea house, Chon Ju Jip is a traditional Korean restaurant in an unassuming, little dining room replete with colorful paintings of the Korean countryside. Chon Ju Jip is especially popular with the Korean residents of San Diego, so you know you’ll get the most authentic food.
Not only can you get Korean barbecue, but Chon Ju Jip offers a large menu of famous regional dishes, soups, appetizers, and more. I loved their selection of casseroles, which you might know as hot pots. I recommend the spicy chicken stew in a hot pot with potatoes and vegetables.
10765 Westview Pkwy, San Diego, CA 92126
Teetering between Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch, Gen Korean BBQ House is a giant, trendy yet inviting bar and Korean restaurant with a gargantuan-covered patio to take advantage of San Diego’s year-round great weather. Gen Korean is one of the only restaurants on our list to have a full cocktail bar along with sake and imported Korean beers.
They have a great happy hour and lunch service, and they’re open super late, so you can enjoy a barbecue at all hours. I loved their spicy baby octopus and smoked garlic pork belly. They also offer Korean fried chicken as a part of the pre-fixe all-you-can-eat menu.
4647 Convoy St #104, San Diego, CA 92111
Another Kearny Mesa neighborhood eatery, Handoo Korean BBQ is an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant in a humble space with nice wooden tables and a heated outdoor patio. They have a buffet of traditional stews, vegetables, and noodles, with a unique offering of lamb kebabs to supplement the traditional barbecue selection.
They’re open for dinner and late-night, till 1 am. I recommend going with family and friends, so you can order one of their excellent combos. I recommend combo C, which feeds 6 people and comes with prime beef brisket, Angus short rib, ribeye steak, various cuts of beef rib, pork belly, shrimp, and unlimited steamed egg and bean paste stew.
1640 Camino Del Rio North FSU12, San Diego, CA 92108
356 Korean BBQ and Bar is a hip cocktail, sake, and soju bar and Korean BBQ bistro in the Westfield Mission Valley Mall. With bar and patio seating to enjoy a bustling happy hour and formal indoor seating for a fancier meal in a romantic and contemporary atmosphere, 356 Korean BBQ and Bar appeals to the young adult crowd, especially.
The bar area has numerous flat-screen TVs to watch your favorite games while you enjoy a frosted glass beer and sizzling Korean BBQ fresh off the grill. In addition to grilled meats, there is a selection of beautifully plated sushi rolls and innovative bulgogi rolls featuring fresh beef bulgogi atop avocado and cucumber rolls with asparagus.
4344 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Located next door to Manna Korean BBQ, Olleh Convoy Korean BBQ is a family-friendly, casual, and affordable Korean restaurant in a large, no-frills dining room. The friendly and attentive staff do a wonderful job making guests feel like family, and there’s also an outdoor patio to enjoy an imported Korean beer alfresco.
There are two all-you-can-eat options that are both reasonably priced with a large selection of all the best cuts of beef, pork, and seafood. They have some of my favorite kimchi fried rice and tofu stew. Plus, kids eat for half-price.