Cook It Yourself: Korean BBQ Restaurants for Los Angeles Kids

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Kids love to get hands on with their food. They also love to make a mess. If you’re like most parents, you want to encourage culinary creativity, but you’d like to minimize the potential for kitchen disaster. So, if your junior chef is itching to cook dinner for the family, you might want to make reservations. For a great Korean barbeque, that is.

A Korean barbeque restaurant is the perfect place for families — even those with super-finicky eaters. It’s simple: You select and cook your own food. Plus, many of the best places offer a one-price, all-you-can eat option. This is a great, cost-effective way to get your kids to try new foods.

Here’s how it works: You sit around a table with a grill set in the middle. If you have very young children, be sure to slide their highchairs back far enough away from the hot surface. Next, you order the type of meat or protein you prefer. Typical choices include chicken, beef, pork and tofu. Soon, a platter arrives loaded with protein and veggies. Keep in mind that you can order as much as you like — so feel free to experiment! You might be surprised that Mr. or Mrs. Picky enjoys eating tofu or onions that he or she has cooked themselves! While your food is cooking, you can order up rice, dumplings, tempura and other yummies from the server. Many parents shy away from Korean barbeque because they are concerned that the meat will be under-cooked. Fortunately, the meats are sliced exceptionally thin, and the grills are exceptionally hot, which makes for quick, thorough cooking.

Insider tip: Wear clothes that you are either planning to wash soon after or ones you don’t mind smelling smoky after your meal. Ventilation isn’t always great in the restaurants and you’ll be walking out smelling like your meal.

Tahoe Galbi Restaurant
This is a meat-lover’s paradise. Not only can you get traditional Korean barbeque, you also can experience Brazilian barbeque, known as churrasco. Choose from a huge menu of cook-it-yourself Korean favorites (including sliced chicken, beef tongue and pork shoulder) and create your own meal at the tabletop grill. Or, if you are feeling a bit more in the South American mood, select from more than 15 skewer-grilled meats, including bacon-wrapped chicken breast and Brazilian sausages. Either way, all side dishes are unlimited.

3986 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, Ca 90010

Gogi House
Kids love this place! How can you tell? Just go on a Saturday night and you’ll see table upon table of local families grubbing on tempura, dumplings, shumai and kimchi soup. You’ll also find kids and adults of all ages happily grilling their own meats — including beef with eight different types of marinades. If you like poultry, be sure to order the lemon pepper chicken. Feeling spicy? Try the Jalapeno Garlic chicken. Be sure to order up some of the popular short ribs, too.

26524 Bouquet Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, Ca 91350

Shik Do Rak
Great Korean barbeque in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. This place is favorite with locals. Generous portions, fresh meats and delicious sides keep regulars coming back to Shik Do Rak. Word of warning: This is NOT an all-you-can-eat restaurant, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the menu before you order. And don’t be surprised if your server stops by to help cut your meat!

18434 Devonshire St.
Northridge, Ca  91325

Online: They do not have their own Web site, but you can read lots of reviews at Yelp and Urbanspoon

ChoSun Galbee
Try this Korean barbeque restaurant for a special night out. The airy indoor/outdoor seating area is a nice touch (good ventilation at a Korean barbeque is a must). Lots of private seating areas, too. The high-quality meats and side dishes are a bit pricier than other nearby establishments, but fans continue to pack this Koreatown establishment. Important note: This is NOT an all-you-can-eat restaurant, so order accordingly.

3330 W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, Ca 90019
323- 734-3330

Woo Lae Oak
Smack-dab in the middle of LaCienega’s Restaurant Row, this gem of a place is perfect for celebrating a special occasion. As you might expect, with the Beverly Hills location comes some Beverly Hills prices. Kids are welcome and will have a blast, but you might want to save this special restaurant for a Mommy-Daddy date night! Delicious, fragrant meats arrive artfully arranged on platters. High-end ventilation means you won’t smell like your dinner when the meal is over.

170 N. LaCienega
Beverly Hills, Ca 90211
Online: The web site is currently being repaired; but check them out on Facebook.

— Robin Heinz Bratslavsky

(Photo from Closet Cooking)