Culinary Commentary: My first experience with Korean BBQ

Kristin Bergmann, Opinions Editor

Believe it or not: I made it to 24 years without trying Korean BBQ once.

The hype around this innovative way of eating has been going on for a while, but the grill-it-yourself type of dinner didn’t sound appealing enough for me to try it out. However, when my two-year anniversary came along, we wanted to try something new.

So many people – co-workers, friends, strangers on my TikTok feed – have been telling me to try Korean BBQ for ages, so I finally succumbed to the peer pressure.

For my first Korean BBQ experience ever, we went to Gen Korean BBQ in Mira Mesa. When we first walked in, we were greeted by a wave of smoke and an intense meat smell. For the first few minutes, my throat was itching from all the smoke, but once I got used to it, it actually smelled terrific.

It was a good thing we went there hungry because the only option for dinner was all-you-can-eat. The bottomless dinner comes at a very reasonable price of just $26 per person and has only one hook: there is a 90 minutes limit. This might be a little tight for a big party, but for us two, it was plenty of time. We started with a round of steak, beef bulgogi, and Korean Fried Chicken. For sides, we got rice and fries loaded with ingredients I didn’t know about – but it was delicious. Throughout the next rounds of food, we tried different kinds of meats, and since we did not know anything about Korean food, we just let the servers’ recommendations guide us. That was a great choice because every single thing we tried was delicious. We ordered more sides, which were all super tasty as well. I highly recommend the fries mentioned above, the noodles, and the corn cheese. I had never had corn cheese before and would have never thought to order it, but my boyfriend saw it on TikTok and wanted to try it. Thank God he called it because it changed my life (no exaggeration!). Lastly, the side salad came with the best dressing I had ever tasted. When we were finally done eating, we had about 10 minutes left – but sadly, we couldn’t fit any more food into our bellies.

All in all, I can say that I enjoyed my first Korean BBQ experience and can only recommend it. Don’t let the strong smell and all the smoke upon entry scare you off – you will get used to the air in there, and the itching in your throat will pass, but everything else is fantastic. 10/10 would recommend it. One last thing to note is that the restaurant charges a fee for unfinished food to avoid food waste. I think that’s great because usually, all-you-can-eat produces a lot of leftovers that get thrown away. Just order mindfully, and you will be fine and won’t have to pay extra!

Gen Korean BBQ is in Mira Mesa Market Center at 10765 Westview Pkwy, San Diego, CA 92126.