I have something to tell you. A little secret, of sorts—shhh, don’t tell anyone at Michelin or the food snob at your local supper club. It’s something that’s happened slowly but surely over the last ten or fifteen years. Ready for it?
Here it is: we are past the day in age where the best food is only served on big white plates in chic boutique eateries.
It’s true. Somewhere, the food editor at your local corporate-owned paper is twitching uncontrollably.
Don’t get me wrong. I concede that amazing food still gets plated at upscale brick-and-mortar joints (obviously—it’s the norm). But it’s not the be-all-end-all anymore. As a food culture, we’re embracing the mobile food movement, the strip mall gourmand, a rougher-around-the-edges approach to food.
And kudos to us. Because today, some of the best food in the world comes dished up on paper plates from a food truck or boxed up in to-go containers at a small hole-in-the-wall in a food court.
Korean BBQ & More is one of these holes in the wall. It’s tucked into a typical strip mall on West Tennessee and it’s not big—blink and you might miss it. But what it lacks in size and panache it makes up for tenfold in friendliness and foodie points—and damn tasty food. Authentic, delicious Korean food.
Right in the door, there are a few four-tops and a buffet of banchan (side dishes)—things like savory seaweed and spicy-sour soups, fermented bean sprouts, the ubiquitous kimchi. Oh, the kimchi. I often make it through at least two bowls of the stuff before my main meal arrives. I mean come on, the stuff’s a freaking superfood: it’s packed with antioxidants, lactobacilli probiotics, A, B and C vitamins—you know, the things that keep us from, like, dying.
But side dishes do not a meal make (although you’d be hard pressed to find a meal served in Korea without kimchi).
No, the star of the show is the steaming food that emerges from the kitchen. Beef and pork bulgogi, marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, grilled with scallions and sesame oil and served with divinely prepared sticky rice. Japchae, translucent shimmering noodles made from sweet potato starch with thinly shaved vegetables and beef (read: FUN to eat). Yukgaejang, a beef noodle soup with a delicate, savory broth with chili oil that creates warmth the whole time you’re slurping it down. And the bibimbap—slivered vegetables, beef, and a sunny side up egg over a healthy bowl of rice to be stirred just before eating—is a canvas of beautiful colors and smells and flavors. This is food for food lovers, and in Tallahassee you’ll be hard pressed to find a place that packs this hard a punch.
The only caveat? The hours, which are a little wonky: 4 pm to 8 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. It took me a few times of pulling into the parking lot to satisfy a Monday bulgogi craving to figure it out.
Here’s the thing. Korean food is about diversity, juxtaposition, balance. It’s the way that sweet interacts with salty, the interplay between spicy and sour, the way the tastes all dance together in your mouth. It’s the visual appeal of the food, the beauty of color coordination and simplicity. It’s also about treating good food as the best medicine, something that can keep sickness at bay and keep the mind and soul cheerful. Korean culture understands that eating well is living well, and these ideas are all at play inside the small haven of good eating.
When I walk through Korean BBQ’s door, I understand on an instinctive level that I’m in one of the best places to eat in town. It’s not just the savory smell of pork and beef grilling, or the pungent waft of kimchi, or the free barley tea and sweet malt rice drink. It’s not even the understated pride of the staff as they take my order or bring my grilled beef barbecue in an plain to-go container. It’s all of these things—and a quiet, radiant energy that everyone is attuned to.
Well, that—and every bite of everything in this place is an absolute piece of paradise.
Korean BBQ & More
2624 W Tennessee St Tallahassee, FL 32304