One thing we love about NYC is that there are so many vastly different neighborhoods within one city. It’s so exciting to find pockets of stores, restaurants, and people that are so different from our own neighborhood. While my parents were in town, we had traditional German food in our own neighborhood, Yorkville, and Italian food on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Both meals were incredible, and it was fascinating to see cultures thrive in this melting pot that is America.
After eating German and Italian, I was reminded of how much Rob had been wanting to try Korean BBQ. It was my turn to plan a date, so I did some research on Korean food and restaurants in Manhattan’s Koreatown. Koreatown is nestled between 5th and 6th Avenues, going from approximately 32nd street up to 38th street. I finally settled on a Korean BBQ restaurant for us to try: Jongro BBQ. It included grilling on the table and all kinds of meat selections, which I knew Rob would like.
Jongro BBQ doesn’t take reservations and can be a little tricky to find. Here’s my tip: go on the early side (we got there at about 6:45pm) and look for the Citibank on the south side of 32nd street (across from Wongo), go into the stark bank lobby, and take the elevator to the 2nd floor. It will empty you right into the vivacious restaurant where you can put your name down with a hostess.
The wait time was approximately 45 minutes, so we headed back out to the street and popped into several Korean shops and markets. First up: a Korean bookstore and music store. We found one of our favorite authors, Tim Keller, in Korean! We had fun trying to recognize various books based on cover imagery.
Next up: a Korean beauty store. Korean culture is known for high standards in beauty; women in Korea spend more money on cosmetics than women in any other country! A massive difference between American and Korean beauty is how they achieve beauty. Americans mostly have a three step beauty regime (cleanse, tone, and moisturize). Korean women, on the other hand, have a ten step beauty regime, including makeup remover and oil cleanser, water-based cleanser, exfoliation, toner, essences, serums, booster and ampoules, sheet masks, eye cream, moisturizer, and sun protection. It was fun looking through all of their products. I had heard about a baby foot peel on a blog, and was so intrigued when I first read about it. The product in store caught my eye, so I had the sales clerk tell me about it. She had me sold! I picked it up for my Koreatown souvenir. I’m a little nervous to try it, but I’ll report back once I do!
After the beauty shop, we popped into a Korean market. It was packed (with food and with people), but we perused the aisles checking things out. We wanted to try green tea mochi, but were afraid of it melting before we got home. A spicy wasabi dried pea snack also caught our eye, and Rob brought those home for his souvenir. We’re excited to try them!
Finally, we got a phone call that our table at Jongro was ready, so we made our way down the street to the restaurant. We were seated at a large booth that included a grill and heater in the center of it. After asking some questions about the menu, we settled on a beef platter to share (it included a few different cuts). The order also came with Korean accoutrements: kimchi, scallion salad, pickled onions, bean paste, soy sauce, macaroni salad (?!), and a tofu soup. Our server brought over the meat and cooked it for us in batches. Then we assembled lettuce wraps with the meat, rice, and sides. It was delicious! To be honest, I was hesitant about many of the sides, but I loaded my lettuce wrap with them anyway. So glad I did! We enjoyed our messy, flame-filled, fun dinner in Koreatown and would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the neighborhood. Next time we’ll have to do karaoke, too!