It was the last day of a fabulous vacation in San Francisco in August 2010. We spent the morning at the San Francisco Science Museum and left with plenty of time to enjoy a nice lunch before heading to the airport. As we drove south through the Presidio on Highway 1, we chatted about the fact we hadn’t had any Korean food on the trip. The thought of something spicy made my mouth water. As we approached Geary Boulevard, we randomly decided to turn left and wander the neighborhood looking for our kind of tiny, obscure restaurant. We hadn’t gone but a couple of blocks when we spotted the sign with Korean writing. Beneath the Korean script we saw Wooden Charcoal BBQ, and I knew that if there were such a thing as foodie guardian angels, they were guiding us in.
Honestly, I’ve eaten lots and lots of Korean food in the U.S., and the Korean Village Wooden Charcoal BBQ House is one of the very, very best. It remains tied with just one other restaurant for #1 in my book. We didn’t study the menu long—bulgogi was the only choice as far as we were concerned. Bulgogi is often thought of as the national dish of Korea. It’s thinly sliced beef marinated in a flavorful mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, green onions and copious garlic. In Korea, restaurants that serve bulgogi have gas grills at each table, and you cook your own meat and sliced garlic. At home, we cook it on the grill for maximum flavor. I’ve never seen a restaurant provide a tray of charcoal like Korean Village.
As if this weren’t delectable enough, Korean Village serves bulgogi with an exceptionally generous array of panchan (side dishes), all of which are made with the freshest ingredients. The flavors and spices aren’t toned down to accommodate non-Korean palates. Nope, this is the real deal. And when I requested extra cochijang (a red-pepper paste that is one of the most endorphin-producing flavors in the world), the waitress quickly returned with a generous serving.
An hour later, we stumbled out onto the sidewalk, deliriously happy and stuffed. We didn’t quite feel like piling into the car, so we spent some time wandering the aisles of the Korean grocery store next door, which was an adventure as well.
Korean Village Wooden Charcoal BBQ House was a flavorful ending to a fun-filled vacation in one of the great food cities of the world.