As a rising sophomore, I can’t help but feel antsy as I count down the days leading up to the start of the fall semester. Like many other students, after spending freshman year on Zoom, I feel I haven’t gotten the full “college experience” yet, full of late-night in-person study sessions with friends, exploring museums or shops near campus, and most importantly: restaurant-hopping to find my new favorite places to eat. With the upcoming year showing promise for opportunities to explore my college town, my taste buds are already tingling with excitement.
Still, I know that the transition from staying at home to living on campus will inevitably bring some amount of homesickness. After all, I won’t be able to eat my mom’s best doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean paste stew), my grandma’s famous myulchi bokkeum (stir-fried anchovies), and all the other Korean dishes that have provided me with warmth and comfort for nearly my entire life. In the midst of my internal crisis, I quickly hopped onto the internet and also asked for some notable Korean restaurants in the greater Boston area to try. Nevertheless, a wave of relief rushed through me as I browsed through a vast variety of restaurants.
Some Overarching Tips
Before I get into a bucket list of Korean restaurants to try in the Boston area, I wanted to share some advice that could help students exploring their college towns’ food scenes for the first time, no matter where they may be. Here are some tips and tricks I plan to follow and hope will help others navigate their explorations too:
• Bring others. There will definitely be other students on campus who will be going through the same experiences as you and what better way to make some new friends than taking them out to a meal? This could be a great method of community-building to let off some steam every once in a while.
• Check for special diet menu items. The restaurants I’ve gathered on this bucket list consist of various ingredient swaps or distinct options for various diets. Additionally, some restaurants list ingredients underneath each dish, so I recommend checking them out before heading over.
• Check for delivery, take-out, or outdoor seating services. As the virus continues to evolve, being more conscious about indoor seating and social distancing can come in handy.
• Be active online. Whether it be through the particular restaurant’s website or app, check for any deals, hour changes, or new additions to the menu. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to interact with the restaurant’s social media to get the most recent updates.
• Check online reviews. Make it a habit to check reviews prior to visiting restaurants. Look for restaurant reviews on the higher side, about 4/5 stars and up for trustworthy food quality and service. Although people’s tastes and preferences differ, seeing a majority of good reviews can help alleviate any doubts.
With that out of the way, here are some bucket-list worthy Korean restaurants I found that could provide a taste of home:
1245 Commonwealth Ave, Allston, MA 02134
When feeling under the weather, one of my favorite warm, comfort foods that never fails to cheer me up is seolleongtang, or ox bone soup. With a rich, almost chickenstock-like base, thinly sliced pieces of beef, topped with some scallions, this soup is sure to provide healing for the soul and body, especially during Boston’s frigid winters. Not only that, seolleongtang is known for its wide variety of health benefits, from boosting the immune system to aiding joint health. This restaurant serves seolleongtang, along with other delicious, familiar Korean dishes, like kalbitang, dolsot bibimbap, bossam, and more. With a Google Reviews rating of 4.2/5 stars and 4/5 stars on Yelp, Seoul Soulongtang definitely deserves a spot on this list.
151 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134
One dish my Korean-American family always craves at least once a month is Korean-Chinese food, particularly jjajangmyun (black bean noodles), tangsuyuk (sweet and sour glazed pork), and jjampong (seafood-vegetable broth and noodles). With the close geographical and cultural history ties between Korea and China, Korean-Chinese cuisine can be traced back all the way to the late 19th century in Incheon. Well-known as a type of comfort food, some South Koreans embrace being single by consuming jjajangmyun on April 14, also known as “Black Day” in South Korea.
Although they do serve classic dishes like jjajangmyun and tangsuyuk, Seoul Jangteo’s vast menu also includes fried rice, japchae, soondae, gukbap, dumplings, and more. Ever gotten the feeling of “I-want-to-eat-the-entire-menu” before? Just reading through the drool-worthy menu incites this exact sentiment. Needless to say, with 4.5/5 stars on Yelp and on Google Reviews, this restaurant is definitely one I’m looking forward to visiting (possibly on April 14, if you know what I mean).
1374 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446
Sometimes, a random Korean food craving will suddenly hit me like a freight train — I’d want to eat some bulgogi or meat, but then at the same time, I’d want to eat some cold, refreshing naengmyun. When faced with this dilemma, what is there to do? Fear not, BAB Korean Bistro is here to save the day!
Located in Brookline, this versatile restaurant offers popular Korean staples, including everything from jjigae’s (stews) to Korean-Chinese cuisine like jjajangmyun to naengmyun. Best yet, they also offer a set menu called the naengmyun combo, where customers can choose a water-based or spicy naengmyun to pair along with some marinated meat. Even if you visit this restaurant with the intent of choosing this combo menu, the vast variety of delicious dishes on the menu could lead to some difficult on-the-spot decision-making. However, this is probably the only struggle I’d ever want to have. Rated 4/5 stars on Yelp and 4.4/5 stars on Google Reviews, this restaurant is definitely one to keep an eye out for.
1 Bow Market Way Ste 10, Somerville, MA 02134380 Western Ave, Allston, MA 02134
When looking for a balanced, healthy meal that doesn’t sacrifice taste, one of my top go-to choices is bibimbap, or rice mixed with various vegetables and, oftentimes, some protein. Topped with some sesame oil and gochujang (red pepper paste), the nutty, rich aroma that wafts through the air when mixing the ingredients never fails to make my mouth water with anticipation. Since it’s also my dad’s all-time favorite dish, I know that eating this meal will bring me warmth and comfort to console any homesickness I might feel on campus.
One restaurant that serves bibimbap is Perillas Boston, which has two locations. Their menu consists of bibimbap bowls, such as the bulgogi beef (soy-marinated beef) bibimbap and the veggie bibimbap, as well as samgyupsal (grilled pork belly) bowls. They also offer add-ons like kimchi cukes (marinated cucumbers) and soft-boiled marinated egg, as well as another option to order build-your-own 4-serving kits for bibimbap and bulgogi burgers. With 5/5 stars on Yelp and on Google Reviews, this restaurant certainly deserves a visit.
81 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134
When the stresses of life begin to overwhelm me, I often crave spicy, savory foods to calm my soul and help push me forward. In most cases, the very first thing that comes to mind is Korean street food. I’d be working to the bone on assignments and tasks, all while imagining the heavenly crunch of biting into Korean hotdogs and that familiar tingly sensation of my tongue when chewing on some ddukbokki (spicy rice cakes). As finals season approaches during the semester, I know I’ll get this irresistible craving once again. This is when Kimchipapi Kitchen enters the spotlight.
Kimchipapi Kitchen serves Korean street foods like korean street corn dogs with beef, cheese, or potato, budaejjigae (army stew), and ddukboki. Not only that, but the restaurant offers its famous kimchipapi fried chicken, as well as a variety of signature poke bowls. Rated 4.5/5 stars on Yelp and 4.6/5 stars on Google Reviews, it can be said with confidence that this restaurant is one I hope to frequent.
After browsing through the countless Korean restaurants in the greater Boston area, I feel more reassured about my ability to adjust to campus life. With this list handy, I know I’ll have somewhere to turn to when feeling blue, homesick, or stressed. For students all over the country undergoing similar experiences to mine, I hope that this list could provide some inspiration for ways to explore one’s college town and some consolation that we’re all navigating this journey together!