Hey, everybody! Well, it has been another long and arduous week at work, so I was definitely looking forward to my friends’, Lauren and Kevin, birthday party at Charcoalo, a somewhat secret barbecue joint in Apgujeong. Here is their address: 642-12 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu. It’s a bit complicated to explain how to get there, so I won’t bore you with the details. The closest two stations are either Apgujeong or Gangnam-gu Office. Just let Google Maps lead the way for you. After navigating our way there, we were greeted with a large, red corrugated metal that almost seemed to glow like some sort of Polaris for barbecue lovers all over Korea. I knew I came to the right place when I saw the window in the front let you watch the cooks in action while they slapped large slabs of steak and ribs on the sizzling stove tops. Culinary poetry in motion.
Upon entering the establishment, it was definitely different than what I was expecting when I read that the restaurant was inside an industrial shipping container. Instead of being greeted by a dank and dark interior where I would have expected to be tortured by members of the Korean mafia, it was a warmly lit dining room with an industrial edge in terms of decor.
It even had skylights cut in the ceiling which would be a blessing and a curse on a sunny day since I could see the rays of light possibly blinding some unlucky customers. Giving the menu a once over, I could see that Charcoalo isn’t the cheapest barbecue eatery I’ve been to. Case and point, a bottle of Cass Korean beer that’s normally 2-3 bucks was 7 bucks. The menu contained different types of burgers, ribs (44,000 W for a rack), steaks, pizzas, and sides to go along with your main meal. I went for the bacon cheeseburger set (16,000 W) which meant I got a side of fries and a soda (Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, or Welch’s Grape). I picked the last one since I needed something sweet after quite a bitter day with one of my coteachers. When it came out, I was very excited due to its exquisite appearance and my gnawing hunger pains.
Almost everyone else at my table got double cheeseburgers, but they were kind of crestfallen once they saw the meaty masterpiece towering above my fries.
First, I’d like to say that this burger wasn’t the easiest thing to eat since you’d have to be a reticulated python to be able to take an adequate bite.
It was piled high with a thick beef patty, mayo, ketchup, lettuce, cheese, tomato, semi-crispy bacon, and some additional pickled jalapenos, onions, and roasted garlic cloves that came on the side. So, I was taking small bites, and each one was a small step towards to the center of this cheeseburger in paradise. Still, the buns should have been bigger in order to accommodate the plethora of ingredients because there was definite slippage as the mayo caused the patty to sneak out the back of the burger. Overall, it was a great cheeseburger without any surprises like at Burger Bay, and the french fries were superb. They were crispy, golden-brown sticks of heaven, but I wish they were a bit bigger to grab with my fingers. I’m not a big fan of the slightly-enlarged shoestring potato type of French fries. Maybe these are more common in Korea because Koreans are afraid to eat with their hands. Who knows?
So if you’re looking for quality barbecue and are willing to spend a little bit more to get it or just want a masterfully crafted burger, check out Charcoalo.