With draws like the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is home to one of the largest Korean and Korean-American populations in Michigan. So it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that, despite being a relatively small town compared to its neighbors, Ann Arbor is home to dozens of restaurants serving Korean food.
Ann Arbor’s fleet of Korean establishments serves as an entry point to trying a multitude of regional dishes from across the peninsula. From delicate soups to fiery braised meals to arguably some of the best fried chicken in the world, there’s a Korean dish for every palate. Below, find a guide to some of Korea’s iconic dishes and where to eat them across Tree Town.
Festive Korean Barbecue at Tomukun
505 East Liberty St. #200, Ann Arbor
Grilling meat and seafood over fire is the earliest cooking method and enjoyed around the world, so barbecue is a great introduction to Korean cuisine. Different cuts of thinly sliced meats including beef and chicken are available plain or marinated and then cooked on grills built into the tables. The barbecue is served with several dipping sauces and bowls of banchan, Korean side dishes of seasoned, steamed, and pickled vegetables. Beginners can’t go wrong with galbi (marinated beef short ribs), bulgogi (thin-sliced ribeye), or lightly-marinated chicken gui. Designed for sharing, Korean barbecue is a both an activity and a meal, which makes it great for group dinners. Try it out at Tomukun, a lively Korean barbecue destination with a full bar and address that makes it a gathering spot for both locals and students.
Hot Stone Bowls at Kang’s
1327 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor
Many locals still refer to this campus area diner as Kang’s Coffee Break, due to its beginnings as a small coffee shop. But today it’s a great place to enjoy the famous Korean dish hot stone bibimbap, an incredibly hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, bulgogi, spicy gochujang sauce, and a runny fried egg. A splash of sesame oil before mixing the ingredients will run down the inside of the bowl and create a layer of crispy rice much like soccarat, the sought-after crunch at the bottom of a well-made Spanish paella.
Hearty Stews at Bewon
3574 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor
A highlight of Korean cuisine are the many stews and soups. They range from delicate soups slowly cooked in bone broth to hearty stews that are full of in-your-face spicy flavors. It’s easy to see why fans of both come to Bewon as this restaurant’s 20 or so soups and stews account for half of the menu. The kimchi mandu chi gae — a kimchi stew with dumplings and beef — is an amazing elixir for a nagging cold or a pick-me-up after a long night out.
Nose-to-Tail Eating at Seoul Garden
3125 Boardwalk Ave., Ann Arbor
Those experienced with Korean barbecue love Seoul Garden for its well-marinated meats and generous amounts of banchan, the side dishes that add an array of flavor and texture to the grilled centerpieces. A deep dive into the menu rewards those looking for options like monkfish, pork trotters, beef tripe, tongue, and blood sausage. Seoul Garden’s menu also devotes space to Japanese options like sushi.
The best fried chicken at Seoul Street
1771 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor
With all due respect to the Colonel, Seoul Street serves up Ann Arbor’s best KFC — Korean fried chicken. Seoul Street can be hard to find on a first visit as it’s located around the backside of an apartment building, but that doesn’t deter its fans who endure long waits for the restaurant’s crispy birds. The made-to-order chicken is fried twice, which gives it a thinner, crunchier texture and prevents it from getting soggy when coated in either a hot and spicy or soy garlic glaze. Since the method results in a long-lasting crunch, it’s perfect for ordering online and taking home with no sacrifice to flavor and texture. Those dining there can bide their time with an order of kimchi fries — a pile of french fries topped with caramelized kimchi and onions, cheese, mayo, and bulgogi (thin-sliced ribeye).
Military Stew at Arirang
3135 Oak Valley Dr., Ann Arbor
Budae jjigae is one of the most famous Korean stews and has a distinctly American origin. The name translates to “army stew” and features sliced Spam and hot dogs, two ingredients introduced by U.S. armed forces stationed in Korea during the Korean war. The locals added kimchi, noodles, tofu, and intense spices to create a hearty stew that works really well here in Michigan, where nights can get chilly. Arirang’s adds its own twist on the dish with sausage, pork belly, and ham.
Upscale and fresh at Miss Kim
415 N 5th Ave., Ann Arbor
Korean comfort food spot Miss Kim’s focuses on highlighting fresh, Michigan ingredients means many classic recipes being adapted to what’s currently available for their constantly changing menu. Expect a family meal-type format with shareable small plates small plates and a lively, contemporary atmosphere that’s great for groups.
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