Omnivore - Korean Barbecue at Breakers BBQ in Duluth


  • Courtesy of Breakers
  • Assorted meats at Breakers

Korean BBQ is a gateway drug for most Americans. Tabletop grills, hunks of meat, kimchi, and lots of cheap booze translate into super happy fun times. KBBQ used to be a Buford Highway thing, but the concentration in restaurants has shifted North to Duluth where the choices seem endless. It depends on your mood. You can opt for cheap all you can eat barbecue at or something more upscale like Breakers Korean BBQ (3505 Gwinnett Place Dr NW #101, Duluth. 770-946-1000. www.breakersbbq.com), which opened in January.

The strip mall setting isn't fancy, but don't be deceived: Breakers isn't your average Korean barbecue place. There is a full glittery bar near the entrance that serves liquor, wine, and beer. No more watery beer and barbecue. However, if you happen to like watery Korean beer like me, there is plenty of ice cold Hite to go around. The restaurant has veered from the polished traditional look many restaurants adopted in recent years. If it weren't for the grills in the center of the tables, the white leather banquets, antique minimalist Korean pottery showcased on a long white illuminated partition could pass for any suburban restaurant. It feels more polished and Americanized. It's the kind of place you go if you want a more buttoned up experience. Breakers almost seems to be marketed towards well heeled Koreans and Americans - both experienced and inexperienced with Korean BBQ. One of the members of our party was new to this type of cuisine and the servers were incredibly friendly and patient explaining the ins and outs of this style of eating.

If you eat as much Korean barbecue as I do, you know smelling like smoke and meat for the rest of the evening is typically the price you pay for gluttonous joy. Breakers promises you won't have even have the slightest waft of smoke lingering on your clothes because the kitchen pre-cooks your meat selection over premium lump charcoals and you finish cooking it over electric downdraft grills. The smell was minimized, but not completely gone.

Each meal starts with a salad made with greens, strawberries, and a too sweet dressing. You should pass. A smaller than normal assortment of banchan - another trend versus the abundance of preparations - arrives shortly after you have ordered to stimulate your appetite. There are also radish and glutinous rice sheets to wrap your meat and the other usual suspects like whole cloves of garlic and sliced jalapenos.

Price and portion size will be a sticking point for most who have become accustomed to the all you can eat under $20 smorgasbords that populate Pleasant Hill. The portions here are small and it will take you more to fill up. I would say two dishes per person is a safe bet unless you are like me and have the appetite of a teenage boy. If that is the case, get three. The menu is limited (shrimp, scallops, chicken, pork, and beef) and the quality translates into higher price tags, which are sometimes nearly double the price than the competition.The higher price is worth the flavor and quality of the meat. The texture is soft and tender because of the slow-cook over charcoal in the kitchen. Scallops, shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef are all incredibly fresh and well-seasoned, if it all. Most importantly, they taste good and they are piping hot.

Towards the end of our meal, owner Bobby Kim - a man who reminded me of an older and well coiffed Korean version of Mr. Chow from The Hangover movies - came over to ask us how our meals were and offered us a special ice cream made in house. But none of us took it because we were stuffed with meat, which is better than ice cream any day.

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