Oakland and San Francisco both have good little strips of Korean restaurants, but they're paltry compared to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Lakewood. After LA's Koreatown and Flushing, Queens, Seattle's northern and southern burbs have the biggest, most diverse Korean restaurant scene in the country. And despite the fact that Nancy Leson and I keep hyping the suburbs, most central-city residents won't make the drive.
For example, I took an acquaintance down to Federal Way last month -- someone who's been in the Seattle food world for 25 years, and who knows everyone in town -- where we ate a meal at Garden and then toured the H Mart. "I had no idea," he said, stunned, as we looked over the supermarket's half-acre produce section.
After three and a half years, I've only begun to find my way through the outer layers of the suburbs (with a HUGE thank-you to Kye and Eric, who've led me to most of my best finds). There are dozens of places I've only passed, specialties I've only heard tell of. Some enterprising food blogger needs to conduct a thorough survey of these three cities similar to what MSG150 has done in the ID. Here are a few of my favorites so far:
Ka Won: The whole meal, really -- the area's best panchan (side dishes) and egg custard
Kaya and Sorabol: high-end Korean barbecue (the meat combos offer the best deal)
Sam Oh Jung: everything non-barbecue -- cold noodles, jokbal (pork shank), seafood stews, hot pots, even budae jjigae (Korean War-era hot pot with Spam and hot dogs)
Garden: ssambap (rice wraps), gogi mandoo (dumplings), Cheju duroochiki (pork-bean sprout stew), and the panchan from the owners' organic garden