A+E: Mr. BBQ in Fullerton Offers Authentic Korean Cuisine for More than the College Crowd
by Aharon Colon, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Known primarily for being a collegetown and an area with an eclectic mix of things to do and eat, Fullerton, CA plays hosts one of Southern California’s best Korean BBQ joints.
You wouldn’t expect it. In an area that is primarily Latino and White (36.4% and 33%, respectively, according to Data USA), not many would think of going straight to Fullerton to get authentic Korean BBQ. To be honest, even I was skeptical of how good this place could possibly be, considering it wasn’t from an area known for having many good Asian restaurants.
Despite this, Fullerton is, in fact, a pretty diverse city. To finish off the data I originally cited, after Whites and Latinos, Asians come next at 24.4%. As you can see, all of the numbers are very close, meaning if you look into it more, there are possibilities of finding delicious authentic food from every culture.
From a personal standpoint, however, I only saw Fullerton as a collegetown. Being that my sister is attending Cal State Fullerton and that my father and mother go there often for meetings, not to mention I want to attend there as well, all I thought about when taking Rosecrans and Imperial Highway all the way down from La Mirada was, “I’m going to college.”
Another thing I thought of when going to Fullerton was of their downtown area. This little strip of shops, restaurants, arcades and tattoo parlors was a favorite for my family to visit because of scenery and multitude of choices it provides.
But after going to Mr. BBQ, that whole small world changed.
It is a hidden spot if you don’t already know about it, almost hiding behind a small court of other fast foods and a CVS. Though it’s hard to miss when you get behind those buildings, because of the line that goes out the door almost every night.
It is just that good. No matter when I go, a Thursday night at 5 pm for example, or a Sunday night around the same time, it is always packed.
As you walk into the restaurant after waiting your turn for a table, you notice the bright lights,the hip aesthetic scene and huge TVs all over the place. I’d say it’s almost like walking into a loud club where everyone is having a good time and the music is just blasting over everyone’s conversations. Some people might not like that, but that’s just part of the experience of going here.
You’ll also find great art on the walls and a waiting area with Jenga, Uno and other tabletop games. The exit sign is definitely my favourite piece though, as you leave the top of the doors say, “Payce!,” with hands making the peace sign.
Anyway, you’re now seated at a table with a very clean stove in the middle of it, already prepared with utensils and good spacing between you and your friends.
The waiters at Mr. BBQ are also a great point. They’re young, diverse, quick to serve and friendly. Every time I’ve been, they were always on par with my expectations.
They shine brightest, however, when it’s a birthday, where they drop what they are doing to sing and dance to (usually rap) music for the customer. When I say it comes out of nowhere, it comes out of nowhere. You will be in a good conversation with your party, then loud birthday music starts playing and your waiter goes to celebrate with the birthday boy or girl. All in all, everything about the service is just the tip of the iceberg.
When asked of what you would like, you are presented with a large menu of an assortment of different meats, seafoods, and stews. In total, there are 78 (yes, I counted) different items you can choose from those categories. If you can’t decide, they offer three different combos of different meats and seafoods that go the best together. Personally my family goes with the Bulgogi (marinated choice chuck meat), Thinly Slice Beef Brisket, Premium Marinated Beef Sirloin, Oysters, and Spicy Homemade Tofu Soup. It’s as much as you can eat, so we just get that lineup over and over again until we can’t eat anymore. On top of that, we get bowls of white rice to wash it all down after every round.
Before the meat comes out though, you are bombarded with different small side dishes, such as edamame beans, kimchi and others.
But the best part is the meat.
For one, it comes unprepared. For those who don’t know, Korean BBQ is basically a cook your own food style cuisine, and you can just smell the marinated beef as it lands on your table.
The best feeling in the world is seeing it slap down on the stove for the first time, because you waited all day to hear the sizzling of the meat and smell the steam that comes from it. Since you want as much meat as possible, I recommend you section off the stove to fit as much as possible on it.
Time passes, and your meat is now done. It’s veloptuious look and sizzling taste enters your mouth and melts like butter. When I say this meat is premium, I mean it’s premium.
For us, the brisket usually comes first. This thinly sliced meat is the easiest to eat and the fastest to cook. I usually tend to marinate it in salt for a little bit to get more flavor. Picking it up with chopsticks, mixing it with rice, feeling the slight taste of charcoal and chewing it minimally is why this is one of my favorites.
The next one up is the Bulgogi, Mr. BBQ’s signature dish. As stated before, this is marinated choice chuck, so when you see the meat before it’s cooked it’s bathes in sauces and juices. Once cooked, the meat is almost sweet and a lot thicker than the brisket.
The last meat I recommend is the Premium Marinated Beef Sirloin, which when presented, is one full steak on a plate waiting to be devoured. One thing you might ask when cooking it is, “How do I cut this up?” You actually have to use scissors for this meat, and I confide that you do it while cooking the meat to cook it a little bit better.
As you might expect, this meat tastes exactly like an American steak. The juiciness is unreal, the taste is flavorful, and the meat is marinated. Like a symphony, all the right flavors come into place.