All-you-can-eat Korean barbecue coming to Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard

David Kim, the owner of the new Gen Korean BBQ on Las Olas Boulevard, could probably write the taglines for Fort Lauderdale’s tourism department.

Asked why he wanted to put a location of his California all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ chain on the affluent drag, Kim says, “Beautiful women, beautiful sunshine. What more can one person want?”

Your move, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Kim’s greater justification for wanting a presence on the touristy row, he says, is that all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ is nonexistent there. So in April, Kim signed a lease for the 5,000-square-foot restaurant at 1301 E. Las Olas Blvd., a storefront that has remained dark since Sushi Shack closed there in late 2019. Gen Korean BBQ should debut this August or September after construction kicks off in early May, he says.

“Korean is a void on Las Olas,” Kim says. “Especially in this economy, it’s difficult to get all the meat you want. Our price point is $28 a person, and you come, you sit down, and you pick and enjoy as much food as you want.”

Like most cook-it-yourself Korean barbecue, Gen Korean’s 44 dining tables will be equipped with heating plates where customers can cook entrees from pork cheeks and beef tongue to Hawaiian chicken and premium top sirloin.

Longtime watchers of this storefront may remember that an unrelated Korean BBQ planned to rise from the ashes of Sushi Shack in 2019 – Las Olas Korean BBQ – but its owners abandoned the project when the pandemic darkened South Florida’s doorstep.

If Korean BBQ is absent on Las Olas, the Broward area boasts a few all-you-can-eat Korean feasts, from the sizzling charcoal grills of Gabose Korean BBQ in Lauderhill to the tasty seafood pancakes at Chow One Korean Steakhouse in Pembroke Pines.

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Kim, for his part, thinks Florida could use a few more. His Las Olas restaurant is part of an ambitious wave of 10 Gen Korean outposts planned for the state through the end of 2024, he says, with future locations also heading to Doral, Kendall, Brickell, Tampa and Jacksonville.

Before he debuted the first Gen Korean BBQ in California with partner Jae Chang in 2011, Kim founded the Baja Fresh chain of fast-casual Tex Mex restaurants – and even appeared as Baja Fresh’s CEO on an episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss.”

Then he sold Baja Fresh and left. “I saw that Korean BBQ mom-and-pops had been around for decades, but I was surprised no Korean chains ever came into the market, and that excited me,” recalls Kim, who now operates 29 Gen Koreans in states including California, Texas and Hawaii. “It was a new Asian sector that hadn’t been touched before.”

Gen Korean’s entrees also include pork bulgogi, chadol baegi (thinly sliced beef brisket), samgyupsal gui (grilled pork belly), spicy baby octopus, grilled calamari and K.F.C., or Korean Fried Chicken. Another dish, Seoul Fries, are French fries coated with sauteed kimchi and spicy aioli.

The critical part of a Korean barbecue experience is the barrage of banchan, little side dishes that envelop the table with the entrees, such as edamame, spicy cucumber, housemade kimchi and ssamjang, a chili paste made with spicy gochujang. Like the proteins, customers can – and should – ask for as many banchan as they want, Kim says. He says it’s customary to wrap the blistered meats and banchan with lettuce leaves, like a taco, and take bites.

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Gen Korean will also serve a variety of teas, fruit juices and bottled water, along with alcoholic soji cocktails ($15.95), domestic draft beers ($5.95 per pint), cold sake (starting at $11.95) and red and white wines.

Gen Korean BBQ, at 1301 E. Las Olas Blvd., will open in August or September. Go to GenKoreanBBQ.com.

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