Manimal Smokehouse – Seoul, South Korea

Who would have thought that traveling all the way to South Korea would yield an amazing American meal?

Manimal Smokehouse in Seoul, South Korea brings Texas-style barbeque to locals Koreans and American travelers looking for familiar food. Trust us, this restaurant serves better-tasting food, in bigger portions and at a better price than most BBQ joints in the U.S.

For those who know a little something about Korean cuisine, you know that BBQ is a favorite in both the north and south. However, the Korean version is much different than American; the meat is typically sliced very thin and is cooked on grills built right into the customer’s table. Meat is then wrapped in lettuce and is accompanied by mixed banchan made from an assortment of vegetables, pickles, and kimchi.  This meal is even well known outside of Korea; to the point where almost every major city in North America has a Korean BBQ eatery. So, it only makes sense for American southern-style barbeque to spread to Asia.

Manimal Smokehouse opened in 2015 and has delighted thousands of guests with great food ever since. Their mouthwatering meats are smoked in-house daily over cured Korean oak wood in a custom-built smoker made and imported directly from Houston, Texas.

To start your visit right, try one of their signature cocktails. Our favorite, the Bloody Manimal, is essentially a Bloody Mary made with Tito’s vodka from Texas. However, the unique twist on this drink is that it is not only garnished with the traditional stock of celery, but also with a cocktail stick spearing a piece of BBQ rib and 2 strips of house-cured bacon. It is absolutely delicious and a great way to tease your taste-buds for the meal to come. Or try one of their many craft beers.

Afterwards, if you think you’ll have enough room, order the Beet Spring Mixed Green Salad, made with cranberry dressing, chopped spinach, chard, apple, white grape, marinated beets, red wine, roasted sweet potato, blue cheese, and sliced radish. The flavor combination is out of this world.

For the main course, Manimal offers a tasting platter that features all of their most popular dishes. For 99,500 Korean Won ($91 USD), you will receive a platter that includes samples of the Brisket, Pulled Pork, Chicken, Half Rack of Raspberry Glazed Spare Ribs, Andouille Sausage, Green Chili Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw, Smoked Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Honey Butter Rolls.

If you do not opt for the platter, the rest of the menu is à la carte. Our recommendations include the Pulled Pork (which is mouth-watering by itself or on the Honey Butter Rolls) and the Raspberry Glaze Spare Ribs and/or the Coffee Rubbed Baby Back Ribs. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices. As for a side dish, the Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Bacon Gravy is to die for and the Creamed Corn or Sautéed Bacon Green Beans are sure to please everyone.

Not only is the food fantastic, but so is the service. The English-speaking staff, known to wear Texas-style cowboy hats, makes international travelers feel welcome and comfortable. They are also at the ready to make recommendations and answer any questions regarding the menu. They are attentive and quick, so you never have to wait long for your beverages, meal, or bill. Our only complaint is that the music is pretty loud and can sometimes make conversation difficult, especially later in the evening when the restaurant grows busier. However, if you’re a fan of K-pop (a genre the restaurant favors), the volume might not bother you. Pro Tip: go earlier in the evening when the music is quieter and the restaurant is less crowded.

Overall, Manimal Smokehouse serves one of THE best BBQ meals we have ever eaten. We recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting Seoul (except vegans and vegetarians, of course) and we seriously wish there were franchises of the restaurant located here in North America.

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