The number of places to enjoy Korean BBQ in Queens is staggering. The vast K-tropolis that runs along Northern Boulevard boasts kalbi specialists like Mapo, spots renowned for the fatty ribbons of pork belly known as samgyeopsal, and even all you can eat/grill joint called Picnic Garden. There’s only one that feels like being at an actual picnic though, Majang Dong. To be more specific it feels like a backyard BBQ—and that’s because it is.
Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. It’s not that one needs a password to gain access, it’s more that if you didn’t know that it was there you could easily pass right by it. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland.
Like many of the best Korean BBQ places Majang Dong, named for a Seoul neighborhood, cooks over live charcoal. As you enter the backyard take note of the stove to your right. It’s not for cooking, but rather for heating up hardwood embers until they’re glowing and crackling. With a hair dryer to promote oxygen flow, I like to think of it as the Queens equivalent of a North Carolina BBQ burn barrel.
Anthony Bourdain and his new bestie Barack would feel right at home at the low pink plastic stools in what my friends and I have affectionately come to call the shack. Sometimes the meat is cooked at the table and sometimes, if it’s not too crowded, your waitress will cook it another table. As a fan of smoke, fire, and meat I prefer having it cooked in front of me.
Majang dong’s pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers. One of the best meats might be the grilled pork intestines though. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins.
Just like in Southern BBQ, there’s white bread, but at Majang Dong, it’s used to sop up the grease from the pork belly and intestines. Mrs. Yu will encourage you not to eat it, but I highly suggest throwing caution to the wind and crunching into what I like to call Korean fry bread.
Majang Dong might not be owned by a famous comedian and it might not have the most vast selection of meat, but the warm welcome provided by Chef Yu and his family coupled with its top secret location have made it my favorite spot. On my last visit some friends and I had eaten our way through some kalbi, pork belly, and intestines followed by a bowl of icy cool naeng myun noodle soup. And that’s when Chef Yu sent out a complimentary bowl of noodles to every table. It just so happened that most all of the other guests were wrapping up their meals as well. Even though I was already stuffed I finished every last drop of the refreshing kimchi water broth and made a significant dent in the noodles. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my host.
In case you’re wondering Majang Dong is open Memorial Day and recently extended its hours late into the night. Perfect for when that urge for fry bread and South Korean hospitality hits.
Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629