DC’s restaurant scene is pretty comprehensive when it comes to styles of cuisine, but we’ve long been missing a big one: tabletop Korean barbecue. Blame, in part, smoky grills and complex venting systems that are better suited for stand-alone buildings in the suburbs, where institutions like Honey Pig, Kogiya, and Yechon thrive. But that’s all about to change this week with the opening Gogi Yogi, a 70-seat Korean barbecue spot in Shaw from Duke’s Grocery owner Daniel Kramer.
For KBQ fans there’ll be a lot that’s familiar about Gogi Yogi, whose name is a play on “meet here” (gogi meaning “meat,” and yogi, “here”). The steely, industrial-chic space in the Shay development is set with sizzling grills for cooking galbi (marinated short ribs), spicy pork belly, and marinated octopus. Tables that order the meats and seafood are given complimentary rice, sauces, and panchan (small cold vegetable dishes) like kimchi, spicy cucumbers, potato salad, and sesame bean sprouts—plus oversize kitchen scissors for shearing hunks of meat. Icy beers are served by the bottle, glass or pitcher, while soju (a clear Korean liquor) goes by the carafe—or for ambitious groups, somaek towers that mix the beer and booze for a shareable beer-tail. Other specialty drinks highlight Korean distillations like the Makgeolli Mule with the eponymous milky sparkling rice wine, soju, ginger-chili syrup, and ginger ale.
Chef Patrice Cunningham, a DC native who grew up cooking with her Korean mother, helms the kitchen. Prior to joining Gogi Yogi she ran a kimchi and catering operation out of Union Kitchen and also Cooking with Patrice, a weekly Korean-fusion supper club. Her menu isn’t entirely classic—and isn’t meant to be.
“Traditional is in the eye of the beholder,” says Kramer. “We’re not trying to be ‘authentic’ or ‘traditional.’ We’re providing a Korean barbecue experience with tabletop grills.”
Drink-friendly appetizers like fries with spicy ketchup and tempura onion rings join Korean staples such as twice-fried chicken wings, japchae noodles, mandu dumplings, and crispy seafood pancakes. Proteins for the grill offer the biggest variety. Patrons can pick between marinated meats like bulgogi or beef belly, un-marinated options such as wild scallops or ribeye, and premium cuts like a dry-aged Creekstone Farms New York strip (the steaks are then cut with scissors for sharing). Prices generally range between $19 and $30 for half-pound portions (or $38 for the fancy strip)—a little higher than a chain like Honey Pig but on par with an indie spot like Kogiya. What you won’t get here are all-you-can-eat menus (“There’s no way we could sustain a business providing unlimited, dry-aged meat from Creekstone Farms,” says Kramer).
Gogi Yogi will be open for lunch and dinner daily starting at 11 AM with the daytime option of bibimbap for those who don’t have time to fire up a grill. The kitchen will also serve late-night (hours to come). Reservations are available online, though tables will also be available for walk-ins.
Next up for DC’s Korean barbecue scene: Iron Age Korean Steakhouse, a chain with nine locations between Washington and Thailand that’s set to debut in Columbia Heights next year.
Gogi Yogi. 1921 Eighth St., NW; 202-525-4167. Open daily starting at 11 AM.