Remember Shila BBQ? The much-maligned Korean BBQ restaurant that I found was a complete copy of a California restaurant without their permission? You know, the one with the ridiculous dining time limits, unsanitary practices, and the ones known for using non-food grade foam brushes to put oil on their hot grills? Well, they’re gone. And in its location, the former Stonewood Tavern building, is now Beque Holic (pronounced B Q holic). Same concept. Different owner. Admittedly, Shila left a bad taste in my mouth so it took some time before I decided to brave the new restaurant.
Well, I’m glad I finally went. Frankly, despite not changing very much aesthetically, the food quality and practices here are light years beyond its predecessor. Gone are also the weird quirks that made Shila laughable, and in its place are some new ones I’ll get to in a moment. But Steve Shin, the same guy who opened Garlic & Ginger and the Korean Market on 34th Street, sold both those businesses and now owns this restaurant. He knows a thing or two about Korean food, and right away, you can tell the food is much better quality. The service is much improved as well, with attentive waiters patrolling each aisle.
As with Shila, Korean BBQs are a carnivore’s wet dream that unapologetically leaves vegetarians in the cold with an endless stream of cook-it-yourself meats. You’ve got pork belly, thinly sliced beef brisket, teriyaki chicken, bulgogi, chicken wings, short ribs, kalbi, beef tongue, squid, and shrimp. All of which come with a significant amount of unlimited side dishes like kimchi, cold potato salad (basically mashed potatoes), Korean pancakes (omelet-like), ridiculously good wasabi pickled radish, a salad, egg custard, fried dumplings, rice, and miso soup. Feel like a glutton yet?
Unlike Shila, there is no stated time limit for the tables, though they make it clear there is a hefty surcharge if excessive meats are left uncooked. The hot circular grill in the middle of the table makes for a fun interactive experience with a date or with family and friends. The meats are well-seasoned and better quality than what Shila previously offered, and come with a house-made chili sauce and sesame oil for dipping as well. And yes, the meats now come separated and I’m happy to report there’s no more sketchy brushes used to oil the grills.
But you know how I said there were quirks? If there’s one gripe I have with the restaurant, it’s the menu. It’s unnecessary and just begging for trouble. Patrons can order a la carte, choosing their meat of choice for $15.95 to $39.95 that comes with all the side dishes listed above. Or they can order all-you-can-eat for $23.95 to $33.95 depending on the variety of meats you want, with the lowest option having 5 varieties to 11 varieties for the most expensive. Or you can order combos that come with set amounts of meats for a fixed price ranging from $49.95 to $149.95 meant to be shared with 2 to 6 people. Confused yet?
There’s more...If someone at the table chooses all-you-can-eat, everyone else at the table has to choose that as well. That means you can’t choose to order only Teriyaki chicken while your fat brother chooses the $33.95 endless stream of meats. Oh, and you can’t choose the $23.95 option either with five meat varieties if someone else wants the $33.95 option. But one has to wonder, for the price of some of the a la carte meat options, why wouldn’t anyone choose the all-you-can-eat option instead? The most expensive all-you-can-eat option is $6 cheaper than the most expensive a la carte option. More importantly, why even give the option for so many varieties when the choice of one person at the table locks everyone else in?
The drink menu is equally confusing, with no explanation as to what a “BQ YoSoSexy” or a “BQisGreat” actually is. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say those were AOL Messenger names circa 2002. To be fair, I did voice these concerns with the owner after my meal, and was told a simplified menu was coming soon. He seems to be aware and agree on the confusion and vagueness of the current menu.
I’m also compelled to tell you all about Beque Holic’s bizarre, yet awesome birthday promotion I’ve ever seen. With official ID proof, you can have the $33.95 all-you-can-eat (11 meat varieties) option for free the two days before your birthday, the big day itself, and the two days afterwards as well. That’s five free meals if your birthday is coming up. It’s the “Gangnam Style” of birthday promotions, and much like the song…I strangely…dig it?
At first glance, the menu seems pricey. But it’s really not bad pricing considering the improved quality of meats, the experience, and the unlimited amounts of basically everything on your table. For those of us with a big appetite, it’s actually well worth it. Menu quirks aside, if you can go with a group of agreeable people, it’s worth the trip. Not recommended for vegetarians, small appetites, or huge groups.