It’s 7pm and you just finished an extra-long session at the gym. You’re feeling hungry. It was leg day, so you feel this insatiable thirst for protein- you could eat a whole cow if you wanted to. You decided for dinner, you don’t want to be held back. As Usher once said, NO LIMIT BABY. So you know what it’s time for. Yes. AN ALL YOU CAN EAT!!
Here’s my definitive guide to all the best AYCES in San Diego.
1. Handoo Korean BBQ
When I’m craving Korean meat (not that kind, you perverts) or I need a lot of protein, I go the (arguably) best KBBQ joint in town, Handoo. Now for the noobs out there, AYCE KBBQ is a place you go to grill your own meat that is brought out to you by the servers, raw. Some of the meat is marinated, some is not. There are typically Korean side dishes that include steamed egg, soup, salad, glass noodles, kimchi, radish, etc. You are typically provided with a brisket sauce and sesame oil for dipping. I typically request garlic to grill alongside the meat and also ssamjang, a Korean bean paste that I think goes marvelously with the pork. You can also request rice paper to wrap around your meat (LOL). Now everyone has their own opinion on what is the best KBBQ in town, and I choose Handoo for a few different reasons: price, quality, and variety. Handoo has some of the best prices in town ($23 for the cheapest option, $27 for the medium option which includes beef tongue, shrimp). They have all the cuts of meat we like that other places typically don’t have (thin sliced pork belly and beef belly being a few) and have bean paste stew, an amazing side dish I adore (I typically have 3-5 in one sitting) that other places also don’t usually have. The meat and the sauce are incredible high quality and always fresh. For these reasons, Handoo is your best bet! BBQ tip: if you get marinated meat, save that for the end of your session. The marinade effs up the grill and turns it black, and you'll need a grill change- hence why you don't do it in the beginning, or you'll end up needing a grill change right away.
I apologize for not having too many high quality photos of this place, I'm typically too focused on pigging out!
2. Shabu Works
I’ll often times argue with my friends about which is better- AYCE KBBQ or AYCE hot pot? For me, the answer really depends on the day. Hot pot is an incredibly comforting meal. For those that don’t know, hot pot is similar to KBBQ in that ingredients are brought to your table raw, and you cook them in a broth of your choice in a pot in the middle of the table. You can be brought meat, veggies, starches (like noodles) and various other items. I’ve tried most AYCE hot pots in SD and I prefer Shabu Works because of a few things. One, the broths and the fact that you can mix them. They have tonkotsu, miso, spicy, and a few other options. They aren’t too salty but are very flavorful at the same time. Two, most ingredients are in a buffet bar (except for the meat). So instead of constantly having to bug a waiter for something and then having to wait, you can get up and simply get the quantity you want yourself. All the vegetables, noodles, and miscellaneous items (like fish balls or garlic) are here. They also have a hot food section with fried rice and fried chicken! The third reason is because Shabu Works has an unlimited bingsoo bar (a Korean shaved ice dessert) and unlimited bubble tea drinks (like lychee black tea, passionfruit green tea, etc). Maybe I'm biased, but I like that they provide sweets to balance the meal out. The quality of ingredients and meat is very high here!
What do you do if some of your friends want KBBQ but the others want hot pot? Enter Shabumi!! One of the only joints in San Diego where you can get both options at one table! The first time I visited here I couldn’t believe my eyes- I saw a couple with one person eating hot pot, another eating KBBQ! Typically places will say all parties at a table need to get the same option, but not here. I didn’t try the KBBQ but I I did try the hot pot, and the broth and meat was absolutely marvelous. Highly recommend the chicken broth!