Seating For Two
I first discovered Mapo three years ago after returning from South Korea. My travel buddies and I were pursuing the same flavors or quality in NYC which triggered one of two searches. The other was not food related and despite their best efforts ended without an additional passport stamp. We tried several Manhattan K-Town BBQ places but they all fell short until we came across a NY Times article highlighting the amazing Korean food in Queens. This clue set the course for our journey from downtown Manhattan deep into to Flushing Queens. I’ve been to Mapo a total of four times now and by the time you finish reading this you would be shocked I haven’t been there more often.
Mapo is very unassuming eatery made for groups that want to sit around a mound of coal while waiting for a feast. You’ll notice a lot of families or friends eating together. The vibe is friendly, calm and very 70ish due to the wooden panels. The have a small television that everyone ignores and is usually broadcasting Korean news or dramas. The motherly staff is always doing busy work but they attentive, quick and trying to feed you. If i had to guess, Mapo cannot hold more than 50 people and is conversational local.
Mapo offers a wide variety of traditional Korean dishes like do Mool Naeng Myun (noodle with cold beef broth), Bibimbap (Rice with mixed vegetables) and Kimchi Jjigae Kimchi (casserole with pork & tofu) but you are there to ask “Where’s the beef?”. Vegetarians are welcomed but you should just leave them behind unless they’re your driver. Your BBQ option are simple…would you like Kalbi or Dweji Kalbi (you can choose between marinated between unmarinated). They will each arrive with banchan friends like kimchi, mashed potato salad, corn shredded daikon pickle, cucumber salad, dried squid, boiled eggs, chiles in soy sauce, sweet potato noodles, mushroom stems in a tart salty dressing, tofu and the devil’s tongue jelly. The charcoal grill comes to life when you order 2 plates of BBQ meat and its dancing flames will provide them with a subtle smoky flavor that complements the lean cuts perfectly. This plate is mashisseoyo (delicious) due to the perfectly balanced use of spices nestle within your lettuce wrap.
For a party of two, I suggest that you should anticipate spending $50 per person. They have a lunch menu and several or cost effective dishes but if you are here just drop the plastic and go for their top shelf beef. Coming here will count as a fancy first date that you get to dress casually for. When compared to this same meal in Manhattan, you are paying a little less in Queens but get a tastier and larger meal. Keep in mind you will smell like an outdoor camp site for a while after eating here which could attract hungry people.
Ride the Rails
Mapo is a bit of a journey from midtown Manhattan (45-90 minutes) but it’s well worth it. The best way to go is by taking the LIRR Port Washington Train to Murray Hill (leaves you across the street) or via the 7 Train to Flushing Main Street (then walk a mile). You can use that time to think of how yummy the meal will be and to calculate if you have walked enough to justify it.
Mapo is the best Korean BBQ place I have been to in NYC. The food is plentiful, freshly selected and the charcoal gives its Kalbi a welcomed layer of depth. I recommend that you head there on a weekend or summer Friday since the commute is lengthy and remember to bring you wallet since it will cost more than grabbing a slice. Skip a meal prior to showing up so you can enjoy all the plates set before you and make sure to add some Soju to your table.
149-24 41st Ave,
Flushing, NY 11355
Saturday – Sunday
11:30am – 10:30pm