Star BBQ is located in the large strip mall that also houses Goodwill and Marble Slab Creamery. I always find it difficult to determine what the interior of a restaurant in a strip mall will be like; the outside of every restaurant and store always looks so uniform on the exterior. When I stepped through the front door, I was not prepared for the spacious dining room with high ceiings. It was adorned with lighted round display shelved that lined the walls. The booths were also generous in size, and had little grills built right into the middle of the tables. I was immediately excited, I had never seen anything like it. There was a short wait before I was seated by a friendly waiter who presented the table with bottle of chilled HiteJinro bottled mineral water, which is bottled in South Korea, and two small glasses.
I browsed the vast menu selection as I sipped on my cold water. They offer appetizers, cold and hot noodle dishes, BBQ meals, bi bim bop, soups, and more. The prices are a bit steep, but the portion sizes are large. I was ready to try the table grill so I choose 2 items from the barbecue menu. (You must order at least two items from the barbecue menu in order to use the table grill.) I choose the Cha dol guy ($23.95), thinly sliced beef brisket, and the Gal bi ($19.95), marinated pork short ribs. The barbecue meals were served with a fresh green salad, topped with a tomato-based dressing mixed with grated apple and garlic, crisp lettuce wraps, and various Korean condiments.
I relaxed in as the server headed back to put my order in, before I knew it a woman with arrived with a rolling dining cart. It was laden with little dishes of intriguing looking condiments, and glorious trays of fresh meat. Having never been to a Korean BBQ restaurant before I didn’t know what to expect, but the staff was very gracious, and willing to explain everything as we went along. Once the table was filled with the goodies off the dining cart, the grill was lit. Our cook swiftly lifted up the tray of thinly sliced beef brisket, sliced onion, and button mushrooms, then slid the contents onto the burning hot grill. The sizzle and smell of the meat mixed with caramelizing onion and sautéed mushrooms made my mouth water, and my empty stomach growl as the perfumed steam drifted into the air.
While the meat was grilled and the veggies cooked, the condiments were graciously explained to me. There was a sampling of sweet pickled green onion, thinly sliced pickled radish, bean sprouts, cucumber, kimchi, red meat sauce, sliced jalapeño, seaweed, black beans, and garlic cloves. Once the beef was grilled I reached for a lettuce wrap and began to assemble my first bite of deliciousness. The sweet and sour flavors mixed with the thin crispy caramelized edges of the thinly sliced beef, sweet onions and mushroom. It is truly an inspired combo. I relished every bite until I had eaten even last morsel.
Next to go on the grill were the marinated pork short ribs, and more sliced onions and button mushrooms. The same process was done to grill the pork and veggies, and I also assembled into lettuce wrap form. The pork was marinated in a sweet and spicy mixture of sesame oil, chilies, and garlic. The meat was well seasoned, flavorful and tender. I honestly had a few strange looks as I polished off yet another tray of meat and veggies. The grill was clicked off and the meal came to a close as I patted my full and satisfied belly. Then to my delightful surprise a little Korean yogurt drink was presented along with the check. It was refreshing and tasted a bit like the pink milk left over after you eat a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.
The food at Star BBQ was fresh, scrumptious, and the grilling process was fun and interactive. It’s a tremendous place for a first date, or for an entertaining night out with friends. They have amazing combo platters on the menu for large parties. I’ll definitely be back with my friends in tow to experience again what is sure to become the new Savoy hotspot for Korean BBQ.
Star BBQ is located at 1209 Savoy Lane, Savoy, and open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m, with lunch served 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
All photos by Rebecca Wells.