Hoban Korean: What it's like to dine at Minnesota's only Korean BBQ

Prepare to pay. The setup pictured costs over $40 before tax and tip.

Prepare to pay. The setup pictured costs over $40 before tax and tip.

"Welcome to Hoban Korean BBQ. Look at this. It's like, 'Whoa.'"

We couldn't have said it any better than our server, who approached our table to pour water and then disappeared for 15 minutes.

Twenty-eight tables, 28 hood vents, at least as many dazed and confused servers, and quadruple that number of dazed and confused diners.

Toss in a lot of booze, frenetic dancing disco lights, and the bass of thumping hip-hop. It's chaos, it's disorder, it's beautiful, it's frustrating. 

Welcome to Minnesota's only Korean BBQ. It's like: Whoa. 

Without doing anything in the way of advertising, the Korean grill on Hennepin has been teeming with BBQ fanatics. We're mere mortals. We couldn't resist the pull either.

Ain't no party like a Hoban party: Hoban Korean is all about the party.

Ain't no party like a Hoban party: Hoban Korean is all about the party.

Arm yourself with some of the advice we wish we'd had, and you just might enjoy yourself.  

Do: Prepare to be patient. Though our wait for a table was reasonably short at about 15 minutes (after peak dinner hour, at about 9:30 p.m.), every other aspect of the evening was a waiting game, from appetizers to drinks to main courses. You've been warned. Hoban is not taking reservations yet. 

Do: Conduct some of your own research before arriving, as many staff seem unprepared to explain the process of Korean BBQ — the cuts of meat and seafoods (there are 18 to choose from), the portion sizes, or the banchan (pickles, vegetables and sauces). Depending on your server, you might be more or less on your own in deciphering what you're ordering and what you're eating. 

Don't: Expect to get full-on BBQ alone. Each order is about enough meat for one moderately hungry individual, and there is a two-portion minimum per table. If you're a very hungry group, this adds up to $18.95 to $23.95 per portion. We paid $23.95 for four thin strips of Galbi marinated short ribs, which amounts to about 12 dainty bites of meat. The price does include the banchan, but it's still pretty expensive considering you're cooking it yourself.

Do: Order supplemental food, especially the Korean fried chicken wings, which are sweetly spicy, shatter crisp, and tender within. Fried potstickers and tempura fried yams are basic iterations of deep-fried things, but you'll be grateful for the extra filler. While other Korean favorites are on offer here, those will cost you as well. Bibimbap is an eye-popping $18.95, and a bulgogi rice noodle bowl and even a simple sweet and sour shrimp dish are both $16.95. 

Do: Get drunk. It will help you get on the level of most other people in the room, including the staff. Remember, this is a party, so act accordingly. Our advice is to order the customary soju (think of it as a cross between white wine and vodka). It's available by the shot or by the bottle, and after one or two or several, things will start to come into focus. Now you're on the level.

Don't: Get too attached to any one server. It seems like they are doing things by committee, so you'll never know if your drink or appetizer order ever got put in until it is delivered to your table, likely a very long time after you've ordered it. 

Do: Get an eyeful of each and every thing going on around you. First dates, gay and straight. Big, boozy tables of dude bros, ogling the gorgeous servers. Young guys sitting with old guys. Pretty young things. Throngs and throngs of pretty young things. Rarely have we seen Uptown quite this diverse, quite this urban, quite this beautiful-strange. 

You alone can know if you're the sort of person with the strength of will to endure the time, frustration, and expenditure to experience something this altogether novel. 

We'd tell you to wait a few weeks until the kinks get worked out, but we know you won't. You're a moth to a flame. 

Hoban Korean Uptown 2939 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis 651-688-3447