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Bangbop, a ghost kitchen inside the Tastemakers food incubator in Brookland, opened in November 2020. After closing a couple of restaurants in Northern Virginia and Rockville, owner Ji “Jenny” Park and her family scaled back to a more casual model.
A ghost kitchen is a restaurant built for takeout and delivery instead of sit-down service on site. They gained popularity at the start of the pandemic when businesses were forced to close their dining rooms but kept their kitchens operating to bring in revenue. Park says switching to this business model made sense, as it allowed them to continue focusing on using local and organic ingredients.
“Every menu item is a family recipe,” says Karis Lim, one of the three generations of Korean Americans who run Bangbop. They serve “innovative, new, surprising recipes that you can feel good about eating.”
You’ll find bao buns, tacos, baked chicken wings, salad, bibimbap, and sandwiches on the menu. While most items are composed, there’s also build-your-own options. I love that meals can be made plant-based by swapping in Impossible “beef.”
For those that haven’t experienced the flavors of Korean barbecue, you are missing out. Bulgogi—slices of beef marinated in a sweet, salty, and savory marinade, then grilled—fills out much of Bangbop’s menu, including as a topping on bibimbap.
I got the milder version of their house sauce on my “traditionalist bibimbap.” It was the right drizzle for the lightly seasoned bean sprouts, zucchini, and eggplant. The crunch of the lotus root added contrast to the fluffy white rice and tender bulgogi. They also do NOT skimp on the serving size for their bibimbap bowls, which are also available in salad form.
As a spin on tradition, Bangbop has pizza, something that regular customers, like myself, previously overlooked on the menu. While taking pictures of my pizza outside the food hall, a few customers asked where I ordered it from. “Wait, they have pizza!?” they exclaimed.
Yup, they have pizza. Four kinds, all made with shredded mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. I went for the Korean BBQ topped with that yummy beef bulgogi, red onions, sliced scallions, and what they call “k-bbq sauce.” The sweet and salty combo is unmatched and the pizza crust was also durable without being chewy. And that’s important. A fellow diner tried a bite and relayed that “the sauce wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t overcooked, and was a party of different flavors.”
Bangbop also has a small list of specials, and I’m crowning the pork belly bossam box as the best thing on the menu. Cooks poach juicy pork belly in spices, then lightly broil and slice it. The meat comes with seasonal sides like mu mallengi—spicy, sweet sun-dried radish—and classic kimchi made from fermented napa cabbage.
Wrap a slice of pork with a lettuce leaf and top it with a spread of spicy garlicky bean paste and a light drizzle of seasoned brined baby shrimp sauce, called ssamjang and saeu-jeot, respectively. Take it up a notch and add a slice of jalapeño and garlic clove.
Now, is the pork belly bossam something that should be consumed on date night? Probably not. With that being said, I’ll gladly stay single and eat this once a day. It’s so good, I almost did not want to tell you about it. The selfish side of me wants to keep it secret so they don’t run out when I go to order it again.
Another fun Bangbop menu item is their koritos (also called K-chips). The restaurant dusts freshly fried tortilla chips with kimchi-nacho seasoning. Think classic nacho cheese Doritos, but with a hint of kimchi flavor. The chips pair perfectly with the bulgogi cheesesteak. Why are these fun? The joy of licking your fingers clean after finishing the bag.
With Bangbop being a ghost kitchen, delivery and pickup orders must be placed online or through third party apps like UberEats, Grubhub, and Doordash. There is a kiosk at the front of the food hall if you prefer to order in person.
Being Brookland’s first Korean restaurant is a big deal, especially since D.C. could always use more Korean spots. The convenience factor of well packaged takeout combined with fun twists on classic dishes makes Bangbop a place you need to check out!
The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and dishes range from $8 for a sandwich to $23 for the bossam box.
Bangbop, 2800 10th St. NE; (301) 202-5780; bangbop.com