It’s hard to believe we’re almost two months into 2012. DH and I started off our new year with a seemingly ridiculous resolution to complete a 30-day vegetarian challenge, just to see if we could do it. As a result, January went by in a whirlwind of tofu, egg, cheese, and various vegetable matter. We avoided restaurants during that month for the most part, lest we be disappointed by the various menu options which we could not consume, so perhaps we saved some money. Upon completion, however, I wasn’t sure what we really had to show for it, other than a burning desire to consume meat. Meat. MEAT.
Unsurprisingly, February has become a bit meat-centric. We marked the completion of the challenge with a victorious visit to HILL COUNTRY BARBECUE MARKET (map!) where we stuffed our faces with beef brisket (lean & moist varieties) and pork spare ribs, 1 1/2 lbs total.
The barbecue was flavored very well, but a bit too salty. The free bread that came with our meat helped balance it out, but our tongues were kind of done by the end. I would love to just have a sandwich next time.
Meanwhile, we had been eyeing another contender for our post-vegetarian stint, but decided against going right away because it was a bit far. Like, Flushing, Queens far. And so, PICNIC GARDEN (map!), home of an unbelievably glorious concept called the ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT-KOREAN-BBQ had to wait for another day…
…but that day finally arrived this past weekend! Let the hedonistic meat-consumption begin!
We first discovered the existence of all you can eat Korean barbecue joints while we were in Los Angeles (yes, in between all that healthy eating, ha!), and had resolved to find a similar experience on the east coast. Manhattan’s Koreatown does not offer this kind of deal, based on our highly scientific Googling, so the choice was to trek to either Queens or New Jersey. The Queens location was closer and more accessible by public transportation, so off we went.
And goodness, what a mess the traveling was. Attention, all ye internet readers, check the train schedules! We decided to take the LIRR (which would have arrived closer than the subway 7-train), but managed to miss BOTH the departing and return trains by 5 minutes, and they only run once an hour on the weekends. Whoops. Uh, time for some loitering around Penn Station? Once we did get on the train, it was a 20-minute ride, plus a 4-block walk in the snow to finally get to the restaurant.
But it was totally worth all the trouble.
By now, we were desperately hungry and hoping to still be able to catch the lunch price ($23 per person on weekends, something significantly higher for dinner). We were quickly seated by a very efficient hostess/waitress/meat-cutter, who turned on the grill at our table and then left us to go pick out the well-marinated animal parts which would soon be charred to deliciousness in front of us.
For what is basically a meat palace, the name “Picnic Garden” might not be the best description of the offerings available at this restaurant. It rather makes me think of laying on a checkerboard blanket and eating watercress sandwiches. That thought, however, was quickly dashed.
I liked this setup even better than our experience in Los Angeles, where you had to ask the waiter to bring you more meat. Here, you pick and choose exactly what you want, and there is no shame in going back for seconds, I mean, fourths. There is also a variety of prepared ban-chan side dishes (mmm, good kimchi and potato-egg-apple salad), rice, and soups (the seaweed soup is out of this world, slurp slurp slurp), which I thought were terrifically tasty and just as worthy of merit as the beef/pork/chicken/seafood.
The waitress kept good attention to our table and cut up our meats into bite-sized pieces as they cooked, stopping by every once in awhile to give them a little stir for even grilling. When they were done, we made our little lettuce wraps and heartily munched with satisfaction.
Several rounds later, we were pretty much stuffed to the brim. We polished everything off with some fresh orange slices, and finished just in time for the end of lunch. For about $50 total before tip, that was a great value.
Word of caution, as iterated by many voices on the internet, YOU ARE GONNA SMELL OF MEAT WHEN YOU’RE DONE. Oh yes, the smell will linger for hours, reminding you of the glory that was your meal, and causing all your friends with noses to froth with jealousy that they didn’t get to go. Or you’ll just smell like some meaty weirdo around strangers.
Heeding those words, we wore easily washable clothes which we knew would go straight into the laundry once we got home, and brought a garbage bag to stuff our winter coats into. It feels a little weird to go to such lengths, but those tiny drops of meat grease will splatter, and the aroma will soak into your coats, so better to bag than having to head to the dry-cleaners.
And after you’re done, you can go across the street to this place:
I like how the PUPPIES x3 are bulleted. And were there ACTUAL adorable little doggies inside? The answer is yes.