I’m a bad Korean.

I’d never had Korean BBQ before! Until recently.

The other weekend, we had an opportunity to go out to dinner.

Our kids have little patience for eating out. They go in and out of magical ages where dining out is possible and borderline pleasurable. After not going out to eat with the kids for a year, we tried to to take them to Perkins.

Breakfast was a disaster. It’ll be a while before we try that again.

For dinner, I really wanted to go to the newly opened Shinwha Korean Steakhouse in Roseville, MN. I wanted nothing more than to drink and leisurely pick at a meal with chopsticks, without kids picking the goodies off our plates, clawing at us or throwing things.

While more and more K-BBQ and hot pot restaurants have been opening in the Twin Cities, Shinwha is the first and only All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ restaurant.

I’ve never actually had tabletop Korean BBQ in a restaurant and am newly obsessed with hot pot after watching too many DancingBacon videos and going to Jasmine 26‘s new hot pot concept.

We arrived at Shinwha at 4:30 p.m. Surely, the wait would be short for an early dinner (lolllll). The parking lot was full and I ran inside to put our names on their wait list. There were18 tables ahead of us! The host estimated a 45-minute wait.

There are about 30 tables in the restaurant and a small bar which offers bottles and cans of beer, plus bottles of wine and sake (starting at $15) – no wine or sake by the glass. Guests are asked to follow a two-hour time limit.

While we waited at the bar, I obsessively tracked our waitlist status on my phone. I selfishly wished that Minnesotans would like Korean food less so the waitlist would be shorter.  I wanted to shout, “EATING KOREAN FOOD WILL MAKE YOU NERDY AND UNCOOL” and shake my imaginary fist. Damn you BTS. Damn you trendy Tik Tokers. Damn you Korean food for being so delicious.

As our wait approached an hour, I worried that we would have to eat at lightening speed to make it home for the babysitter’s ending time. Could we get our money’s worth in an hour? In 45-minutes? Oh god, in 30 minutes? When do we abandon ship?

We watched the couple next to us grab a plate of kimchi from the kimchi bar as they waited for their table. I’m not sure if you are *supposed* to do that, but we got so hungry that we did that to and no one said anything about it.

Finally, they called our table. You pay at the front before starting your meal. For both BBQ and hot pot, our bill came to $40 each + tip. FYI – everyone at the table has to order the same thing (BBQ, Hot pot, or both).

Each table is given tablets to order hot pot/bbq ingredients with. Then, a robot brings the plates to your table. There was a small wait for our initial order, but afterwards, subsequent orders arrived quickly.

Employees will occasionally stop by your table and assist with beverages, taking away plates, and offering to change the grill. I found the service to be attentive and helpful.

There are two food bars: 

The kimchi bar offered a few types of kimchi, fruit, and one or two types of dessert. Our favorite was the marinated cucumber. We were too full for dessert.

The sauce bar offers a large number of sauces and dips including things like chopped scallions, soybean paste, and seasoning powders. It was fun but a little bit overwhelming.

The yum yum sauce is very sweet – it’s more like the bottled sauce than Benihana’s. 

I ordered the spicy Szechuan hot pot, plus an array of proteins, veggies, and tofu to cook in it. To be honest, I thought the hot pot broth was just ok. Compared to the other two places I’ve tried, the broth tasted a lot blander (though the heat was fantastic).

The portions of veggies and noodles was very generous.

Of the meats we tried on the BBQ, our favorite was the thin strips of pork belly and spicy beef bulgogi. I would have been happy just eating the spicy beef bulgogi. It was flavorful and tender.

The whole shrimp were fresh and the calamari was tender.

After just 45 minutes, we were completely, terribly full. All that worrying for nothing! We even made it home 15 minutes early.

Minnesota is clearly ready for more Korean food, especially in an AYCE format.

At the time, our $80+ bill seemed expensive, but it’s actually a decent value if you can put food away.

I checked the prices at the two other Korean tabletop BBQ restaurants I am aware of – you’ll likely pay more for less food. One even has a 90 minute time limit.

Since Shinwha is AYCE, you can’t take home leftovers – even so, for the experience, variety, and quantity of food, $40 + tip feels like a fair price. It’s also a lot of fun.

If you can eat more than us and stay the full two-hours, it’s an excellent value.

No wonder it’s so busy.

By the time we left, the waitlist was 28 tables.

If you do give -up, you can always go to the Bonchon or Szechuan in the same strip mall.

Personally, I’m a leftover girl, so I prefer traditional dining experiences to the AYCE. I would absolutely return from time to time, but would stick to the BBQ.