In her hunt for great bargains, Lauren Monitz is sharing awesome local gems to binge on a budget and helping you determine if your favorite Denver restaurants are truly the Real Deal.
Since expanding into Denver proper from its original location in Westminster, Dae Gee has been hotter than ever — and we’re not just talking about the tabletop fires you cook on. With a third restaurant on the way (at Fourth Avenue and Broadway) and a recent visit from Guy Fieri, who stuffed his face with a "meaty flavorfest," the Korean barbecue lured us into the Colorado Boulevard location with an all-you-can-eat special; we wanted to see if it was truly the real deal and worth the hype.
Dae Gee is Korean for pig, and it’s hard not to pig out at Dae Gee. The unlimited dinner is just a few dollars more than any individual Korean BBQ entree ($17 to $24), which for the price makes it completely worth succumbing to the meat sweats. For $21 per adult and $6 to $12 per child, a platter of six meats — including brisket, pork belly, beef bulgogi (ribeye), pork bulgogi, chicken, and L.A. galbee (short ribs) — is dropped off for you to indulge in. Once you taste them all and know which cuts you like best, you're free to reorder whatever you like in any quantity (minus the galbee, which comes with a $5 surcharge). The deal is even sweeter at weekday lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday though Friday), when the restaurant offers five of the meats — everything except short rib — for $16. There's no promise on the menu that you'll make it back to the office without a full-on food coma, but the fine print states that there is a minimum of two orders per party and everyone at the table must participate in the deal.
We were bummed to learn that the grill tables, while installed, have yet to be approved for fire code, which had no estimated timetable for completion (yay, bureaucracy). Without the cook-it-yourself option, the kitchen does all the heavy lifting in grilling the meats, arguably doing a better job than you would, including a beautiful plating with grilled pineapple, but it takes a certain element away from the ambience. The interactive dining experience at the Westminster location is a major part of the appeal, great for groups and special occasions. Without it, the space felt a bit like a sad sports bar, especially with the Broncos blasting in the background. Regardless, you’re there for the food.
Beyond the main course, the deal also includes unlimited rice and banchan, traditional Korean side dishes, which are just a few bites each but allow you to taste a bit of everything and reorder only what you like. Some were definitely better than others – an extra-sweet and creamy potato salad was an acquired taste, while the kimchi pancake and assorted pickled vegetables were table favorites. The bean sprouts and plain old broccoli with imitation crab just took up excess room better saved for beef (not filling up on sides is part of the trick to getting your money’s worth). Also available was a slaw-like sesame salad, perfect for making lettuce wraps. With three housemade hot sauces, kimchi juice and bean paste to play with, if you’re into mixing, it’s sauce heaven.
At any Korean restaurant, beef bulgogi is my usual go-to, but at Dae Gee, the marinade on the spicy pork is unlike anything else on the menu, and everything else pales in comparison (something I’d never know if I didn’t get to try them all), giving it a spot in our list of 100 Favorite Dishes for the salty, spicy tang of the thinly slice meat. We stuck with just reordering that for fear of being charged a $2 to $10 fee for over-ordering. As long as you're honest about how hungry you actually are, the fee is simply a scare tactic; it’s nearly impossible to leave with a clean plate, and the kitchen is only trying to avoid food waste. We escaped without the fine after hiding some of our uneaten meat under the kimchi, but that’ll be our little secret.
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The Verdict: The unlimited BBQ is great deal at either location, but if you want the true Seoul-food experience, make the trek to Westminster.