JR’s Southern Style BBQ in Itaewon Revisited… What the Hell Happened?

Sigh… There is nothing worse than having a great culinary experience and then recommending it to a friend, only to have it blow up in your face. Last night (Saturday October 12th, 2013), was my friend’s 32nd birthday party (Happy birthday JP!) and during the week at work, I kept recommending them to head to JR’s. My first review was glowing, and honestly, my wife and I did have an excellent experience. However, looking back and reflecting on my review, I’ve come to the conclusion that we were easy guests. For instance, beside my wife and two other colleagues, we were the only patrons in the restaurant. They had our food out to us in about 20 minutes. But Saturday night was a different story.

First signs of trouble: I got there late to meet my friends. They had been there for about fifteen minutes. The first thing I noticed was that no one had drinks, not even a glass of water. I asked them if they had drinks, and they said that they received the menus and nothing more. A quick glance around the restaurant indicated that not many people had drinks or their food. Tables were barren, people looked to be more and more impatient. There was a large party of people beside us who had their drinks, but no food. Finally, the waiter comes over and takes our orders. I had just eaten so I wasn’t hungry. The order was five double orders of ribs, and one pulled pork sandwich.

Tick.. tick… tick…: Great conversations with friends, but time is ticking and we are getting hungry. Twenty minutes pass and we get our water and beers. Tick tick tick. We ask our server where our food was. It was the same bullshit answer servers are preprogrammed to say “Sorry, it will be out in a minute.” followed by, “What did you get?” I’m not feeling too confident right now about my recommendation and the looks of distain are building on the faces of my compadres.


This is what BBQ looks like in North Korea.

It’s now about 8:45pm. Another friend arrives late to the party and is hungry. He tells a story about another JR establishment, JR Pub, which he had problems with. Apparently last year on Thanksgiving they ran out of turkey and in his hunger rage, he went to the kitchen and asked for turkey. However, there was no turkey in the kitchen and everyone went home pissed off. He agrees to give this place a try. He calls our waitress over and orders a BBQ pulled beef sandwich. The server informs him that the kitchen is closed. His exact words, “What? Who closes a kitchen at 8:45 on a Saturday night?” The server then says that they are not closed, but that they are really backed up and they just don’t want to serve food anymore.

Well.. fuck me right? This is a restaurant right? I can understand if we rolled into the place at 11pm. I get it. Kitchens close. But at 8:45pm on a Saturday night? Come on JR! You know it’s going to be busy, get the staff in there to help you the fuck out! My friend and the server go back and forth for a bit, finally she says that he can order food but it might be a wait.

9:15pm the food finally arrives: Well, finally the food comes. The pulled pork came first for X, followed by the ribs about 10 minutes later. What an underwhelming display of the culinary arts. First, the pulled pork sandwich looked like wet dog food sandwiched between two buns. X said the taste was adequate, but it was sloppy and runny. Next the ribs. First, a big fuck you to the server. This guy, who looked like Keanu Reeves’ bastard half-Korean son tries to tell us that this tiny portion of ribs was a double order. My ass. They looked more like the half-order of ribs my wife and I ordered when we went a couple of weeks ago. Second, they were dripping in BBQ sauce. Now the founder Dan prided himself on informing us that these were dry rub ribs and that ribs with sauce were compensating for flavor (Kind of a hipster about ribs) so why were they dripping in wet BBQ sauce? Wasn’t the dry rub suppose to have all the flavor it needs? On top of that, there was no chicken. We asked Keanu Kim about the chicken. He tell us that the order doesn’t come with chicken. “Bullshit!” JP cries and asks for a menu. We get the menu back and low and behold, the order also includes chicken!


Please look at menu item 2: PORK SPARE RIBS n CHICKEN… CHICKEN

Now JP is pissed and when he gets pissed there is no way he’s going to eat the food or pay for it. CY’s beef sandwich comes out and the fries are stone cold. He asks for it be heated up again. They go and heat it up and it comes back 20 minutes later. We ask for a manager. Time ticks by. We hail down Keanu and ask again for a manager. He pompously sneers in our direction and rolls his eyes. He goes and gets a manager. The manager and founder Dan comes out to our table. We calmly explain the situation and our frustration about waiting for 90 minutes for some pretty mediocre food. He explains that they got slammed and that it was his fault they didn’t give us chicken because they ran out. Why are you telling us now? Isn’t that the server’s job to inform the customer when they are out of food? Dan is being very polite, considering we are giving him some honest but harsh feedback. Finally, he comps our meals and we head out.

Jesus…. what an ordeal. I took some solace knowing we weren’t the only ones who weren’t getting their food. The table next to us had at least 10 people and didn’t receive any of their food and they had a baby. They eventually got up and left. Three guys behind us just had drinks, but no food and they got up and left. JR, you need to get your shit together. I know unexpected things can happen. I worked in the restaurant business and I can’t tell you how many times we had bus loads of people suddenly show up at once, but the difference is that my boss always had enough staff on hand to help him with those unexpected surprises. You have to do your best to prepare for Saturday night, especially if you are a new restaurant in the area. People are going to want to try your food and you want this to be their first impression? Brutal.

The good: The founder Dan did his best to remedy the situation. He comped our meals, although we had eaten some of it and for that, it was a good PR move. It was literally their saving grace that night. Dan also showed some empathy and listened to our concerns patiently. Thanks Dan!

The bad: Cold fries, small portions, underwhelming flavor… the food was not great that night. I’m hoping it was only a bad day because I desperately want that place to succeed especially after my first experience.

The ugly: I can accept bad food. I can accept restaurants get busy and food taking a while to get to our table. What I can’t accept is an uninformed, pompous fucking jackass of a waiter who has no idea what he is talking about. Also, when you make a fucking mistake, own the fuck up to it! Don’t walk away and refuse to acknowledge your mistake. We all make mistakes. I sure the hell do. But guess what? I own up to it and I learn from it. Keanu I hope Agent Smith sticks a fucking fork in your eye you arrogant momo. Troy Lee Armado (Owner)?? If you are reading this, you might want to have a talk with your server. That was some bullshit, and until he is no longer working there, I won’t be back, nor can I recommend your restaurant.


  1. Yikes, I’m sorry to hear about this. But thanks for posting. I can’t believe the supposedly same dining experience can be so different. Where’s “Undercover Boss” when you need them! The problem here seems both systemic and individual…

    1. It sucks. It really does. I have high hopes for this place, but there is no way I can go back right now.

  2. this is enraging. i get super upset just by reading it.

    1. Honestly, it was embarrassing. The food’s not cheap either.

  3. God….. i wanted to try that place, I might avoid it now. That contrasts a lot with my saturday
    I went for dinner to zion boat (chicken) in hongdae (my favorite place) and the kitchen was busy too as one guy was missing. After 20~30 minutes the waitress came with a free dish of spicy chips to apologised for the delay (a 11 000 dish and we had ordered only for 18 000 of food) even before we realised the food was late and our chicken came 10 minutes after. That’s real PR 😉

    1. Absolutely! I understand it gets busy, but damn, 30 minutes for water? Are you kidding me? Glad you had a good experience! I’ll be sure to try out Zion Boat when I’m in the neighborhood! 🙂

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