This place is a true cultural experience, deep in the heart of an Asian community in South Philly. It may not be as easily accessed (travel or cuisine-wise) as China-Town, but it will provide a unique and valuable food-culture experience. It may be hidden away in a strip mall, but it should definitely be sought out by any adventurous foodie.
International Smokeless BBQ is an all-you-can-eat “Korean” buffet. Now, this definitely is NOT your typical suburban “Chinese” food American gorge-a-thon like we’re used to. At a Korean-style buffet, the food is brought to you in copious amounts on a large tray, and from there you will choose what bits look best to you. International Smokeless BBQ takes it a step further as it is a “BBQ” which means that each table is fitted with a gas “grill” in the center, and you cook your own food. If you are a white-y, you are pretty much expected to just order the dinner special, which will offer plenty of tasty items to enjoy. The tray comes to your table with a variety of veggies and marinated beef, poultry, pork, and seafood; along with some already-cooked appetizers like fish balls on a bamboo stick (like a Korean corn-dog) and super crispy fried spring rolls. Just lube up the grill pan with the provided 1/4 stick of butter and have at it. My personal favorite from the offerings was the calamari, but the beef was also tender and very well marinated. And when you run out, you can get more–it IS a buffet, of course.
The one thing about this place that was reminiscent of our favorite Chinese food buffets from the suburbs was the decor. I swear every Asian restaurant buys their chairs from the same catalog, and the faux brush-stroke paintings were in place as well. The ceiling is what set the place apart: It was painted to look like a clouded sky, and in the center a soffit shaped like a heart enclosed another soffit with a cloud-like profile, which then opened to reveal a night sky complete with LED stars. Cheesy? Yes–but absolutely perfect.
The Overall Experience
The best part about this place is how perfect it is for a group outing. A pile of food is just brought to you on a tray, and you can sit around cooking and eating–which is actually really fun. There is no pressure, no decisions to make, and everyone is bound to find something they will like.
The price is 18.99 per person. For unlimited protein as well as some tasty side dishes and the interesting experience, I would say it’s worth it.
Drinks: N/A (we were just brought water and were not offered anything else, although there was a “bar” in one corner of the place)
Overall Experience: 3/5 (but it gets lots of points for being unique)
Will We Visit Again: Maybe. It’s hard to not fall in love with the unique-ness of this place, but we probably won’t venture back unless it is to show it to our friends.