A new all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant is now open in College Park on Route 1.
MeatUp Korean Barbeque, located in the same building as the former Kangnam Barbeque, hopes its rebrand and new menu selections will bring high-quality Asian cuisine to the College Park area.
Lawrence Chen, the owner and a chef at MeatUp, purchased the restaurant last spring when the owner of Kangnam Barbeque retired. Up until Sept. 1, Chen operated the business under its old name.
The business is currently in the soft opening phase as they perform final renovations and adjustments for their hard opening in January.
The restaurant is also partnering with renowned Chinese chef Peter Chang, who will open a ghost kitchen — a space often shared by restaurant owners to prepare and sell food, but that lacks on-premises dining areas — in the building as part of its “hard” opening.
With the rebranding, Chen hopes to make the restaurant a nightlife destination in the city.
The renovations to the interior of the building are designed to make the restaurant sleeker, more modern and stylish, Chen said.
“The young generation likes something cool, pristine, something stylish,” Chen said. “Drinking and having a good type with alcohol is not enough. [MeatUp] is a place where people like to go and…the price point is cheap [and] affordable.”
The low prices and high-quality meats available set MeatUp apart, according to restaurant employee Dennis Lee.
“We put this price because we want customers to come in and just try it,” Lee said.
MeatUp’s menu includes stew bento and a ramen bar. The current weekday lunch menu is $19.99, while the weekend and dinner menu is $29.99 for all-you-can-eat barbecue.
Chen’s journey to open MeatUp has been a decade in the making.
Chen began learning about East Coast Asian cuisine in 2013, when his wife arrived in the Washington, D.C., area for work. He immediately noticed a lack of quality Asian food options once he joined her.
“Back in 2013, the food industry, especially for Asian type of food in this area, wasn’t really convenient and we didn’t have much choice,” Chen said.
After his wife encouraged him to fill this gap, he opened Momo’s Cafe in 2018, located near the George Washington University campus. The restaurant serves Taiwanese-inspired food and Japanese bento-style meals. He said he picked this style to give local students easy, healthy meals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chen said he started thinking of opening up a new type of restaurant. Because he is a big fan of barbecue,he jumped on the opportunity when Kangnam Barbeque went up for sale.
“Opportunities pop up,” Chen said. “We thought this might be a good chance for us.”
MeatUp’s head chef Sergio Adonaldo is returning from Kangnam Barbeque. Adonaldo has 16 years of restaurant experience in many different types of Asian cuisine.
Adonaldo emphasized the restaurant supplies very fresh meat and that the cooking-at-the-table aspect of the restaurant adds to its social atmosphere.
“I like how it is now. It’s more different now. It’s more fancy,” Adonaldo said.