The smoke swallows us. It’s enticing – thick, heavy, spiced. Grabbing Korean BBQ has always been one of my favorite things to do in Carrollton but for some reason, today feels different.
Until recently, I never saw Carrollton as a tourist destination. A tight-knit suburb associated with after-hours H-Mart shopping, sporadic Daiso trips, and boba tea fixes, Carrollton (with the influx of extremely Instagrammable Korean-origin chains) has only recently started to grow into popularity.
And I’m all aboard the hype train.
Carrollton’s one of my favorite suburbs in Texas. It’s a place I’ve grown to love over the past four years. Y’all, this town is always alive. Most Texas suburbs close their eyes around 8 PM, but Carrollton barely bats an eye by midnight.
AM-open gaming cafes. Karaoke bars. Late-night coffee shops. Carrollton is a constant hotpot of activity (why don’t I live here again?).
Today, we’ll be traveling roughly 20 miles north of Dallas to explore one of America’s largest Koreatowns.
So put on your tourist lens and bring a Texas-sized appetite. Eighty percent of these spots are bucket list eateries (because Carrollton knows food).
Grab Some AYCE Korean BBQ
Affordable AYCE (all you can eat) restaurants are a tough find in Texas, but Yoon’s settles on a weekend price that feels Goldilock’s right. If this is your first Korean BBQ experience, head to Gen’s or Breakers (common date night spots that tread the zone of fine-dining) instead.
Yoon’s, a local joint, on the other hand, is heavy on the clatter and heat. And unlike Gen’s, it’s not service-focused. But that doesn’t mean the staff isn’t friendly. The attention here is simply on quick meat at good prices.
You can order three types of meat at a time at Yoon’s. Ask for teeny-tiny (those are actually the words I use) portions or you’ll end up with ridiculously large plates. Korean BBQ joints do charge extra if you leave more than a quarter of the meat. It’s a very eat-up or pay-up mentality so I highly recommend starting small. Get a feel for the plate size and how much you can eat before going ham (or in my case, galbi – seriously though, the galbi here is so good).
A New York-based franchise, Mango Mango is any mango lover’s (*raises hand*) dream come true. It’s a dessert house, a local hangout, a study spot, and everything in between.
With pastel pillows, textured walls, and lit-up window boxes, Mango Mango is washed in springtime tones. And this particular location, warm-hued and picnic styled, is cozier (and cuter) than most others.
While the dessert, portioned for two, is on the pricier side, everything is made fresh and in-house (bonus points for aesthetic perfection).
Quick note: I’m partial to the crepe cakes (read: I would eat these all day if I could) and I usually skip the boba tea and ice cream here because there are so many other competitive spots in the area.
Cocohodo Dessert Cafe
Soft serve taiyaki is one of my favorite Japanese street foods. Taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake (think waffle meets sweet pancake), is a hard find outside of California and New York, but Cocohodo is all the buzz in Carrollton.
Cocohodo’s menu is a mix of classic and modern, offering options like Nutella (which I tried and loved) in conjunction with old-school Japanese fillings like red bean paste (perfection). Packed with ice-cream (go for the matcha), soft-serve filled taiyaki is a messy eat but worth the effort (and dozens of napkins).
If you love sweet treats, here are some of my other favorite stops in Carrollton:
- Wicked Snow: Shaved ice infused with witchy undertones. It’s magic.
- Sweet Lab: Frankenstein-meets-Instagram desserts that are monstrously sweet.
- 7 Degrees Ice Cream Rolls: Rolled ice done right. On Wednesdays, order pink (*wink*).
AW Perry Homestead
At the neck of Gravley Park in Carrollton lies AW Perry Homestead. Set on lush, flat land shaded by tall trees, AW Perry Homestead is a picture-perfect backdrop.
The museum, a restored home from the early 1900s, is open limited hours but well worth a visit. It’s a rustic, historic landmark – a step back in time in the ever-evolving city of Carrollton.
Travel Tip: The museum also serves as a venue for local events. You can check the schedule here.
Tom N Toms
The Tom N Toms in Carrollton is nothing like South Korea’s original 24-hour coffeehouse chain. And while that may be a common gripe amongst visitors, I secretly love it.
You see, the building – two floors, suavely lit, energetic – used to house Cafe Brown Sugar, a popular local hangout known for its dessert waffles. For me, Cafe Brown Sugar holds memories of late-night University study sessions and impromptu get-togethers with friends. It’s a place I went to time and time again. It’s a place that has always felt like home.
So when I heard Cafe Brown Sugar was closing down, my heart cried more than a little.
But Tom N Toms didn’t change a thing. The decor, the menu, the lighting – everything is the same as it was.
Sure, they added a bit of branding here and there and brought in the franchise’s iconic bread, but the essence of the place is very Brown Sugar.
And they still serve the best dessert waffles in town. Enough said.
Did you enjoy this post on things to do in Carrollton, Texas? Have you ever visited Carrollton? Let me know in the comments below what your favorite things to do in Carrollton are?