Playground Restaurant and Karaoke Bar in Japantown


Playground is the type of place where you can go with no purpose and end up having a great night out. It may be in Japantown, but it is all Korean. By trade, it’s a Korean restaurant, bar, and karaoke lounge. By reputation, it’s whatever you want it to be. The fact that it’s three places in one makes it a destination for people with different agendas. Some come just to eat Korean food, some come to rent out a room and karaoke all night, others just come to booze.

I go there to booze. 

I have not eaten a single morsel of food from this place, and thankfully (for your sake) I have never picked up a mic and rocked out in one of the many karaoke rooms you can rent out. I come here for one thing, and that’s for the many varieties of flavored soju.

Soju is a Korean liquor distilled from rice, though like Vodka, can be made from grains, wheat, potatoes, or pretty much anything. It’s alcohol content is typically around 20%, but can be as high as 45%, depending on the variety. At Playground, they have many types of soju but most patrons will order bottles of the fruity, flavored kind.

As of this post, the flavors they offer are

  • Yogurt
  • Pineapple
  • Peach
  • Apple
  • Mango
  • Lychee
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Kiwi
  • Aloe

I have not tried all of them, but that’s a work in progress. The flavors I have tried were all very fruity and good. My personal favorite is yogurt, which seems weird at first but it has a nice tartness and just the right amount of sweetness to it. 

Yogurt flavor, all jokes aside

Yogurt flavor, all jokes aside

The drink goes down very easily, it tastes just like fruity soda. If you didn’t know there was alcohol in it, there would be no way to tell. Other than the fact that you pour it into a shot glass, of course.

This can be very dangerous. 20% alcohol does not sound like much, but it just makes you pound shot after shot after bottle after bottle. A small bottle is only $12, but don’t get it twisted. A “small” bottle can pour a lot of shots. They have an even larger bottle for $25, but I suggest ordering multiple $12 bottles and trying different flavors. Next thing you know, you’re asking Korean guys at the table next to you how to order a Korean beer, in Korean. 

$12 "small" bottle of pineapple soju

$12 "small" bottle of pineapple soju

Yes, there are real Koreans here, and lots of them. They play Korean music and show Korean movies and videos on the many flatscreens around the place. The waitstaff and bartenders are all very nice and helpful, and can help you choose the right flavor of soju, or anything else off the menu if food is your kind of thing. Overall, a fun place to gather with friends over a few bottles. Maybe one of these days I’ll update this post after eating something or performing my rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” to the detriment of my audience. Until then, here’s to soju! Kom bei!

1705 Buchanan St. (between Post St. and Sutter St.)
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 929-1471 

Also check out:
DaDa Bar and Art Gallery in SOMA 
B Restaurant and Bar in SOMA


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