Seoul: Where to Eat
I am happily back after a long hiatus. My summer was flooded with major projects for my final semester in grad school and then I hopped on a 15+ hour flight to Korea. Once I got back, I decided... I wanted to go again so I did. For context, I actually went with my boyfriend the first time and then took my mom the second time. She was also enticed after seeing all the photos (can't blame her).
Anyway, I really wanted to share my experiences in case you were thinking about going to Seoul for your next vacation. So I'll be talking about restaurants, activities, transportation, and other tips that might be helpful as you plan where to go :)
WARNING: This is going to be an extremely long post. The reason? It took me a long time to research during both trips and finding addresses and directions isn't always easy. You don't want to go places where the food is bad and I had regrets after my first trip for not doing the proper research in the first place. But I also want to say that over-planning can take the fun out of making mistakes in a foreign country. Sometimes, that's what adds to the sense of adventure! So use my suggestions as you see fit.
[I will continue this in another few posts as it turned out to be longer than expected, merp.]
I love food. Who doesn't? In Seoul, I discovered the appeal of street food. In America, you can buy hot dogs, Italian sausages, and peanuts on the street. In some places, you can even buy tacos and cookies from food trucks. Street food in Korea is on a whole other level.
My favorite foods were tteokbokki or spicy rice cakes, banana nutella crepes, fried dumplings or mandu, baked cheese with rice cake, and the potato tornado (basically one fried potato spiral on a stick). There are tons of other options that are worth trying though, like fish cake on a stick or odeng, rice rolls or kimbap, fried noodles, steak, and the list goes on. I recommend trying the fish cake because they'll usually give you the hot broth that it's simmered in. So yummy and refreshing, especially when it's cold outside.
If you're interested in trying street food, I recommend visiting Myeongdong at night, when it's really hopping. There's also Namdaemun Market, which has a more traditional vibe. Of course, there are plenty of other markets in Seoul but these two are the ones I liked the most!
For restaurants, it really depends what kind of food you want and what area you’re in. I stayed in the Sindang area the first time and then in Chungmuro the second time. We tended to gravitate toward restaurants near our ‘home’ since it was most convenient. However, we did eat near places that we visited on certain days of our trip, especially restaurants that were well known for specific dishes. Below, you’ll find a list and a short review/summary of each restaurant that I enjoyed. [Not in any particular order.]
Please don't judge me for not eating all Korean food while I'm in Korea! Some of the international foods were actually super yummy so give them a try if you want a quick break from the traditional Korean cuisine during your trip.
I personally really like the cinnamon and the chocolate filled one. Drooool.
[Sorry, no picture of this!]
This is a fried chicken/burger place in Myeongdong. It’s kind of sandwiched next to a Baskin Robbins, I believe. It’s also not on the ground floor so you’ll have to take an elevator to get upstairs. The good part about this is that they do takeout if you ever feel like you want to eat at home, which is what my mom and I did. Mom's Touch is a good alternative if you want fast food but don't want to settle on McDonald's or Burger King.
Address: 52-18 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
[No pic, oops!]
As the name suggests, this restaurant specializes in congee. It’s a little pricey but not really THAT pricey. It is located in Myeongdong, in the same building as The Stay Hotel. It's right near Hazzy’s (clothing store) and Gogung (popular for bibimbap), you should see it. They have a menu with English and takeout is also an option! I went to get some to bring home for dinner, and the guy offered me some tea while I waited. Super nice.
Address: 31, Myeongdong 8ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
This is an ice cream shop in the Garosu-gil area, SINSA STATION. They have a bunch of unique options, like ice cream with cotton candy on top! Remicone offers a mix of pre-made combos but you can also mix and match your own toppings. It's a little hard to find but you'll walk down an alley and see a sign on the side of a building. Keep walking straight until you're about to turn left and it's right at the corner.
Address: 547-12 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
I never tried seolnongtang or seollongtang before coming to this restaurant but was pleasantly surprised. Do not be put off by the milkiness of the broth! It's especially delicious on a frigid day (or if you're hungover). They have different variations of this. I’ve only tried the rice cake one and the regular one. Both were yummy but I did like the plain one better. The soup comes with rice. You also get to cut your own kimchi! Tip! Be sure to add your own salt and pepper to taste.
I believe it's a chain restaurant. There's one in Insadong but we tried the Myeongdong one. Some or all (not sure) of the staff also speak Mandarin.
Address: 56-1 Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Sorry guys, I can’t remember the name of this! It was in Chinese characters. But if you’re in Myeongdong, walk down the street until you see Shinsegae. It's on the same street as the LINE Friends store and SPAO (I think). There should be a durian café across the street from this restaurant. It’s right at the corner, with food displays outside. The buns were AMAZING. Definitely recommend if you’re in the mood for decently authentic Chinese food.
Okay, this one is a bit out of the way, unless you plan on visiting the Bukhansan mountain or national park. But it was one of my favorite places to eat the first time I went to Korea. Their menu is in Korean but they have some pictures outside. I recommend taking a picture of what you want to eat on your phone and showing it to the lady. As far as I know, it’s run by one lady (super nice). The food is simple and healthy but so yummy. Also, really cheap. Basically is akin to a home cooked meal. When I went, I had rice mixed with green veggies in a pot, some soup on the side, and other side dishes. Dirt cheap (no more than $4-5 USD).
No address but get off at MANGWOLSA STATION. Walk toward direction of the park. You should pass by this little plaza (?). It's one of the restaurants in there.
I had somewhat good experiences here but the food makes it worth mentioning. Their pasta and pizza taste so scrumptious, especially if you have cravings for Italian! The service can be a little slow though so be careful. I wouldn’t come here if you are dying of hunger but if you want somewhere to just relax and you don’t mind waiting, then give this a try. They bring out small pieces of bread for you to eat while you wait. There are also combo sets if you feel like getting pasta AND pizza!
Prices are not too bad but not the cheapest either. Bathroom is right near the front entrance. The restaurant itself is on the second floor, right next to Han's Deli in Myeongdong.
Address: 26-3, Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Some general things you should know about eating in Korea include the fact that tipping is pretty much nonexistent and most of the time, you pay the bill at the counter after you eat. They will usually bring the check either right after you order or near the end when you’re almost done eating. You bring the check up to the counter to pay; don’t expect someone to come get it for you! Most of the places I listed accept credit card, too.