Where To Eat in Korea

I know of some people who will say a 7-day vacation in Korea is too much and one would get sick of eating the same things over and over again. In my experience, however, 7 days is far too short to get a thorough experience of everything Korea has to offer in terms of food. There is simply so much more to Korean cuisine other than Korean BBQ and bulgogi that is so well-known all over the world. (Read my 7-day itinerary in Seoul here: 7-Days in Seoul, South Korea)

In no particular order,  here are some of my favorite restaurants from all over Seoul.

1. Myeongdong Kyoja in Myeongdong

Myedongdong Kyoja has only 5 items on their menu and has a Bib Gourmand award. We tried their kalguksu (noodles in chicken broth), bibimguksu spicy noodles (cold wheat noodles in spicy sauce), and mandu (Korean dumplings).

Other than the menu items, their kimchi was definitely remarkable and most definitely the best and most potent kimchi I’ve tried—very sour notes and very spicy. The flavor was so strong that the servers give just tiny amounts of kimchi to foreigners, while serving heaps more to locals. The owners are obviously aware that their potent kimchi might not be very friendly to your average foreigner’s taste buds. You can ask for more kimchi though. Just signal to the server that you want a refill of your kimchi bowl and they will generously oblige.

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2. Keukinwajip in Itaewon

Raw crabs was in my list of foods to try in Korea, and where better to try it than at this unassuming Itaewon joint with a 1 Michelin star to its name.  This was one of my favorite restaurants during our visit– fresh crabs so delicately sweet!

The place is like a house turned into an eating establishment and divided into small rooms. The hallways were a bit cramped, but the rooms itself were airy and not crowded since they don’t cramp up the rooms with as many tables as possible. There were just 2 low tables in our room, good for about 4-5 people.

I have read some negative reviews about the service here, but our visit was nothing short of lovely. Their lunch operations is only 3.5 hours, from 12 noon to 3:30 pm so lines can get pretty long. But we only waited for about 30 minutes, which was not at all bad. We were given enough time to read the menu before our orders were taken. And our servers were polite enough.

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3. Loqo Quan in Hongdae

This was a very popular joint in Hongdae. There was a line when we got there for dinner. But as with every other restaurant in Seoul, the line moved pretty fast so our wait wasn’t that long. Definitely, there was no shortage of space and service here– the place was big, with long common tables, and there were plenty of servers bustling about.

They grill their meats with kimchi– something I haven’t seen done at other BBQ places. Easily the best Korean BBQ I’ve had. The meats were cut thicker than your average pork BBQ, and were grilled on a plate that’s slightly slanted so the juices / fat flow down and empty onto a receptacle below the griller. Clever.

The staff didn’t speak English, but were nonetheless very helpful and attentive. Although they did not stand by our table as we grilled our food, they were quick to tell us if the meat was cooked already. The griller was a bit

There were a lot of young locals having dinner and drinks here. People watching was just as enjoyable as the food itself.

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4. Saebyukjib in Gangnam

This was my first encounter with Korea’s answer to Japanese wagyu, hanwoo. The meat was so fresh, I had no problem eating it raw– sashimi-style! In fact, this is probably the best way to eat hanwoo in order to fully appreciate it’s subtle sweetness. We also tried the hanwoo bibimbap and buckwheat cold noodles, which were both nothing short of wonderful.

One great thing about this place is that they are open ’til late. Which means that you can go here for late night grubs, or post-drinking snacks. One unfortunate thing is that they don’t allow takeouts. This is pretty understandable and common among restaurants that serve food that are best eaten immediately after being prepared.

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5. Jin OK Hwa Original Chicken in Dongdaenum

If a restaurant serves only 1 thing, they better serve it up and master the art of cooking that 1 thing. Jin OK Hwa has done this perfectly with its lone menu item– whole chicken in clear broth with ginger and spring onions, served hot pot-style in a huge metal pot. It sounds so simple, and it is, but this dish is so satisfying I will keep coming back here every time I visit Seoul.

As with every other restaurant, they had unlimited kimchi. I’m not sure if this practice is common in Korea, but they keep their kimchi in a huge and deep tub where customers can freely get refills to their hearts’ content.

This place is popular among locals and foreigners alike. There was a line when we got there at around dinner time, but it moved quickly enough. They have low tables where you sit on the floor on the second floor, and regular tables with chairs on the first floor.

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6. Gombawui in Gangnam

Another terrific Gangnam joint is this place which specializes in Hanwoo innards.  We tried tripe, intestines, and ox tongue. Everything was exquisite!

At first it was somewhat intimidating to come in here at first because of the quiet ambiance and their servers were a bit on the mature side and were very serious and proper. But we had no problems whatsoever and the servers turned out to be hospitable and kind.

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