Where to eat in Seoul
Finding food in Seoul isn't hard. Restaurants and BBQ joints are everywhere. Finding really good food, on the other hand, is a lot harder. Some expats told me to opt for the most shabby places for the best food but the ones I visited were more a miss than a hit. The same applies to most of my spontaneous eats, which were mediocre and at worst really sucky. It seems like you do have to know where to go for the best food, so I consulted my Korean friends whose taste I trust, and they took me to places I'd never be able to unearth myself (thank you Seayoun and Juyeon). Shamelessly, I must admit that I find Korean food in Los Angeles better, which is the case for Vietnamese food too according to other Vietnamese people, and the locals seem to agree. However, here is a breakdown of some of our best eats in Seoul.
338-10 Mangwon 1(il)-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tucked away on a side street somewhere in Hapjeong, we stumbled across this place while we were looking for some night food in the area. It looked a lot more promising from the outside than other nearby restaurants and was packed with locals, so we decided to check it out. This tiny restaurant offers everything from noodles to fried fish but we wanted to try their delicious take on bo-ssam (보쌈), which is a classic Korean boiled pork belly dish wrapped in lettuce. Just try to find the restaurant on Instagram and show them pictures of what you'd like to order, or discretely point at other tables. There's no English menu available, but if you're lucky someone might be able to translate for you.
파이어벨 (Firebell Burger)
13 Seolleung-ro 72-gil, Daechi 4(sa)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Best burger in Seoul. And one of the best burgers I've ever had. Get the Rookie and the Mac 'n Cheese burgers. (More about Firebell in a separate post soon)
Gwangjang Market 광장시장
88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa), Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Gwangjang Market is one of Korea's largest traditional street markets. It's probably one of the more touristy places to be but for a good reason. Try as much street food as you can.
B1F Yeyoung Bldg. 532-9, Sinsa-dong, Seoul, South Korea
A trip to Seoul is not complete without Korean BBQ. Our friend Juyeon brought us to the best BBQ restaurant in Seoul and indeed it's the best one we went too. They are serving hanwoo beef – Korea's equivalent to Japanese wagyu. Get the melt-in-your-mouth aged striploin and finish with an order or two of the most delicious beef brisket rice. They also charge no corkage fee, so you can bring your own wine. You won't end up smelling like BBQ after eating as the ventilation does its job very well.
50 Jong-ro 1-gil, Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa), Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Boasting nearly 80 years of history, Juyeon took us to this true Seoulite restaurant located in the basement of the The-K Twin Towers at Anguk station. It's one of her family's favorite go-to places in Seoul for refined authentic Korean comfort food. There are several branches of Hanilkwan in Seoul but this Jongno branch is the original one that opened its doors in 1939. The food is based on royal court cuisine and has a beautiful traditional presentation to it. The dishes don't contain any traces of MSG, yet they are tasty and so hearty. Try the Yukgaejang (육개장), which is a spicy shredded beef soup, and the traditional short rib soup called Galbi-tang (갈비탕). English menu is available.
44 Insadong-gil, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Juyeon recommended this place for traditional dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥), which is mixed rice served in a flaming hot earthenware bowl. The trick is to mix it up as soon as the bowl hits the table. The restaurant is located in the basement of the Ssamziegil mall in Insadong.
똥빵 – Poop bread at Ssamziegil in Insadong
Just a short walk from Hanilkwan and Gogung, you can find the famous poop bread outside the mall. Truth be told, it's nothing special other than looking like that cute poop emoji. Tastes exactly like the traditional bungeo-ppang (붕어빵), which is a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with dollop of red bean filling.
58 Eoulmadang-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Located in Hongdae, Sobok stands out as a different dessert and ice cream parlor that offers healthier options based on natural Korean ingredients such as brown rice, pumpkin purée, and persimmon fruit. They even use biodegradable paper cups for a guilt-free experience. We wanted to try everything on the menu but ended up ordering the classic Sobok ice cream, Sobok snowflake ice cream, and Injeolmi ice balls that are shaved ice balls stuffed with sweet rice cake and rolled in soybean powder. My favorites are the ice balls and soft serve topped with dried persimmon, pumpkin, rice cakes, and honey. The nutty brown rice flavor is very strong and may be not for everyone, though it's unique and worth a try. Sometimes they also offer other flavors like matcha and strawberry.
Saving the best for the last! Get the organic soy milk soft serve. I swear, it's the best dairy-free soft serve I've ever had. Wait, I mean it's the best soft serve I've ever had. I can't believe it's so good, rich, and full of flavor. I had two in a row. I normally don't like this kind of ice cream cone as they tend to taste like paper or plastic but this Baekmidang one is truly an exception. The cone is so good. They have five locations in Seoul for your convenience, as you'll probably go back for another ice cream.