Food tripping in South Korea where food is mostly tasty and spicy is a joyous dining experience. Whether it’s a formal restaurant, a casual one, or just in the streets, the visceral thrill of trying out Korean food right at the heart of Seoul is downright enjoyable. With the many places we explored, we found out that there’s much more to Korean cuisine than kimchi and bulgogi. Next time you’re going to Korea, here are some of our restaurant and food suggestions for you to consider. 🙂
Top 10 Korean Restaurants and Cafes We Tried in Seoul, South Korea
1. VIPS Barbecue at Incheon International Airport
We’re not fans of ordering packed food in the airplane. Hence, upon arrival at the Incheon International Airport, hunger struck intensely. There are plenty of food joints in the airport, but VIPS BBQ & Salad was closest to the arrival hall and the menu looked most attractive. VIPS Barbecue appealed as a hole-in-the-wall restaurant but it’s a gem. We ordered Seoul Rice—a mixture of rice, eggs, vegetables, meat, and seaweeds. Taste was a combination of sweet, savory and a little spicy.
2. Han’s Deli in Myeongdong
After about two hours of travel from the airport to our hotel in Myeongdong, we hunted down food again and discovered Han’s Deli (한스델리) in Jongno-gu. Han’s Deli is known as the “most celebrated deli” in Korea. Its first humble steps date back to 2004. The menu is Western with an Asian-Korean twist, lots of pasta, pizza, salads, tonkatsu stuffed with cheese and sweet potato. Portions are large and are good for sharing. Prices are reasonable by Korean standards.
3. Gogungddurak Museum Shop and Cafe
On the next day, we looked forward to watch the epic Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony in the Gyeongbokgung Palace only to find out that it was cancelled that day because of the rain. What’s more sad was that we left the hotel early in the morning without having breakfast. Gogungddurak Museum Shop and Cafe was recommended by one of the guardsmen of the palace and we were relieved when it’s just a few steps away. This cafe is a must-try because food and drinks are made and served according to the Royal Recipe! We tried the Buckwheat Crepe and Goldongban (Bibimbap) and drank jeho-tang, one of the drinks that the emperor gives to retainers in the fifth day of the fifth month.
4. Yoogane in Myeongdong
When in Yoogane, there’s no better food to order than Chicken Galbi with Mozzarella Cheese. Tender chicken meat marinated in spicy sauce and rice were prepared and cooked onto the huge pan on our table right in front of our eyes. It’s hard to go wrong with fried rice, seaweed, and cheese. We absolutely loved this power combo dish! I hope we’ll also have Yoogane again in Manila (it closed some months back). The branch closest to Myeongdong Station is open from 10:00 am to 1:00 am. The branch furthest from Myeongdong Station is open from 10:45 am to 12:00 am.
5. Asian Family Restaurant Dongmoon in Nami Island
Located in BAPLEX, center plaza of Nami Island, Asian Family Restaurant Dongmoon is a halal certified restaurant which serves more than 30 varieties of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean, and Vietnamese food, using only the freshest ingredients every day. We ate Noodles with Black Soybean Sauce and Bulgogi with Rice. When it’s cold outside and every food you can think of seems too heavy or rich, these marvelous bowls of comfort are your safest bet. Both were good enough to satisfy our palate. My sister was happy to finally taste authentic black noodles she usually sees in Korean television series. 🙂
6. Shao Long (少龍) Chinese Pub in Myeongdong
There’s a lot of delicious gimbap rolls and bibimbap restaurants to go to in Myeongdong, but the lines are long, the tables are full, and the diners are often drunk and loud. There’s no better place to feed us on a cold and late night out for dinner but Shao Long (少龍) Chinese Pub, which was only three stores away from our hotel.
While ambiance and interior design aren’t much of a looker, food deserved a thumbs up. The Spicy Fried Rice and Gimbap were good, not greasy, and did not leave us feeling heavy afterwards. Prices, as you can see on the menu below, will not put your wallet in danger. It’s also worth to note that there was only one staff who welcomed us in, the same staff who took our orders, cooked the food, served it and handed us the bill. Neat!
7. Korean Food Court inside Folk Museum, Lotte World
Lotte World has a wide variety of dining choices but we opted to have lunch in one of the restaurants in the Korean Folk Museum for a more traditional Korean fare. This food court in the museum looked like Singapore’s Food Republic. We had Beef Rib Stew, Korean-style Raw Beef Mixed Rice, and Octopus Rice. At first we felt a little squeamish about the thought of eating octopus. But guess what? Out of the three, we loved it the most. The octopus’ texture fell somewhere between soft and chewy. The raw beef, on the other hand, beckoned an interesting riff on the usual bulgogi rice. It was blissfully meaty with an amazing depth of flavor.
8. Paris Croissant Cafe in Palace Station
Near the palaces, the all-day Paris Croissant Cafe in Palace Station revolves around the fresh, artisan breads and pastries that demand attention. Especially if you love bread, picking a favorite anything from this cafe is like picking a favorite child: it’s impossible. The buttery and flaky pineapple pastry was beyond good. The sausage with curry filling was also a hit. These are just what you need to start (or end) a day. 🙂 Paris Croissant also has a branch in Incheong International Airport.
9. San Jin Grill Restaurant in Myeongdong
Food tripping in Seoul won’t be complete without Samgyeopsal. We’re lucky that Korean restaurants specializing in grilled pork belly BBQ are literally beside and across our hotel. 😀 We went to San Jin Grill Restaurant in Myeongdong for dinner to celebrate our friend’s birthday. Our meal consisted of thick and fatty slices of pork belly meat that’s seasoned well. Accompaniments consumed included lettuce, sliced raw garlic, onions, and aged kimchi. The thin slices of marinated pork were perfectly tender with unique and bold spiciness. We couldn’t get enough! 🙂
10. Four Seasons 100% Milk Snowflake House
After a feast day of epic proportions, don’t forget to try Korean desserts. We capped off our last night in Myeongdong with Injeolmi Bingsu, the best-selling choice of the house. When faced with a sinful treat like this, solo dining can be a pain. The Injeolmi Bingsu is topped with almond slices, pumpkin seeds, rice cakes, soybean powder, and a great big pile of shaved ice. What’s intriguing was that when the ice started melting, the Injeolmi powder turned chewy. The condensed milk furthermore made each spoonful luxuriously smooth and tasty. Patbingsu is a cool dessert that’s substantial without being too rich. With all its different components, it won’t bore your taste buds for sure. 😉
With an empty stomach and strong resolve, you can fill up on must-eat Korean food in Seoul where food prices don’t have to blow your budget. Take your friends along on a culinary adventure, and depending how much you devour, you can get away with spending less than $30 a head all day. Home-style Korean options shine the brightest for my liking, but ultimately, whether you’re in the mood for barbecue, a vat of kimchi soup, or even a bibimbap-esque salad, there are certainly restaurants in almost every corner that can efficiently and happily satisfy your Korean food craving.