Monday, October 18, 2010

Letters to Seoul Eats: I found a Great Burger in Seoul at Burger Tex

This is not a burger from Burger Tex, but from Rookies in Seoul

When I get an impassioned letter from a reader, I have to take notice. Here is a letter from 金在龍 about a burger joint in Sinchon called Burger Tex. I hope the place hasn't closed yet.



Hello There.

I'm a New Yorker here in Seoul.  And I've found a burger shop here I think you should know about.

I've spent a few years working with some of the top chefs in NYC.  over 6 years of living in seoul, and after searching high and low for the 'best burger' myself, i came across your top 10 list.

If you've ever been to Corner Bistro in the West Village in NY, that's pretty much what i'd consider a 'perfect' burger.  no surprises, just a sizable portion of perfectly grilled beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and whatever condiments i feel in the mood for. no bullshit.

As in NY, my experience in Seoul, is that everyone has their own take on what a 'good' burger is. (Even Daniel Boulud).  People adding their 'twist' to a food i seek out for its inherent simple good taste. (i don't need gold flecks or truffle oil in my kimchi jigae, thank you very much).

That 'basic' burger: good beef, good bun, fresh lettuce, tomato, onion... is near impossible to find here.

So, I too succumbed to the notion that every place's version-of-a-burger might be enjoyed, even if only taken at face value, without the expectation of eating what I consider A Good Basic Burger. 

Until yesterday. 

I found (actually stumbled across) what may be the best Burger in Seoul.
I was in Shinchon craving a burger and was actually gonna just go to Burger King (I never touch it in the US, but have come to appreciate the very simple attribute of 'consistency' between 'expectation' and 'delivery'; with reasonable price and low expectation/accurate delivery of service (regardless of level, isn't that what 'good service' is?).  

Don't know if you know where Taco Chois is, but walking on that street (one which I walk down often), i suddenly sighted a tiny burger joint tucked in a building across the way; sign reading: Burger Tex.

Short of the long: Owner is a Korean Ajuma.  Learned how to make burgers in Texas.  Works alone. Seats about 10. Kitchen is bigger than the seating area.  Bakes her own buns there in the shop.  Grills up fresh beef (no crazy 'seasonings' added).  Adds basic toppings of Lettuce, Tomato, Onion.  Add cheese or bacon or mushrooms if you want.

Fresh, fast, reasonable price (more expensive than BK or McD's, but 'bout half the price of all the places on your top 10 list (places where I frequent for a burger... since succumbing to the notion (bullshit) that a 'decent burger is gonna command premium price in seoul').

Location is prime, but not easily spotted on the busy street, so after 6 months of paying high Shinchon rent, with not enough customers, she's throwing in the towel on that location and is actually closing shop NEXT WEEK.

This is a crime.

I spoke with her and she says she hasn't thrown in the towel completely.  She wants to take a few months off and is looking into other locations: Kangnam/Hongdae are too expensive, but maybe Itaewon.

I'm writing to you now, as I get a sense if you went there and shared the experience I had, you'd realize what a great service this woman could continue to provide to anyone looking for a good burger (at reasonable price) in Seoul.  So I kindly ask that you take a moment to check it out.

I only found out that she's closing that shop next sunday/monday, after I told her how psyched I was to find it and that I'd come often.  It was then she filled me in on the business woes and what she's contemplating.

I told her I'd contact you, since you have a reader-base of burger hunters, and that you might be able to provide some advice as to her next move.  I behooved her to not quit with this location closing and reopen elsewhere.

Anyway, the place is called Burger Tex. ph: 02-313-2008.  In Shinchon.  Owners name is Yi Kyung Hee. Ph: 010-2272-0871.

From one burger lover to another:  Check it out.  Tell her she needs to keep it goin'.  And we get real burgers, at a real price.