The G20 Global Summit puts Seoul on the world stage. Now even though each country's delegates are all coming her for a specific purpose, there is one thing that unites them all: they all have to eat. Here is a list of of some of my recommendations for people if they would like to eat their way around Seoul.
Recommended Korean Restaurants in Seoul
This restaurant list has general directions and phone numbers because addresses are hard to find in Seoul. It is often best to ask people where the restaurant is (Rest-au-rant O-diseyo?), have a guide call the place, or call the place to help you. This is a common thing in Korea so don’t feel embarrassed.If you are taking a taxi call the place and point to this:
이 번호로 전화하고 여기로 가주세요.
(Ee bon-ho-ro chonhwa-hago yogi-ro kajuseyo.)
The hot regions for dining depend on the region, the history, and the economics of each area. To the Northwest of Seoul, you can find Hongdae, which has Korea’s most famous Art’s University. The food here ranges from the eclectic to rustic student fair. To the central north, you have the working class area of Jongno, where the food has remained unchanged for decades. Myeongdong, near central Seoul, is a well-known Japanese tourist hotspot. Itaewon, also near central Seoul is the foreigner section where you can find many international restaurants. Apgujeong, which is south of Itaewon, is the rich enclave where you’ll find many luxurious restaurants that are the playgrounds of the rich. Once you get below the river near Gangnam, the restaurants become very modern. You have a mix of western and Korean establishments.
Baru:Contemporary Buddhist vegetarian cuisine that pushes the envelope of what can be done with vegetables using Korean techniques. The food is mindful and satiating with presentations that are closer to art than a meal. In Insadong.http://www.baru.or.kr02.2031.2081 Reservations Recommended.
Congdu:Neo Korean Cuisine. Specializes in using tofu and beans to reinterpret Korean food to be visually and sensually appealing. In the Seoul History Museum. 02-722-7727.
Doorei:Traditional Korean restaurant serving traditional Korean cuisine in an antique 100 year old Hanok (Korean Traditional House). 8-7 Insa-dong Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea. www.edoore.co.kr02-732-2919.
Jang-o-Rang:Freshly grilled freshwater eel topped with slivers of ginger. The eel can be basted with either a soy barbecue sauce or red chili paste sauce or served plain with salt. In Hongdae: 02-333-1455
Jihwaja:Bok-Ryeo Han is the highest living authority on the Royal Court Cuisine Tradition. She was awarded the title of Korea’s Intangible Human Cultural Heritage #38, which means she is the only one who can certify court cuisine chefs and restaurants. By Anguk Station:Tel: 02.3673.1104,www.jihwajafood.co.kr
Jungsikdang: Korea's top young chef that has global ambitions. His cuisine uses contemporary techniques to modernize Korean favorites. In Apgujeong: 02-517-4654.http://jungshikdang.com
Kumsu Blowfish:Specializes in blowfish cooked in a variety of ways. You can have it sashimi, fried, or in soup. On the top floor of the building there are private dining rooms for full course blowfish meals.www.ksbog.com02-3448-5488.
Our House (uri jeep):Homestyle Korean food served in a converted Korean house. The chef is originally from Namdo and cooks in that fashion. In Hannandong: 02-379-1150. Reservations Recommended.
Poom:Nestled in on Namsan Mountain. Poom was established by a Royal Cuisine expert, a food stylist, an art curator and a businessman. The idea was to modernize luxury and tradition to meet the needs of today’s consumers. The chef creatively reinterprets Korean traditional favorites into new forms.www.poomseoul.com02-777-9007.
Nwijo:Buddhist inspired Korean full course. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-730-9301.
The Spice:After dropping out of seminary school, Chef Edward Kwon wandered until he found his niche in food. His travels took him to America where he worked 20-hour days. He was selected as a top young chef by the American Culinary Federation in 2003 and then went on to work at the 5 star “Burj Al Arab Hotel.” Edward Kwon is a tad controversial for people love him or hate him. By different accounts, he is very successful or floundering. He’s a maverick that is offering high-end cuisine at mid-range prices. Out Hanganjin Station (Subway Line 6) Exit 3. 02-749-2596
Star Chef:Former chef at the prestigious Shilla Hotel in Seoul, Ho-nam decided he wanted to open up a bistro in the business district of Daechi-dong- an area more known for wanton bars and clubs than fine dining restaurants. After he opened, he started to become very popular and couples, families, and foodies came to frequent his place. His food has touches of Chinese, Korean, and his own style. Maebang Station (Subway Line 3) Exit 4. Open from 4-12pm Closed Mondays. 02-52908248.
Uriga:Originally a candle artist and then a florist. She later learned cooking to combine her talents to prepare scrumptious wedding feasts for the rich and famous. Pierre Gagnaire has praised her beautiful, seasonal food. Located opposite Doosan Park. Wooriga. 02-3442-2288.
Woo Lae Oak:The original restaurant in Eujiro 4ga has been around since 1946. This upscale restaurant has many of Korea’s most legendary leaders and celebrities walk up the wide, flowing staircase to the private rooms upstairs. The meat is top notch and so is the revered beef soup. Near Euijiro 4-ga Exit 5.http://www.woolaeoak.com/02-2265-0151.
Yongsusan:Full Course, Royal Court Cuisine.www.yongsusan.co.kr02-743-5999. Reservations Recommended.
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Where the locals Eat:
Beautiful Barbecue House:Specializes in high quality beef and pork. Can be grilled plain or marinated in a special sauce. After your meal you get homemade frozen yogurt. A great place to take your own bottle of wine (very few places have corkage fees in Korea).www.hwagozip.co.krNear Samsung station (COEX) 02-3452-7895.
Dong-in-Dong:Spicy Braised Beef with lots of garlic. This dish is originally from the southern Korean city of Daegu. They also do pork pancakes and other fried delicacies. There is always a queue of people waiting. Dong Dong-ju rice wine is recommended. Near Sinsa Station Exit 7. 02-516-5765.
Ginko Tree (Unhaeng namu jeep):Specializes in stuffed whole roasted duck. The duck is stuffed with nuts, dates, rice, and herbs and then roasted in a clay post for 3 hours. Reservations 3 hours in advance needed. Near Hannamdong. 792-3851.
Jongro Barbecue:Pork Belly that is slowly roasted over hot coals until the fat renders. Served with salted cabbage and shrimp sauce. A local delicacy. Near Jongno 3-ga. 02-3675-9031.
Kamasot Sundubu:Homemade, unfermented tofu stew. They make excellent side dishes and their creamy tofu stew is highly regarded. Near Seoul National University of Education Station. 02-3477-8264.
Korea Ginseng Chicken Soup:Has black chicken: a special breed of chicken whose skin and meat and black, and ginseng soup. Near City Hall.http://www.koreasamkyetang.com/02-752-9367.
Namsan Kimchi Chiggae:If taxi drivers are regulars then the food must be traditional, filling, and flavorful. This very popular kimchi stew place is frequented by young and old, commoners and celebrities. Near Noksopyeong Station. 02-794-2458.
Pyeonyang Jeongga:Homemade North Korean Naengmyeon noodles and homemade dumplings. Near Seolleung Station across from Seolleung Park. 02-568-1577.
Train Track Kalbi:Korean Barbecue Restaurant famous for their cuts of beef and marinades.4-2 Chanjeon-dong, Mapo-ku, Seoul, Korea.http://home.moatv.com/kinggalbi/02-322-9543
RIB’s:Pork Ribs on the bone that are marinated in red pepper paste, black pepper, or soy sauce and grilled over a flame. A college student favorite. In Hongdae. 017-201-9227.
Tea Talk (Cha-ee-ya-gi):specializes in green tea rice with various leaves for wrapping. Served with barbecue. Restaurant is famous for their homemade barbecue paste (ssamjang). Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-735-8552.
Haehyun:specializes in Korean raw fish. Great full course with spicy soup afterwards. Near Guro Digital Palace Station. 02-850-7767.
Octopus Heaven (Nakji Chunguk):Specializes in live octopus and spicy octopus dishes. Near Jongno 3-ga. 02-763-5151.
Yi Chun Bok Cham-chi:All you can eat tuna buffet restaurant with entertaining chefs that will serve you cactus alcohol with tuna eyeball, if you are nice. Out Sookmyeong University Subway Station Exit 6 (Subway Line 4). 02-794-4558.
Snacks and Street Food
Eat, Rest, Pay, Go (Mok, Swee, Don, Na):A famous place for spicy Korean rice cake mixed with a variety of toppings such as dumplings, mussels, cheese. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-723-8089.
Reggae Chicken:Korean hippies decided to make herb dusted fried chicken and beer. In Hongdae’s art district.www.reggaechicken.net02-333-3438.
Sak:Best Gourmet Street food in the art district of Hongdae. Here you can get your fried squid and blood sausage smothered in spicy sauce and wash it down with a beer. Out Sangsu Station Subway Line 6 Exit 1.
Street Food Tents in Jongno 3-ga:Have your street food under a tent on the side of the road with a few drinks. Here you can get Chicken Feet, Live Octopus, and Pan-Seared Pregnant Smelt. Go out Jongno 3-ga Station Subway Line 3 Exit 4.
Tteokbokki Street:Located in Sindangdong, this area is famous for rice cake noodles in spicy sauce with a variety of different toppings. The original is Mabaongnim Halmoni Tteokbokki (Mabaongnim Grandmother Spicy Ricecake). Go out Sindang Station (Subway Line 2 or 6) Exit 8. 02-2232-8930.
Between:Seoul’s newest and very popular tapas lounge. Great atmosphere that draws the young, the hip, the affluent, and the beautiful. In Itaewon. 02-795-6164.
Bliss:Where all the young, beautiful people hangout to have light meals and drinks in Itaewon. 02-798-1125.
Chin Chin:Upscale rice wine (makgeolli) restaurant whose chef was trained overseas at CIA in America. Great tapas and even greater rice wine. A wide selection of rice wine and even rice wine sorbet. Hongdae. 02-334-1476.
Club Palm:Local Jazz Club with live shows from Wednesday-Sunday Night.www.clubpalm.co.kr02-336-9016.
H-Makgeolli:With almost 70 different varieties of Korean Rice Wine, this drinking hole is a favorite among the expat community. Out Noksapyeong Station (Subway Line 9) Exit 2. 070-8950-8362.
Pakga-ne’:Crispy Mung Bean Pancake Shop that offers a variety of pan-fried delicacies. Near Jongno 5-ga Station, Kwangjang Market. 02-2267-0614.
Su-jak:Popular drinking place for university students with excellent Korean food and alcohols. Near Sadang Station exit 5. 02-598-8279.
Café and Tea
Aa Design Museum:A furniture museum with a neo-industrial interior serves great coffees, cakes, and sandwiches. In Hongdae.http://www.aadesignmuseum.com/02-3143-7312.
Café de Coin:One of the best places for Korea’s popular dessert: Red Bean Shaved Ice. Many different variations such as coffee, green tea, berry. In Samcheongdong. 02-737-1506.
Madagascar Café:A photographer spent years traveling around the world taking photographs and volunteering to help the less fortunate. Afterwards he opened a café to showcase his work.www.madagascarlove.comNear Sookmyeong University. 02-717-4508.
Margot Café:Next to a Buddhist Temple, they make homemade raspberry shaved ice and lotus root tea. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-747-3152
Seoul’s Second Best Tea House:Traditional Korean teas: persimmon cinnamon punch, red bean porridge, and deer antler tea. In Samcheondong. 02-734-5302