Known for its technology and skincare product, South Korea doesn’t get enough recognition for its food game. There are tens of thousands of restaurants that line the streets of Seoul, and with big names like Pierre Gagnaire opening restaurants in Seoul, it may be overwhelming for first-timers to decide where to eat. Here are a list of the 15 best restaurants and dessert shops in Seoul to help you out.
1. Mudeungsan (무등산)
If there’s one thing you have to eat while in Seoul, it’s authentic Korean BBQ. Named after a famous mountain, Mudeungsan has some of the most tender and flavorful tenderloin steak and skirt steak in the whole city. Their beef tartare is equally amazing, and they serve a million side dishes, known as banchan, to accompany your main course. This restaurant does come with a hefty price tag, but it’s completely worth it.
2. Yoogane (유가네)
Popular amongst college students, Yoogane will only set you back around $5 per person. The restaurant will cook a huge bowl of steaming spicy fried rice with chicken with cheese and virtually any topping you could possibly want. Once it’s ready, you and your friends can dig in from the same bowl à la Korean style.
3. Maple Tree House (단풍나무집)
Nestled in the fun and lively Itaewon, the “foreigner district,” Maple Tree House is catered to English-speaking residents and tourists. While the menus and hostess may give the impression that this restaurant isn’t authentic Korean fare, the food says otherwise. The Korean-styled pork barbecue, which the waitresses cook right in front of you, will leave you wanting for more. Wash down your meal with some soju, or rice vodka, and you’ll soon understand why the drink is so popular amongst locals.
4. Pizzeria d’Buzza (부자피자)
Pizza isn’t traditional Korean food, but it is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Pizzeria d’Buzza is a cute dinner spot for a date or a girls’ night out with reasonably priced wines. Their Buzza Classica, a pizza topped with lettuce and fresh cherry tomatoes, pairs well with the olive oil and Vietnamese hot pepper flakes that people use to garnish their slices. If you have room, their dessert pizzas are both delicious and Instagramable.
5. Sushi Hyo
Absolutely the best sushi in Korea, hands down. The owner of the restaurant, Chef Ahn, is so famous that he even has a comic book series written about his life. Request the omakase, which will allow the sushi chefs to cater to your taste and select the freshest catches of the day.
6. Hangang Chicken (한강치킨)
Koreans love their fried chicken and beer combo. It’s probably the late night snack/drunchies of choice for most South Koreans, and you can find at least three fried chicken joints open until 3am on any street in Seoul. The chicken at Hangang Chicken is fried to golden perfection and comes with more sauces that you’ll ever need, and the best part is that they’ll deliver to you even at midnight.
Gelati Gelati is where an Italian classic meets a Korean twist. The “white rice” flavored gelato is sweet but not overwhelming, while chocolate-lovers may prefer the “milk tea” or “salted caramel” flavors. The shop makes their gelato fresh daily and keep them in metal containers, just like the authentic gelato shops in Rome do.
8. Outdoor Namu (아웃도어나무)
Outdoor Namu is a cute bistro tucked away on the trendy Garosugil, a street lined with boutiques, makeup stores, and cafes. The restaurant serves craft beers from Europe that are usually hard to find in Asia, along with their famous oven-roasted chicken with Korean mustard sauce and a spicy Korean pepper carbonara pasta.
Patbingsoo, or red beans on top of shaved ice, is a traditional Korean dessert most commonly eaten on a hot summer day. Mealtop is a cafe that only serves patbingsoo, but for such a niche market, it is still one of the most popular eateries in Seoul. On some days, customers can wait up to an hour just to snag a seat here.
10. Betgodong (뱃고동)
Koreans love seafood and anything spicy, and Betgodong marries these two things together in their spicy stir-fried octopus dish. The restaurant also serves up fried octopus rings, which taste like onion rings but better. You can also try live octopus legs, a Korean delicacy called san-nakjji, if you’re brave enough.
11. Song’s Kitchen
One of the most hipster spots you can find in Seoul, Song’s Kitchen brings Korean fusion to a whole new level. Some of their most popular items are cheesy seafood dukbokki, or rice cakes in chili sauce, kimchi fried rice garnished with fried egg, and spicy ramen served in a glass measuring cup.
O’sulloc Tea House carries some of the best green teas Asia has to offer. Almost all their items are exclusively made out of green tea from Jeju Island: hot tea, lattes, ice cream, rolls, and cake. For green tea lovers, this is heaven.
13. Daegabang (대가방)
Korean-Chinese food is another famous cuisine that many people are familiar with due to Korean dramas. Black bean noodles and sweet and sour pork are a must-have at this joint, and everything comes in huge portions so you’ll definitely want to share with your friends.
14. Gwangyang Bulgogi (광양불고기)
Bulgogi, thin slices of sirloin beef marinated in a sweet glaze, is probably one of the most recognizable dishes in Korean cuisine. Gwangyang Bulgogi specializes in this type of Korean BBQ with their secret sauce, which is enjoyed best wrapped in lettuce and red chili paste.
15. The Flying Pan
Although Korea has so much to offer through its traditional cuisine, you might start to miss American food during your travels. The Flying Pan has amazing pancakes, bacon, eggs, mimosas, and soup to satisfy all of your brunch cravings.