Seoul is the world’s second largest metropolitan area and has a population of over 25 million people. Koreans love to shop and socialize and a big part of socializing in Korean culture is sharing a meal with family and friends. Restaurants abound in Seoul and one only has to take a few steps in the right direction to find their food heaven. Competition is fierce and it takes a high quality product, with excellent service in order to be ranked among the top restaurants in Seoul. Restaurants come and go in the blink of an eye and sometimes, restaurants open up in the weirdest or smallest places imaginable. There are glowing neon signs at every step and restaurants boast that they have the best food, or the best service in the country. With so many choices and so much going on, it can be difficult to wade through the clutter to find the gems. In this case, it is not only what to eat but where to eat. This list will help you in your quest to find the best Seoul has to offer, both in Korean food and other styles of cuisine.
10. Brick Oven New York Pizzeria
Brick Oven New York Pizzeria is located in Gangnam and is well known for its excellent pizza. Koreans are not known for their great taste in pizza, and often you will find corn, potatoes, mayonnaise or spam on your pizza. However, at Brick Oven they do pizza right with the perfect amount of pepperoni, cheese and crust. Brick Oven is listed as 25 out of 12, 601 on Trip Advisor’s top Seoul restaurant list and on ROK-on website, as some of the best pizza available in Seoul. The pizza here is a bit more expensive than at other restaurants of the same style but it is well worth it.
9. Beale St
Beale St. is located in Hongdae, which is a popular district in Seoul for young foreigners and Koreans alike. Beale St. was featured in the Korean Herald as a place to check out and also featured on CNN’s “12 Best new restaurants and bars in Seoul” list. The restaurant offers Southern style bbq and is named after the iconic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Beale St. is owned and operated by Choi Sukjun and chef Jisoo Jang. Both Choi and Jisoo spent time abroad in the United States, studying and tasting various types of bbq styles and spices in order to create their menu. They shipped in a smoker from the States and they smoke their ribs for 5 hours. The duo decided to give the meat a signature touch and use the dry rub method where meat is rubbed in a mixture of spices and sugar before it is cooked. However, they brush the meat with a layer of barbecue sauce before it is coated with spices. To top off the excellent food, the restaurant has a wide selection of local and craft beers to accompany the bbq heaven that they serve up.
Condu/Maam used to be located in Seoul’s National History Museum but recently moved into a new location that is just as spectacular. Now located in a traditional Korean home, that used to be owned by the grandmother of the last king of Joseon Condu, is reported to have revamped Seoul’s culinary scene. Condu is highly regarded and has received mention in CNN’s “12 Best new restaurants and bars in Seoul” list, on Starchefs.com list of must visit places and Business Travelers Tried and Tested restaurant list. Condu serves up traditional Korean food with a twist and serves up food that is healthy, in order to promote a healthier lifestyle to its patrons. Specialties include a slow cooked pork shoulder that is cooked for 48 hours and served with aged Kimchi. Ingredients are locally sourced in an effort to maintain quality and tradition and reputation.
7. To Sok Chon
To Sok Chon is famous because it is a favorite of late Korean president, Noh Muh-Hyun. To Sok Chon appears on CNN’s “10 best Korean restaurants in Seoul” and is ranked 19 out of 12,601 restaurants in Seoul on Trip Advisor. It is a well-known haunt for Koreans to go to if they are craving samgyetang. Samgyetang or Ginseng Chicken soup consists of a chicken stuffed with chestnuts, garlic and ginseng this is slow cooked for hours. The soup is a mainstay in Korean cuisine and is meant to be eaten in order to re-energize a tired spirit, or to be consumed on the three hottest days of the summer, “Chobok”, “Jungbok” and “Malbok”. It is located in Jongo and patrons sit on cushions on the heated floor in the traditional Korean style.
6. Byeokjae Galbi
Byeokjae Galbi is known as one of Seoul’s best galbi restaurants and is located in Gangnam. Galbi or Korean bbq is one of the most popular food options in Korea. Byeokjae uses only the finest meat for its galbi and purchases the meat from local Korean cows that are organically fed. Byeokjae appears on Seoulistic’s “10 of Seoul’s most famous and popular galbi restaurant’s” list and CNN’s “10 best Korean restaurants in Seoul” list, making it a popular destination and one that is consistently associated with quality and satisfaction. Because of its many distinctions and high quality products, the prices at Byeokjae are much higher than at other galbi restaurants and dinner prices start at 36,000 won.
5. East Village
East Village is another Korean restaurant with a twist, located in Sinsa-dong in Southern Seoul. Owner, Kwon Woojong spent time abroad in New York and really liked the East Village, so he decided to try and bring that ambiance back to Seoul. Kwon wanted to cast Korean food in a more favorable light and aimed to make his restaurants’ as well-crafted as possible. The Tteokgalbi is hand crafted by master chef Kim, Soo-Bin who chooses only the finest local ingredients. Accompanying the fine fare is an impressive liquor list, which offers a wide variety of wines, high quality soju and traditional liquor distilled from bamboo. The menu changes every month in order to keep patrons guessing and to use the freshest seasonal vegetables. A meal at this impressive establishment is expensive and can run you over 100$ for dinner. East Village was featured by the Korea Times as a fine dining restaurant to visit.
4. Bangboem Pocha
Bangboem Pocha means, “Local Security Tent Bar” in Korean and is modeled to look like a police station. The pub used to be a dry cleaners but was quickly transformed by the creative trio who owns it. Its theme is a nod to Korean counter culture in the 70s and aims to attract a young clientele. This pub is quickly becoming famous, due to its well-known owners. Lee Tae Hoon is an art film director, Jang Jinwoo is a photographer and chef, and Lee Dong Wook works in fashion and PR. The pub prides itself on offering unique anju that are not offered anywhere else in Seoul. Ingredients are locally sourced and the menu changes monthly in order to keep the selection fresh and exciting. This pub is featured on CNN’s “12 best new restaurants and bars in Seoul”, and 10mag’s “best places to drink in Seoul” list.
3. Noryangin Fish Market
Noryangjin Fish Market is one of the largest fish markets in Seoul and is open 24/7, all year round. It is located in Dongjak-Gu and is close to the Han River. There are two floors at the market to visit. On the first floor, you can buy seafood from vendors while on the second floor, you can bring your fish purchases and get them cooked by master chefs. Visitors can purchase anything from sushi, roasted fish to spicy fish stew. Over 800 seafood items are available for purchase and you can guarantee that if it lives in the ocean, it is probably for sale at this market.
2. Don Charly
Don Charly is located in Itaewon, which is known for its diverse food offerings and their English speaking staff and expat friendly services. For those who love Mexican food, Seoul can be a bit tricky because of the lack of quality Mexican food that is available. While fusion cuisine is great, it does not satisfy a craving for authentic Mexican cuisine. Owned and operated by Mexican born chef, Carlos Molina, who studied at a culinary institute in Mexico City and then furthered his studies in Spain, hand crafted traditional Mexican food is his specialty. Don Charly was listed on CNN’s “12 best new restaurants and bars in Seoul” list and featured by the Korea Times as a great new restaurant to visit.
1. Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul
Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul is located at the top of Lotte Hotel in Myeongdong and offers haute French cuisine. The restaurant boasts impressive views of the mountains and an imaginative selection of cuisine, decor and ambiance. Pierre Gagnaire melds French flavors and influences them with Korean style ingredients to create a unique and flavorful dining experience. The restaurant is decorated with chandeliers that cost over $50, 000 each and there are private theme rooms named after French philosophers and poets. Gagnaire was featured in the Korean Herald as a fine dining restaurant must visit and the author states that “eating at Pierre Gagnaire was a once in a lifetime experience”. The Miele Guide, a restaurant guide for the best of Asia, named this restaurant as #6 in Asia which is the only nod that Seoul received.