Living in Gwangju, South Korea is all fun and games until you try to curb your craving for food from back home. Then it’s a real ball buster. Of course, there’s the extremely popular First Alleyway for good Canadian/North American food and our favorite place in the entire city First Nepal. There are a few hidden gems here and there but my favorite places for a taste of home require making the trek up to Seoul.
1. Halal Guys …but not really
(UPDATE: I went back. In a not shocking turn of events, I’m dumb and it’s called Jil’hal Bros) ((which is why I couldn’t find any information the first time))
We stumbled across this place while wandering around Hongdae looking for a different place but got so tired of looking and just settled on this place. Thank God we did. This has become our go-to place for quick food. It happens to be just by all the hostels we love and every time we go it’s a little delicious parade of flavors.
The lamb-chicken bowl is the bomb. It is the perfect mix of “this is spicy but so good I’ll endure the pain”. Jalapenos, lamb, lettuce, saffron rice and yogurt sauce all mixed up in a sublime little medley of flavors and textures.
They have bowls like the one above and wraps. There’s chicken, lamb, and a chicken-lamb combo. Everything is absolutely amazing and at around 6,000KRW ($5.50USD) a piece, I come away full and my wallet is happy.
Please go and show this place some love because it’s so small and I’m scared it’s going to go out of business. And I do not want to go all the way to Itaewon for shawarmas (although there are some tasty shawarmas there). Thanks in advance.
Location: Snag some heavenly halal meat
- Exit 3 of Hongik University
- Walk straight out of the exit, walk until you see the Jeju Beer Company
- Turn left down the alleyway and you’ll see the window on the right
We came here by recommendation of Google looking for Indian food annnnnd obviously this isn’t Indian food. Which we should’ve deduced by the fact that Petra isn’t in India.
We still don’t know what type of food this is classified as but it’s THE BEST “Middle Eastern/Indian/Jordanian/everywhere food. Really one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in Seoul. And it’s vegetarian-friendly! I’m not vegetarian but props to those of you that have that kind of discipline.
All the staff was so kind and they were the type of people you could tell really cared about their job and enjoyed what they did.
To be honest I can’t remember what in the world we ordered but I’m pretty positive you can’t go wrong at this place. Above picture is some sort of mutton/couscous concoction. If you want it, just show them the picture.
This bread and these white, green and tan sauces were fit for kings. I know, how cultured I am, not knowing the proper names. I mean, obviously they’re some sort of hummus, chickpea situation and the white one is a yogurt sauce. Sorry for my ignorance, world.
Here’s a milky drink with cinnamon and coconut (?), mega delicious either way.
A Fat Girls Food Guide has a much more informative review in which she actually remembers the names of the dishes.
Location: Dive into some luxurious mutton
3. Gusto Taco
I was introduced to this place a few weeks ago by a friend. In my mind, I thought “oh great, another mediocre Mexican place.” Well, I don’t actually think that negatively about food but I’m trying to put emphasis on how AMAZED I was with this place. I’m no food expert and I certainly haven’t tried all the Mexican food in Seoul. (although the rumor mill says it’s not great) but…
This place is phenomenal! BEST BEST BEST! 10/10 I cannot rave enough. I dream about this place. Occasionally when I go to places with really amazing food my eyes start to tear up because I’m so happy. Usually, it happens at those fancy restaurants with 45 different tiny portions on huge plates, but it happened here with the pork tacos. I swear I went into a trance and took a little trip to paradise while eating these.
Hand pressed tortillas, sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, soft braised chipotle pork. I’m salivating even now. What more could you want?!
We also got the Nachos and of course, they were outstanding. How does this place do it?! Ooey gooey cheese inside a crispy, warm chip bowl. AND chips that weren’t soggy (a common nacho mistake). At 7,000-8,000 KRW ($6.50-$8.50 USD) for 2 tacos it’s hard to beat and totally worth it. (And I’m pretty sure they put extra tequila in our margaritas because we told them we were pregaming. Respect. Also delicious.)
I mean come on it’s the #1 restaurant in Seoul on TripAdvisor. Just try the damn place, you won’t regret it. Unless you don’t like Mexican food. In which case you’ll learn to like it.
Also, for those residing in Seoul…they DELIVER.
Hellooo, what’s better than eating tacos in a restaurant? Eating them in your dirty sweats at home.
Location: Get your tri-weekly dose of tacos
4. Bad Farmers
Yum yum, salads.
This place was a little bit of a trek to get to, so if you’re in the mood for a speedy lunch I wouldn’t go hunting this place down.
However, if you’re craving some fresh food and avocados then this is your place. Even with google maps it’s not to difficult to find, just a bit of walking. It’s hard to miss, a huge red building with outdoor seating, you’ll see it.
Inside it’s a photographers dream. Everyone was dressed nice, granted it is located in Gangnam. It’s filled with beautiful people taking beautiful Instagram photos. Which clearly I’m not so great at, I’m just a big hungry goblin.
The food looked exactly like the menu photos and every ingredient was at peak freshness. We got the Bad Farmers bowl with quinoa, chicken, rucola, broccoli, cheese, tomato, millet and basil pesto dressing. YES! Amazing. We also got the Guaca Green with sprouts, avocado, nacho chips, chicken, tomato, lime, red onion and cilantro jalapeno dressing. Equally as amazing. I actually drank half the basil pesto dressing before remembering it was supposed to go ON the salad. Oops.
Again, Seoul Searching has a much more in-depth review with some of those beautiful Instagram pics I mentioned earlier.
Location: Crunch away on some splendid salads
Website: Their website is in Korean but have at it
5. Monster Pizza
I go here every single time I’m in Seoul, without a doubt. They even used to have one in Gwangju but it recently closed down, RIP late night snack.
But traditional pizza can be a little bit hard to find in Korea, and Monster Pizza is the cure-all for this. I mean 3,000KRW ($2.50USD) a slice, greasy, simple and everything you could want from a late night pizza, how could you not love it?
I talked about my deep love for Monster Pizza in the Extreme Bangers Mega Juicy Night Out: Seoul Edition post so I won’t say too much about it here. This place is a drunk pizza loving girls dream. Give it a shot, even if you’re one of those insane people who “hate pizza” which I swear everyone one of those people are in some world-dominating cult.
Location: Slurp up some spicy slices
Being not only from the Midwest but also one of the Barbecue capitals of America, I have high expectations when it comes to BBQ. This place killed it, I felt like I had teleported back home to Kansas.
Manimal serves both Texas and Kansas City style Barbecue. I can’t speak on behalf of the authenticity of the Texas style but I can say that the Kansas City style was perfection. Slow smoked and BBQ sauce (on the side) that wasn’t too sweet and just the right about of spice.
We finally decided on the Chipotle lime potato salad, green chile mac and cheese, jalapeno cheddar cornbread muffin, KC style spare ribs and pulled pork. We wanted to order 3 of every single side but somehow logic kicked in and we resisted. Everything was sublime. SUBLIME, I TELL YOU! This was another place that made me tear up, one of those places that you hardly hear people talking because everyone is busy having a romantic moment with their food.
Super horrible photo alert but my God, look at everything. The meat was so tender and perfectly flavored. I love when the sauce comes on the side so I myself can decide how much to drown the meat. The cornbread wasn’t super dry and the potato salad close to godliness, really everything was perfection. I think I almost called my Dad afterwards. Manimal has brought KC flavor right into the heart of Seoul with this one. 10/10 food coma.
For the amount of food and quality, the price wasn’t half bad. If you really want to dig into some succulent BBQ meats, this place is a fine choice!
Location: Mouthwatering meats 5 miles ahead
So there she is – my six favorite foreign indulgences in Seoul!
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If you’re living in Korea, let me know your favorite western spots in the comments below or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and also unrelated but …favorite dog cafes? I’m in serious need of some fuzzy pooch therapy.