“I know that art fills the bloody gaps in our hearts. As long as I can, I will continue to ask questions and get answers. I will continue to write about what I see and what I want to see.” – Min Jin Lee, Seoul, August 12 2022
Writer Lee Min-jin won the prestigious Manhae Prize for Literature this year and traveled to Seoul, Korea, to accept the award. She was accompanied by her family including her father and mother, and took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the many wonderful culinary delights that Korea has to offer.
We asked Lee to share some of her favorite restaurants in Seoul and she did not disappoint. Here are some of the gems that need to be at the top of your next Seoul itinerary.
Min Jin Lee’s Favorite Restaurants in Seoul
1. Woo Lae Oak (우래옥)
Woo Lae Oak (우래옥) is known to serve the best Pyeongyang Naeng Myun in Korea (평양냉면, Pyeongyang cold buckwheat noodle) and BBQ beef in Korea since 1946. The beef broth is much meatier than at any other Naeng Myun restaurants in Korea and the noodle is perfectly cooked. Their BBQ beef is also spectacular and many cuts above standard BBQ, especially Bulgogi.
Woo Lae Oak
Michelin Bib Gourmand
Sunday: 11:30am to 8:30pm
Tues – Sat: 11:30am to 9:30pm
2. Jungsik Seoul (정식당)
A pioneer of modern Korean fine dining, Chef Yim Jung-sik is the leader of a modern and unique understanding of contemporary Korean cuisine that he calls “New Korean”. He opened his first restaurant Jungsik in Seoul in 2009 then opened his second restaurant in New York City in 2012. Both the original and the namesake have been acclaimed by diners and food critics alike, receiving two Michelin stars by serving elevated Korean traditional dishes that seem to come from another plane of existence. Each course is topped by the next and accompanied by an excellent wine list and remarkable service.
Michelin Two Stars
Sat – Sun: 11:00am to 6:00pm
Mon – Fri: 12:00am to 3:00pm and 5:30pm to 10:00pm
3. La Yeon (라연) at Shilla Hotel
Located on the 23rd floor of The Shilla Hotel, La Yeon serves refined premium Korean traditional food with stunning plating and features an amazing view over Namsan Park. This high-end traditional Korean restaurant is the world’s first Korean restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars.
Michelin Three Stars
Sun – Sat: 12:00am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm
4. Jangkkobang (장꼬방)
Jangkkobang is a famous red bean porridge cafe nearby Gangnam Station. They prepare red bean porridge every morning by simmering red beans in a large Korean traditional cauldron. Their red bean porridge is made with 100% Korean red beans. The most popular items are patbingsu (팥빙수, shaved ice with sweetened red bean paste) in summer and danpatjuk (단팥죽, sweetened red bean porridge) in winter.
Sun – Sat: 9:00am to 10:00pm
5. Hadongkwan (하동관)
One of the oldest restaurants in Seoul, Hadongkwan has been serving the best Gomtang (곰탕, Korean traditional beef bone soup) since 1939. The soup is so pure and rich derived from simmering large amounts of best quality beef meat and bone for up to 16 hours. The kimchi here is out of the world perfectly accents their Gomtang.
Michelin Bib Gourmand
Mon – Sat: 7:00am to 4:00pm
6. Gaeseong Mandu Koong (개성만두 궁)
Gaeseong Mandu Koong has been serving Gaeseong-style dumplings for three generations since 1970. Gaeseong is a city in North Korea well known for its tasty mandu. The dumplings here are huge and juicy and made by hand daily with the freshest ingredients. The meaty soup is made with a beef brisket broth that’s been simmering for hours, waiting to nourish and deeply satisfy diners. The restaurant is a hanok (한옥, Korean traditional house) style which is so fitting and elegant.
Michelin Bib Gourmand
Sunday: 11:00am to 8:00pm
Mon – Sat: 11:30am to 9:30pm
7. JS Garden Black
JS Garden Black is a popular upscale Korean-Chinese restaurant where you can have quality course meals at very reasonable prices. Their popular dishes are seaweed and abalone soup, Sichuan eggplant and shrimp, and glutinous fried pork. They also offer more unique dishes like shark fin soup, golden xiao long bao, Peking duck, and king crab.
Sun – Sat: 11:30am to 7:00pm
8. Sambaekjip (삼백집)
Bong-soon Lee, the founder of Sambaekjib would only sell three hundred kongnamul-gukbap (콩나물국밥, rice in bean sprout soup) bowls daily back in the day. When all three hundred bowls are sold out, the door was closed, even in the morning. As this rumor spread, many people started calling this restaurant Sambaekjip since this restaurant didn’t have a name back then, “sambaek” means 300 in Korean, and “jib” means house in Korean.
The restaurant first opened in 1947 in Jeonju, the southern part of Korea. Because of Sambeakjib’s famous soup, Sambaekjibs opened up all over Korea. You can now eat this mouthwatering kongnamul-gukbap in Seoul as well. Of course, nowadays, this popular venue sells many, many more than 300 bowls per day
Sat – Sun: 11:00am to 9:00pm
Mon – Fri: 9:30am to 9:00pm
9. Bonjuk (본죽)
Bonjuk is one of the most popular Korean food franchise restaurants and you can easily find Bonjuk anywhere in Seoul. Its main dish is a jook which is the ultimate healthy Korean comfort food that Koreans eat on a cold day to warm their bodies or when they are sick to make themselves feel better. Their jooks are fresh, flavorful, and nutritious, most importantly deeply satisfyingly delicious.
10. The Hyundai Seoul Food Court (더현대 서울 푸드 코트)
Located in the basement of The Hyundai Seoul, the newest luxury department store in Korea, The Hyundai Seoul food Court has everything you could want in one place. Whether you’re feeling like Korean or Japanese or Chinese or Italian or American… coffee, tea, bakeries, or desserts, you can all find them here. This culinary experience is a many elevations above the standard American mall fast food cornucopia. Many famous restaurants around Korea opened their branches here so that The Hyundai Seoul’s visitors can come here instead of traveling all around Korea to taste many well-known establishments’ signature dishes.
Fri – Sun: 10:30am to 8:30pm
Mon – Thurs: 9:30am to 8:00pm