Home to more than 25 million people, Seoul is unlike any other city in the world. With nearly half of the Korean population living in the Seoul metropolitan area, it is no surprise that some of the best Korean restaurants in the world will be in Seoul.
As many Koreans know, food is one of important aspects of Korean culture. Nearly every social gathering is centered around eating. When people greet each other, one of the first things asked is, “Have you eaten 밥먹었어?” Making sure that someone is well-fed is how you show that you care for one another. Even if you’re meeting friends to drink soju, it’s almost mandatory that you order anju, food to eat while you drink soju. If you go to your local convenience market to buy a bottle of soju to drink, they will give you some anju to go with the soju.
Eating is the basis of how society interacts in Korea. Families meet and eat. Friends go out in groups and eat. Couples go to restaurants and eat. In Korea, food is king.
So where should you go to eat in Seoul when there are so many choices? What’s best is subjective and for me, when I go to Korea, there are a handful of restaurants that I always go to and so they’re the best in my opinion. Here’s my list of 7 best restaurants that I go to when I’m in Seoul.
This restaurant is the hotspot right now for Korean barbecue. Unlike most restaurants in Seoul, this one requires a reservation and it’s a tough one to get. Serving cuts of Hanwoo beef, the best premium quality beef in Korea, you will be eating a meal fit for royalty. The beef is perfectly marbled, exceptionally well grilled, and will melt in your mouth. Go hungry and be prepared to part with your wallet here!
서울 용산구 한남대로20길 61 지1층 이속우화
Dongchon Barley Rice and Donkatsu 동촌 보리밥과 돈까스
Take Subway Line 5 out to Geoyeo Station and head over to this amazing restaurant. The donkatsu is large and crispy, the barley rice bibimbap is fresh, and the doenjang jjigae is amazing. Their menu is small because they know that what they make is the best there is. You won’t regret making the trek out to Geoyeo. Go hungry and leave feeling full!
서울 송파구 거마로 22;
Jangwon Kimbap 장원김밥
Nestled on a sidestreet off the main thoroughfare in the Gangnam Station area, this is truly OG. It’s a simple restaurant, known for their kimbap and soojaebi. In the morning, office workers will stop by for a quick breakfast while in the evenings, students studying at hagwons stop by to eat dinner. The shop is small and cozy – it’s the perfect place to eat with a friend or by yourself. Order some tuna kimbap, where the tuna is contained in a thin, delicate egg omelet within the kimbap. Also get that order of soojaebi – it goes perfect with the kimbap!
서울 서초구 서초대로77길 31; 서울 서초구 서초동 1308-13
Apgujeong Haru 압구정하루
Slinging out buckwheat noodles, donkatsu, and udon, this is a popular place to stop by if you’re in the Apgujeong Rodeo street neighborhood. The dipped buckwheat noodles perfectly complement the crispy bites of pork tenderloin. They also have curry rice that is slightly spicy but reminds you of the curry rice that your mom made you as a kid.
서울 강남구 언주로172길 56; 서울 강남구 신사동 663-9
If you want to focus on pork for Korean barbecue, this is the place to go. Gohyangchon serves aged pork belly that grills beautifully. With the pork belly comes a feast of banchan and soups that barely leaves any open space at the dinner table. The first time I came here, I was surprised at how much food was being served and I’m used to having quite a bit of banchan on the table. This is a popular lunch spot for all the office workers in the area so try to make a reservation if you plan on going during lunch.
서울 서대문구 통일로9안길 28-5
Shinheung Boonshik 신흥분식
Shopping in Namdaemun will always leave you feeling famished and this is the perfect hole in the wall restaurant to eat some janchi noodles, kimbap, and soondae. This place has been around for decades and if we’re shopping here, we make sure to stop by. Known for their noodles, you’ll see shoppers stop by to eat quickly and continue about their shopping. If you’re looking to sit down and talk, this isn’t the place. Order, slurp, chew, eat, and then go. It exemplifies the Korean bbali-bbali culture – hurry hurry and eat and go about your shopping day.
서울 중구 남대문시장8길 17
Gatten Sushi 갓덴스시
With a few locations around Seoul including Jongro, Sinsa, and Gangnam, this conveyor belt sushi restaurant is one of the best conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Seoul. The cuts fish are fresh and if you don’t see something coming down the conveyor belt, you can also place an order for that sashimi or nigiri you’re craving. My cousin took me here for the first time and I’ve been going ever since to get my fix of sushi!
서울 종로구 종로12길 14; 서울 종로구 관철동 19-1 1층
David Sohn is a local prosecutor in NYC and a former antitrust attorney. He can be seen riding around the city in an electric Urban Arrow cargo bike with his wife and son or jetting around the world.