Words by Grey Watson Shots by Grey Watson, Sharon Heit, and Mai Vabo
On the hunt for the perfect, filling meal that won’t break the bank? Grey Watson packs on a few pounds, all in the name of “research”
Shots courtesy of Sharon Heit The best sandwich in Seoul is found at Casablanca. It is truly hard to imagine a better sandwich. These Moroccan varieties are consistently delicious and hearty. The bread from Salam Bakery in Itaewon is always fresh. The meat and potatoes are cooked fresh everyday. When they run out of something, they are out for the day. There’s no scrambling to procure whatever ingredient they’re lacking; instead Casablanca upholds the integrity of its products by simply selling out of that item for the day. Try the same top quality sides at only W2,000 each. The Carrot Salad side with the Lamb Chili sandwich is highly recommended. Casablanca also makes a great Veggie sandwich for those on the constant search for tasty vegetarian options. For those in the know, some off-menu sandwiches exist, but do not broach that territory until you have experienced the regular menu items. Eat it all.
Shots courtesy of Sharon Heit Kimchi jjigae is ubiquitous in Korea, but finding it on the level that Eunjoojeong dishes it out is rare. Already a popular spot among Koreans, the restaurant sits in an alley near Euljiro 4-ga. The path from the station is a bit of a maze, but well worth it. The soup is spicy and cooked in front of you on your table’s personal burner, similar to the style of Korean barbecue restaurants. Instead of a few pieces of pork like the average kimchi jjigae, the samgyeopsal (삼겹살, pork with three layers of fat) is the featured ingredient. For those unaccustomed to spicy food, take it slow. It’s not overwhelming, but it may make your forehead sweat, which is desired from kimchi jjigae. Like many restaurants serving pork, they serve theirs with a basket of various leafy vegetables that can be used to make meaty lettuce wraps stuffed with meat, rice, tofu and vegetables. They also serve an excellent ssamjang (쌈장, spicy Korean dipping sauce). The meal requires at least two people for W7,000 each at lunch or W10,000 at dinner. Eat it all.
Shots courtesy of DoHyun K via foursquare Jeong-seong Son Kalguksu is possibly the best meal in Korea, for the money. The highlight is the mandooguk (만두국, dumpling soup). It’s a huge portion for W6,000 with six to seven huge pieces of mandoo. A family run shop, they make their mandoo and noodles in house. In the mood for the noodles? The kalguksu (칼국수, handmade noodle soup) is a wonderful choice, also W6,000. Need some extra vegetables in your diet? Try the dolsot (돌솥, made in a hot stone bowl) bibimbap. It’s not your kimbap heaven bibimbap. The sprouts, carrots and cabbage are served fresh with homemade gochoojang (고추장, red pepper sauce). In the summertime, for something refreshing, try the kongguksu (콩국수, beansprout soup), served cold. Eat it all.
98-1 Hangangno 2-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 02-793-9898
서울특별시 용산구 한강로2가 98-1
4. 뼈다귀 해장국 감자탕 전문 Bbyeodagui Jeonmoon
Shots courtesy of Grey Watson This kamjatang haejangguk (감자탕 해장국, spicy potato/pork spine soup) restaurant packs the meat in a bowl of haejangguk for W6,000. You will leave stuffed. The amount of meaty spine you get per bowl is unparalleled. The tender meat slides right off the bone for big delectable spoonfuls of broth, meat and rice. They serve ssamjang and side dishes that are fairly standard but certainly have a nice touch. It’s run by a really friendly married couple who will be happy to see you. Eat it all.
444-3 Beon 1-dong, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul 02-2678-8988
서울특별시 강북구 번1동 444-3
5. Southside Parlor
Shots courtesy of Grey Watson Southside Parlor has been open in Gyeongridan for a little more than a year. The quality of the cocktails makes it nearly impossible to get out of there for under W10,000. To no surprise, they were picked as the Best Cocktails by 10 Magazine Best of Seoul in 2018. But if you don’t drink, you can enjoy a nice meal for under W10,000. The pulled pork sandwich with a side of chips qualifies nicely, just within the price range. The real deal comes on Taco Tuesday when Southside serves up tacos for W3,000 a piece. Each week they offer a different special taco. This keeps things interesting and allows them to experiment with different flavors and ingredients. Wooden stools and tables with dim lighting, as well as a good playlist fosters a nice vibe to hang out and enjoy the company of friends. The staff is friendly and always helps with recommendations and menu explanations. Eat it all.
Shots courtesy of Mai Vabo Maron’s offers a fantastic lunch set for just under W10,000. It includes salad, soup, main course, something fried, plus dessert. I had the risotto with a tomato based sauce for the main. With tender bits of ham, the not-too-thick nor too-thin sauce covered the risotto nicely. The fried dish was lightly battered squid, served sans sauce, not too dry or too greasy. A potato based soup and a simple salad with balsamic vinaigrette accompanied the risotto. More than being spectacular, Maron’s lunch special offers a multi-dish meal for an astoundingly reasonable price. This is an uncommon example of a Western style meal priced for less than what you might have imagined. The lunch special is offered from 11:30 am – 3 pm. Eat it all.
Shots courtesy of Sharon Heit From the sliding door to the menus on wooden boards, this cozy Japanese ramen house feels authentic. The restaurant only has a few two-top tables and a counter to sit at, diner-style. Though the space is small, the service is quick and the wait is never long. The healthy portions are all under W10,000 and there are plenty of options to choose from. The Black Ramen is a favorite with its thick hearty broth, generous portion of tender pork, half a hard-boiled egg, bok choy, bean sprouts, and perfectly cooked noodles. The chefs prepare your meal from an open kitchen so you can see the care that goes into every bowl. Eat it all.
126-17 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 02-790-4129
서울특별시 용산구 이태원동 126-17
8. 최사장네 닭 (Choe-sa-jang-nae dalk)
Shots courtesy of Hi Guest House Dalk serves a variety of chicken dishes; most noticeably the delicious dalkgaejang (닭개장, spicy chicken stew), a variation of the more familiar yookgaejang (육개장, spicy beef stew). For those more sensitive to spice, try the dalkgomtang (닭곰탕, chicken stew). Both of these dishes are served for W6,000. When a restaurant picks a specialty and sticks to it, it shows. You’ll find only chicken in every dish at Dalk. Eat it all.
373-17 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul 02-334-9242
서울특별시 마포구 연남동 373-17
9. Namdaemun Market Noodle Alley (남대문시장 국수골목)
Shots courtesy of Grey Watson The amazing “Noodle Alley” is a must for everyone, for both the food and the atmosphere. Located within Namdaemun Market, Noodle Alley seems like a throwback to a bygone era before Western chains came in and the ultra-modernization of Seoul. They serve a handful of dishes at each place along the alley, all the same. Your options are boribap (보리밥, boiled rice with barley), kalguksu, soojaebi (수제비, clear soup with dough flakes), janchiguksu (잔치국수, noodles in anchovy broth), and chalbab (찰밥, boiled glutinous rice). They liberally include sides of dwenjang (된장, fermented soybean soup), and spicy naengmyeon (냉면, cold noodles). The process of entry and ordering is the perhaps the best part. Customers are ushered in, while the servers call you to sit at their stalls. Customers are seated shoulder to shoulder along each side of the alley, leaving just enough room to pass through, single-file. Because of the alley’s open air and concrete floors, it is not exactly clean but this is no cause for concern. The high amounts of traffic make it nearly impossible to clean up between every customer. Ultimately, it adds to the charm. Go with the flow and soak in the great experience. Eat it all.
5 minute walk from Hoehyeon (Namdaemun Market) Stn. (line 4, ex. 5)
10. Joo’s Dimsum + Chinese Noodle
Shots courtesy of Grey Watson For nice Chinese style noodles, try Joo’s Dimsum. A small interior with wooden tables, mostly for two, and Chinese music in the background creates a nice atmosphere for a quiet meal. The fairly spicy wooyookmyeon (우육면, spicy beef noodles) offers a nice flavor with a small amount of ground beef served atop the noodles in a spicy broth. The contemptible amount of beef disappoints, but the flavor of the soup compensates. The Chinese standard wonton soup gives customers another good option under W10,000. The wontons are meaty and soft. If you don’t mind spending little extra, add the siomai or a side of wontons and leave full and happy. Eat it all.
540-15 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 02-6081-9888
서울특별시 강남구 신사동 540-15
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://10mag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sharon-Heit_avatar_1409017173-96×96.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Sharon Heit is a regular collaborator for whattarollmag.com and photo contributor for Land of Gazillion Adoptees. View her digital and film portfolio at sharonheit.com and instagram.com/ladyfaceshai.[/author_info] [/author]