Restaurants

The best places to eat in Seoul—restaurants and cafés reviewed by our local experts

The Art of lattes
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The Art of lattes

In Italian, latte translates simply into milk. In English, latte means espresso with steamed milk. The result is a creamier coffee drink that some might say is fuller in taste and experience. Over the course, the term latte (once a specific kind of coffee drink) has become so overused that now it refers to any drink with milk in it. Take for example Americano with thick whipping cream as ‘Vienna Latte’ or even mixed strawberries with milk as ‘Strawberry Latte’. Perhaps it may be better to embrace this new wave of lattes and try them out ourselves as some of them have been given a glamorous makeover. Some truly have become a work of art for both the eyes and the mouth, while some are better seen on photographs.

Bear Café
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Bear Café

Seochon’s Bear Café’s been getting a lot of hype from culture-savvy crowds of Seoul. Created by Design Eum, a publishing group that issues Bear magazine and Kinfolk Korea, Bear Café serves up specialty coffees paired with a tranquil ambiance and culture-related activities; housed in a charming 70-year-old hanok, it juxtaposes tradition and modernity with the well-preserved garden and quality café menus. The espresso, Americano and latte are brewed with Coffee Libre’s blended beans, Bad Blood, while French press made with Namusairo’s seasonal single origin is also available. Bad Blood has a good balance of acidity, complexity of flavors and aftertaste. After one sip, you can definitely tell this is the highest quality of blending from Coffee Libre, which is arguably one of the best roasters in Seoul. The Americano has all the basic characteristics to the right extent and latte has a delicate balance coffee and milk. Gelana Abaya coffee from Ethiopia has notes of orange and Earl Grey tea, offering a unique flavor and crispness that lingers in your mouth for a while. From time to time, seminars and exhibits related to lifestyles and art held at the café. While the drinks are reasonably priced, some of the selection is offered free of charge with a purchase of the magazines published by Design Eum. Note that Bear Café gets extremely crowded during weekends. It closes on Mondays and Tuesdays, which leaves only a few days a week to enjoy all of its offerings. Even when it’s bus

A sauna or a café? 5 unique cafés in Seoul that are in right now.
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A sauna or a café? 5 unique cafés in Seoul that are in right now.

When On Ne Sait Jamais first made its appearance in Hannam-dong, people were wow'd at the unfamiliarity of encountering a unisex sauna in the middle of the road and casually hanging inside a water-less tub. Sauna-like cafés have since become a trend, satisfying the retro demand of today as well, while those old saunas are in fact disappearing quite quickly in many areas of Seoul. Sitting inside the pastel-colored tub sipping coffee and chatting away, you can't help but relax like it's 1993. 

Are you a coffee snob? Check out Seoul's top-quality cafés picked by coffee expert J.B.
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Are you a coffee snob? Check out Seoul's top-quality cafés picked by coffee expert J.B.

Credited as a Q-grader by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and licensed as a barista the Korea Coffee Association (KCES), J.B. is a known expert in the Korean coffee industry. He has written extensively on the subject as a freelance writer and published author of 3 books. If you're one of those who'd enthusiastically skip the big names of the industry for the sake of your delicate taste buds, check out this new list J.B. has compiled. Many of these cafés are emerging players of the Seoul coffee scene that weren't included in the previous top 10 list but definitely deserve some love.

Hanok during the day
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Hanok during the day

Their pitch black roof tiles, golden-orange hues of the pine wood and rusty white walls meet modern elements to create tranquil sanctuaries that the city full of skyscrapers is so in need of. Some of them even have got a gorgeous garden, so perfect for day-drinking or some quality tea time.

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Greenmile Coffee
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Greenmile Coffee

The barista crushes coffee beans and places them neatly in a flask which resembles a test tube. The light is on, hot water rises up the tube and meets the coffee. After a short while, the solution and the fine powder are separated and turned into reddish brown coffee. Then, finally, through the original vacuum tube, the dark liquid has returned to where it all began. Siphon coffee extraction takes just 30 seconds—the science and beauty in it make the process so brilliant and beautiful. The history of siphon coffee extraction goes back to the invention of vacuum coffee brewer in 1840 by Scottish marine engineer Robert Napier. It was then widely commercialized by one of the oldest coffee dripper makers in Japan, Kono. Siphon extraction, which produces a neat and sharp taste, in fact, used to be a familiar method for the older generations. Quite recently, it has again attracted the attention of coffee aficionados, in conjunction with the development of specialty coffees. Many have commented that behind the success of Blue Bottle Coffee, which now is one of the top 3 coffee makers in the United States, is the San Francisco Mint Plaza store’s siphon extraction process. In Korea, Greenmile Coffee located near Gangnam-gu Office Station is in a league of its own. While it offers a wide range of blends and espresso extracts, I recommend trying one of the four kinds of house-signature single-origin siphon extracts. Specialty coffees include El Salvador Pacamara, Colombia Pink Bourbon

Seokparang
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Seokparang

While restaurants housed in an impressive hanok building are easily found in Seoul, one with a beautiful garden is indeed a rarity. Seated on a hill of Buam-dong, Seokparang offers an impressive scenery letting the visitors feel as if they're far out of the city. Its name comes from Seokpajeong, the once vacation home of Heungseon Daewongun, who was the regent to King Gojong during Joseon Dynasty. With an important part of the estate relocated to its compound, Seokparang showcases authentic Korean royal cuisine including ginseng-steamed bossam (pork), neobiani (grilled beef), jeonyuhwa (seasonal flower pancakes), songitang (pine mushroom stew), eomandu (fish dumplings) and and jeonbok galbijim (steamed abalone and ribs). In fact, the recipes of these exact dishes have been passed down through palace kitchens over the years. Its Korean table d'hôte, which has catered to a number of local and international dignitaries, also includes desserts such as fried ginseng and jujubes which were only served in the dynastic courts. With a quaint and luscious garden complete with all kinds of greenery including the 150-year-old persimmon offering a gorgeous stroll, May especially is a great time to visit Seokparang, one of the city's most historic dining spaces.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Felt Coffee
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Felt Coffee

Think of yourself as a trendy and up to date coffee enthusiast? If so, you’ll probably know about the ‘Eunpa Piano’ sign in Changcheon-dong. It’s where Felt Coffee is located - inside a former piano training school. Although the two baristas (Kim Young-hyun and Song Dae-woong) opened this place equipped with various equipment, they kept the small space modest and simple. More emphasis on its coffee and less on the looks, you’ll know what this means once you pay a visit to Felt Coffee. The main drinks served at Felt Coffe are the espresso, Americano, and brewed (hand dripped) coffee. The 3,000 won Americano is not just affordable but of high quality as Felt Coffee only uses authentic specialty coffee beans, all of which are roasted in house. The Coffee beans vary depending on season but regardless, they are all harmonized in flavor, acidity, viscosity, and sweetness. The brewed hand dripped coffee made with the Alto Air dripper is strongly recommended as you will be able to smell and taste the aromatic sweetness with each sip. Fo the beans that are being used, the sl28 beans (brought directly from the Herbazu coffee farm in Costa Rica) leave a lasting impression. These beans are the result of Kenya’s beans and Costa Rica’s rich soil, bringing a whole new tropical flavor and sweetness of juicy fruit. The Costa Rica-Kenya coffee is a fairly experimental one, run only in a few coffee farms around the world. Thanks to the trust earned by Felt Coffee through its direct coffee impo

Chef CHO
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Chef CHO

Upon seeing an elderly woman purchase a whole Ganache Earl Grey cake mentioning it was all for herself, we knew we had to try it. To our surprise, it wasn’t too sweet and all its flavors were so subtle we had to search for the ‘earl grey’ and ‘chocolate’ part — and this subtlety was what kept the forks going. The whipped cream (which was more milky than sweet), the thick chocolate ganache, the earl grey cream, bits of nuts and, finally, the crispy tart crust all come together to create a balance. Upon leaving, you might want to grab a few of their freshly-baked golden breads piled up in the center of the shop, as well. We think it’s safe to say that Chef CHO is doing something right, and the number of people filling up the pastry shop might be one evidence.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Creamfields
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Creamfields

At Creamfields, everything is visually over-the-top—in line with Marie Antoinette's taste, perhaps. In fact, the café's well-known amongst Korean celebrities who've been spotted here while picking up a cake fashionably decorated with popping colors and real blooming flowers. Every corner of the shop is decorated with rather exotic plants, both real and fake, along with colorful decor items and stationary such as candles, greeting cards and miniature plants.  Judging from the long list of celebrity clientele as well as the lavish looks of each item prepared in-house, one may guess that the owner/baker's résumé would be equally impressive. After a little conversation with her, however, what will deem impressive is the fact that she's been completely self-taught, with no previous experience before opening up Creamfields. The baker always "loved gardening," though—with that, she came to create these floral cakes in her own style. Creamfields specializes in customized cakes. But even without ordering any in advance, you can still enjoy a lot here: cake by the slice, cupcakes and a large menu of fun drinks, all pumped up with color. Take, for example, Monster Latte, a coffee drink topped with a generous amount of whip cream and pastel-colored meringues which are the highlight: they've got a light crunch, with soft cotton-textured and subtle yet addictive sweetness. The Early Grey cupcake was a little dry and even had an aftertaste of dough, but its pleasant floral scents made up

La Crescenta
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La Crescenta

This colonial factory-turned-brunch spot is considerably larger in size compared to many of the other cafés and restaurants located in Mullae-dong. The venue has managed to keep its warehouse-type atmosphere, yet offers a refined vibe with tasteful furniture and simple lightings, something you don’t come across all that often in the area. Operated by a coffee enthusiast-owner, La Crescenta offers great coffee as well as a list of quite unique brunch menus (take, for example Kahlua French Toast, London Earl Grey Pancake and Italian Tom Yum Kung). The house specialty is the Spicy Bacon Pasta. It’s got a good amount of spices, large pieces of bacon and perfectly-cooked pasta. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can go for the Crème Brûlée Pancake, which is well- delivered with a nice sugar crust and fresh custard. It is quite filling and... very sweet. If you don’t want slight bitterness added to your bite, ditch the caramelized (unripe) banana, though.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars

Take your pick: restaurants by theme

5 Seoul restaurants for all your fish & chips need
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5 Seoul restaurants for all your fish & chips need

When it comes to this classic comfort food, it's often a matter of needs rather than wants. Here are 5 restaurants where you can find the crispy, juicy and fluffy goodness in the city.

Yummy avocado dishes and where to get them in Seoul
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Yummy avocado dishes and where to get them in Seoul

It's too easy to love avocados, and we just can’t get enough of them. Check out our list of restaurants in Seoul offering up these green fruits with a tangy and savory twist.

The best cheap eats in Seoul
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The best cheap eats in Seoul

Here at Time Out Seoul, we love to eat well (obviously) and we love to eat out. But as much as we appreciate wining and dining, we’re beyond grateful for the vast array of cheap eats available in Seoul. From kimbaps that keep us satiated and satisfied when it’s been too long since our last paycheck to some of the best bánh mi and Moroccan in the country, these cheap eats keep us eating (while allowing us to pay our rent at the same time).  

Where to eat the best bagels in Seoul
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Where to eat the best bagels in Seoul

New york-style bagels and where to get em'

Seoul's Korean style pork cutlet joints worth travelling for
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Seoul's Korean style pork cutlet joints worth travelling for

Deep-fried pork cutlet, that brown sauce and shredded cabbage with dressing — it's nothing fancy but certainly what we miss at times.

7 Japanese ramen joints you should visit in Seoul
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7 Japanese ramen joints you should visit in Seoul

The slurps and chirps of a big, steaming bowl of ramen will help you get through this winter, for sure. We’ve compiled a list of the major players in Seoul as well as the minors that are worth a try.

Best places for Korean BBQ

Tuppul Deungshim
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Tuppul Deungshim

You’ll find Korean barbecue in every neighborhood of Seoul—but places that serve the highest quality of hanwoo (Korean beef) are harder to find. Tuppul, from the same parent company that brought us Samwon Garden, Blooming Garden and Butcher’s Cut, is Korean barbecue taken to the next level. Service is on par with decent hotel dining, and the wine list is extensive. But most importantly, the meat is top-notch, and contrary to all expectation, the prices are not painful, considering that it’s hanwoo. The aged sirloin is a specialty here, and not to be missed. For those of you with less time (and tighter budgets), a lunch set of hanwoo bulgogi is just 10,000 won.With locations on Garosugil and in Nonhyeon-dong, the Itaewon location is their fourth in Seoul.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Maple Tree House, Itaewon
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Maple Tree House, Itaewon

When you walk along the street behind Itaewon Hamilton Hotel, you’ll see a row of windows that are wide open and through which there’ll be groups of foreigners grilling meat. It might be the unlikely geographical location of Maple Tree House in Itaewon, or the modern interior that doesn’t look like your typical Korean BBQ place. Whatever the reason may be, one thing that’s for sure is that it has captivated the hearts of Koreans and foreigners alike. There’s always a 50:50 ratio among customers. It’s also a popular spot for workers to go for their company get-togethers. The signature Maple Tree House dish is the aged hanwoo (Korean premium beef) sirloin. The thinly sliced beef loin that comes with a savory sauce is also a favorite house dish. When they open up all their windows in the evening, a cool breeze blows through, making it the perfect setting to enjoy your Korean BBQ and Heineken beer.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Byeokje Galbi
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Byeokje Galbi

This hanwoo (Korean beef) specialty restaurant that uses high-quality domestic beef and has a diverse range of sidedishes. While the prices are a bit steep, they have the best cuts and are known for their quality service as well. Visiting once will make you a returning visitor. 

Gaehwaok
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Gaehwaok

There was recently a time when Korean restaurants fell out of favor with the fickle Korean youth. In that respect, Gaehwaok was a Korean restaurant that was ahead of its time. In 2004, when young people frequented Italian restaurants and Illy coffee shops, it opened on a corner of a run-down alley with a completely different atmosphere from traditional Korean restaurants. It was sophisticated yet restrained, and simple but finely presented. Thankfully, their foresight was rewarded and they've become quite successful, relocating to a new venue in Sinsa-dong in 2010. This place is more spacious than the previous restaurant, with a more modern interior. The spaciousness has robbed a bit of the more comfy atmosphere, but the food presented in finely crafted in brass tableware, the steamed corn and baked garlic amuse-bouches are still as welcoming as ever. Beef tartare, roast brisket with seasoned vegetables, and bulgogi are some of their more popular menus. We also can't get enough of the doenjang noodles. It's just a simple broth made from anchovies and doenjang, with some rough noodles thrown in—it honestly isn't much to look at, but somehow they get the flavors just right. Gaehwaok is the kind of place where you could pair Korean food with wine and no one would bat an eye (take that as you will). It's also great for special gatherings.

Best restaurants by cuisine

The best Korean restaurants in Seoul
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The best Korean restaurants in Seoul

Trust us, this is not your chain kimbap store. From hot bubbling stews served with steaming, sticky rice to the best cold noodles to more traditional Korean dishes like samgaetyang (Korean-style chicken soup), these Korean restaurants are the ones that make ahjusshis confess their mothers aren't the best cooks in town. Bring your Korean friends and their parents, even! 

The best Italian restaurants in Seoul

The best Italian restaurants in Seoul

Expats that have lived in Seoul for a few years know the real struggle to find authentic Italian food here. For too long, the carbonara has been drenched in cream, the bolognese coated in sugar and cheese limited to American. Finally, we have a few restaurants where we can actually take our Italian friends and proudly say buon appetito! 

Craving Japanese food?
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Craving Japanese food?

With Japanese food & drink in Seoul being as common as Korean in Los Angeles, good restaurants of our neighbor aren't that hard to find. Filled with good sake, chewy, soothing noodles and Japanese-style skewers, even the the average isn't bad. However, start becoming a stickler for authencity and quality and the list of best drops down to a few names. And the names are as follows.  

Where to eat Thai food in Seoul
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Where to eat Thai food in Seoul

What can account for the boom in Seoul's Thai food restaurants? Of course, their sweet and savory dishes are delicious, but how has that discovery landed upon Korea's capital? Perhaps one main reason is the growing number of Koreans traveling to Thailand and finding the cuisine simply irresistable. Seoulites are crazier now for authentic Thai food than they've ever been in the past. With the quantity of Thai restaurants growing, it's inevitable that the competition amongst these restaurants will grow stiffer. Who has the best pad thai? Which places offer green curry that's made with the freshest coconut milk and chili peppers? Time Out Seoul finds out. 

The best Chinese restaurants in Seoul
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The best Chinese restaurants in Seoul

You probably already know all about Chinese-Korean fast food: jjajangmyeon, those thick noodles slathered in unctuous black bean sauce, and fiery jjambbong noodles. They're a go-to quick meal found on any street corner or even delivered right to your door. But Chinese cuisine has so much more to offer, whether it's Peking duck, red pork belly, a dozen ways to cook scallops, or a plethora of dim sum options (don't get us started on the dumplings). So skip the noodles for now and dig into these delicious mainland dishes—and hey, most of these places also serve jjajangmyeon if you're really craving it.

Where to get good French food in Seoul
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Where to get good French food in Seoul

Some say that once you study abroad in Paris, it destroys you for life. Part of that reason is the country's culinary artistry which often tops lists when we talk about must-have cuisines. The growing number of exchange students and travelers to the country get glossy eyed just talking baguettes, cheeses and charcuterie. To meet those needs are these praised French restaurants which offer some authentically French food to French inspired to French with a Korean twist. French food in Seoul's not limited to Seorae Village anymore. Bon appetit! 

Best cafés by neighborhood

The best cafés in Itaewon
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The best cafés in Itaewon

The best cafés in Jongno and Myeongdong
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The best cafés in Jongno and Myeongdong

The best cafés in Hongdae
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The best cafés in Hongdae

The best cafés in Gangnam
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The best cafés in Gangnam

Best restaurants by neighborhood

The best restaurants in Itaewon
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The best restaurants in Itaewon

Long reputed to be one of the most delicious neighborhoods in Seoul, Itaewon is particularly known for foreign food. Expats and travelers can come here to get a taste of home while Koreans might come seeking something from their travels. Here's the inside scoop on which places are authentic and just plain delicious. 

The best restaurants in Gangnam
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The best restaurants in Gangnam

Gangnam is chock full of delicious places to eat. However, this area south of the river doesn't have as many "food alleys" and designated areas for specific cuisines. Since Gangnam spreads out further, it may involve driving or taking cabs out of the way. Here are the restaurants that we can guarantee to be good and worth the price. 

The best restaurants in Jongno and Myeongdong
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The best restaurants in Jongno and Myeongdong

With so many good restaurants in the Jongno and Myeongdong neighborhood, it's often overwhelming to have to pick just one. How do you narrow it down? How can you stop from getting caught in a tourist trap? We have our list of authentic Korean eats as well as delicious international cuisines of these neighborhoods.   

The best restaurants in Hongdae
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The best restaurants in Hongdae

There are so many things to do in the Hongdae area. Everything from live music to cat cafes, but where to eat after or before? Time Out Seoul has the inside scoop.