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The best restaurants in Jongno and Myeongdong

Don't get caught in a tourist trap: eat at these great restaurants

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. 

 

Café Goghi

Hamburg steak—I finally realized that there’s actually a lot I can expect in this Japanese Western-style dish, after trying Café Goghi’s version, that is. Perhaps, I’m the only one who’s been out of the loop (I’ve only tried a few brunch menus here before and they were fantastic), but this “catering co-op” located between Hyoja-dong and Gyeongbokgung Palace has been serving Hamburg steak as their signature dish for 10 years. The patty is really juicy, but the star of the plate is the sauce which is made from scratch in the kitchen. If you observe the chefs here for a few minutes, you can tell how delicate the process is: first, stir fry onions, shiitake mushroom, and regular mushroom separately, then mix them all with homemade garlic oil, to which demi-glace sauce is added later. The result is the light brown-colored sauce (as opposed to the usual dark brown version you see at other Japanese Western-style joints) which is subtle yet oh-so-addictive. Café Goghi operates as a homey café and a studio for cooking classes and gourmet lunch box-catering. Trying out both the signature dish and brunch menus is definitely recommended, while the cooking classes offered each month are something you should really check out if you’re keen on learning a few awesome techniques. Check out Café Goghi's Facebook page for their monthly and ad-hoc events.

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Jongno-gu

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.

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Buam-dong

DAN.A

Right across from Sungkok Art Museum, there sits a great pasta place. While its traditional hanok exterior may have you doubt the Italian culinary skills of its chefs, the oil sauce pasta with grilled mushroom as well as the rose sauce pasta with crab meat are scrumptious and filling. While owner chef Ahn Chung-hun’s creations involving Korean ingredients (seaweed and dried shimp in rose pasta, for example) may be more familiar to the Korean palate, DAN.A is an overall great spot for an Italian meal paired with wine.

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Jongno-gu
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Calle de Gomis

Walking through Jahamun-ro 9-gil, you’ll notice a small Spanish flag hung with modest dignity. In its 4th year running, this small Spanish bistro has managed to attract many who visit the area. For the popularity it has garnered over the years, there could be always a short wait before you get a seat here (they don’t take reservations). Fortunately, the restaurant opens till 12am on most nights, serving Spanish dishes and a great range of alcoholic drinks. Once you're inside, warm yourself to the casual (and quite chic) atmosphere and order yourself a drink. The Lolea Sangria is highly recommended — the fruity and sweet aromas will get your taste buds refreshed and ready for the scrumptious food. Among their dishes, the Gambas al Ajillo is a great choice to be paired with wine. Place a piece of shrimp on the bread provided and take a bite off of it — although some might prefer to strip the shell off the shrimp, you can just try it whole for the extra crunch and flavors. Within no time, you'll want to take as much left-over oil as possible to soak up your bread and... devour it. Most dishes prepared at Calle de Gomis are tapas, but the one dish that they recommend for a light meal is the 'Flamenco-nes'. Two pieces of chorizo sausages, bacon, a poached egg and sautéed vegetables, all smothered in flavorful tomato-based sauce, come served in a hot pan and work together to complete a quite satisfying meal. You will probably have some sauce left over, which is perfect with some ex

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Jongno-gu

Nuha No Mori

We all know the wonders of sashimi and tataki’s, but what about Japanese food without all the formalities? If you're looking for the looks and tastes of a real home-style Japanese meal, Nuha No Mori located in the Seochon district would be a great choice. Mind you, walking to the restaurant from the nearest subway station or bus stop, there is a short hike up the hill — but the food you taste here will certainly make it all worth the journey. Suitable for its home-style concept, the restaurant is quite small. It's adorned with cute little novelty items hung above and placed around the tables, and brightly lit with natural sunlight coming in from its many windows. While waiting in line, you will be handed a menu which only two options: 'A' with a set menu and 'B' which, incorporating fresh seasonal ingredients, changes every month. The first option is a set with the Miyazaki style chicken which is a fried chicken breast. It resembles a chicken katsu, but without being covered with bread crumbs, its crust remains very light and crispy. Soy sauce is drizzled on top of a juicy piece of chicken breast. It's mainly sweet with a subtle surprise of vinegar, which is quite refreshing. The small side dishes are provided but, unfortunately, don’t add a whole lot to the main dish because the flavor of the soy sauce is quite overpowering. The veggies that came with the main dish seemed more like garnish than anything.The rice, however, is quite special, with a texture and a subtle scent 

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Jongno-gu

Sajik-dong Juban

3 words come up when thinking of this restaurant: alcohol, travel and hanok. Jub an, which refers to the pairing of food and liquor in Korean, is best described as a bistro housed in a revamped hanok. Tucked away in one of Seochon’s many alleyways, it opens up its bright cobalt-blue gates at 6pm every day to expose a beautifully-lit hanok structur e and a neon sign. Walking in through them, you will likely to be transported to a world of modest traditional glam.  Chef Kim Taeyoon soaks up inspiration during his worldwide tours and brings back with him new methods and techniques to add into in his cooking. Fusing exotic spices brought back from India, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, he creates visually and aromatically stunning dishes. The Malacca Ribs made with star anise, fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seeds and cardamom is almost intoxicating (in the best way possible). The sauce coating the scrumptious pork ribs is thick, tangy and very much satisfying. A bite of this calls for a nice strong sip of Chuseongju, a type of Korean liquor with a 1,000-year-old history.  Every item on the menu can be beautifully paired with alcohol—just ask the staff what would be best and they would be more than happy to help you out. For those of you who rarely associate Korean soju with a fine-dining, let Juban prove you wrong; sitting underneath a graciously-lit hanok looking out into the garden and the black giwa (traditionally-tile d) rooftops, you'll see how d

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Jongno-gu
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Emoi

Every once in a while a pho place comes up with a flavor so different that it makes you stop and take pause. Emoi is that kind of place. Opened only a few months ago, Emoi serves Hanoi-style pho in downtown Jongno. Walking in you notice that the style of decor is in between a dive noodle bar and a larger chain—it's quite comfortable. The pho makes a nice visual impact— slices of beef in the middle with shredded cilantro all around, so much so that you don't see the broth, which is also almost clear. But after that first taste, you know something very right was done. The broth is light, full of flavor and well seasoned, quite unlike anything else available in Seoul. Two types of pho are served: the regular and the premium. The meat in the premium pho is cooked beforehand and then added to the broth, giving it a completely different flavor from the regular. The fried spring rolls here, which are perfectly formed and fried crisp, are also absolutely addictive. Pro tip? There are refills on both noodles and broth, so make sure to go on an empty stomach. By James Yu

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Jongno-gu

EX-ON 121

The restaurant opened up in July 2014 under the passing thought of, "let's just make food like we would at home," but has exceeded everyone's expectations. Lunchtime fills with nearby office workers trying one of the two main dishes—the soybean stew with chives and rice or spicy tomato curry. The soybeans are the same that one Eastern medicine doctor recommended and that she eats with her family herself. After work hours, the café's full of groups who've even called to make reservations to drink beer there. The coffee maker is the same one that the owner had when she studied as a barista on her own and the minimal white walls look especially contemporary in contrast to their hanok ceiling.

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Jongno-gu

Podam

If you to get some xiaolongbao, shaomai or dandan noodles at this affordable dim sum joint in Seochon, hurry and get there before 2pm; their ingredients are likely to run out way before their regular closing hour, while calling them won’t help you as the staff will be running around serving all of the hungry souls lining up outside the restaurant.  Upon walking in, you'll notice the bright red and orange-colored interior while being welcomed by the extremely inviting waiting staff. In the menu, there are 5 different types of dim sum, 3 types of entrées, 3 types of noodles dishes and the shrimp fried rice. A quick glance into the kitchen will have you notice how delicately each piece of dim sum is created. It's certainly a scene that makes you tempted to try all 5 types of dim sum — if it feels too difficult to decide, you can go with the Podam Xiaolongbao and the Shrimp Shaomai the house special and the photogenic choice, respectively. The xiaolongbao's wrapped in an extremely thin skin which was strong enough to hold the filling yet almost melted away in my mouth. Although the amount of broth inside was shy of the expected amount, but with a generous amount of meal that it's based, it was quite rich. The shaomai was equally flavorful. Wrapped in seaweed, topped with bright orange-colored flying fish roe, it is also definitely Instagram-worthy. The dandan noodles, though, were our least favorite, as the broth was rather bland. It's got a strong peanut flavor, but it didn't m

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Jongno-gu
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Song's Kitchen

Song’s Kitchen began at the studio of a food stylist, as word began to spread about the dishes that she would serve her acquaintances at the studio. There are currently two locations in the neighborhood of Seochon. If you’re in the mood for the warm and cozy atmosphere of a hanok, the first location is for you. If you would prefer to dine in a more modern space, there’s the second location. Certainly the food is good, but the place is popular for its plating, which is neat and visually charming. The choicest delicacies at Song’s Kitchen include the cheese and seafood ddeokbokggi—where ddeokbokggi is topped with pizza dough and baked in the oven—and a variety of pizzas made with dough kneaded and prepared in-house—mushroom smoked pizza, gorgonzola pizza, pecan and ricotta cheese pizza and more. There’s also a house beer unique to Song’s Kitchen called “Songju,” made with coffee as a base. The rest of the menu is also bursting with personality, and the interior, too, has a distinctly “Song’s Kitchen” quality. The interiors of both the first and second locations combine modern and vintage sensibilities in a curiously compatible way and results in a snug and attractive space. Bonus: the cute knick-knacks that the owner collected during her travels abroad are on display, and definitely worth a look.

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Jongno-gu

Comments

1 comments
Mariana T
Mariana T

Have you noticed that almost all of the websites in the "detail" section are not working? I wanted to book a good restaurants but all the links are not updated. Thank you the check that the information you offered is updated.