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The burger kings of Seoul

All we want is a simple burger, with a good bun and patty. Here's the list of Time Out editors' favorites around Seoul. by James Yu

Firebell

Having only opened two years ago, this little burger joint in Daechi-dong has quickly gained a cult-like following. Their burgers are meaty, cooked to the ideal medium and are expertly seasoned. There are some unique burgers here, like the M.A.C. (mac ‘n’ cheese, cayenne pepper), as well as classic combos, like the Chili King (chili, cheese). Our personal favorite here is the Habana (jalapenos, mayo, cheese). It’s a simple, juicy burger with superb spicy mayo. The bun holds up well, and the toppings don't splat onto your plate right away. Their fries are light and crispy, and though the regular fries are good, we think the wedge fries are the winner. Cheese, chili and cheese, ranch sauce and bacon can be added for an additional charge. Best of all, Firebell makes great shakes. The flavors are uncomplicated, delicious, thick and creamy—the way shakes should be. All in all, this spot is well worth the trip for arguably Seoul's best burger.

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Garosu-gil’s Brooklyn the Burger Joint

Brooklyn the Burger joint, already famed for their succulent patties and rich milkshakes has recently started their fourth branch in Garosu-gil – this time making it a 24-hour, 7-days a week venture. Walk inside and you’ll immediately be struck with the retro American ‘50s style interior, fully furnished with plush mint green booth seats and chairs by the bar. Bite into a steak fry even before your burger comes out and the perfectly cooked, golden color will have you realizing that the actual food is itself more impressive than the interior. Burgers come available in five or seven ounce servings. While our personal favorite’s the classic “Brooklyn Works” (a classic offering of American cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles and homemade sauce), the restaurant does offer a variety of more creative burgers. Two talked about burgers are the cheese-oozing C.R.E.A.M (Cheddar Rules Everything Around Meat) and a crispy fish fillet burger called the Big Fish. However, perhaps the most important piece of advice we might be able to offer today is: save room for dessert. Brooklyn the Burger joint may be a burger joint, but they have 43 different milkshakes and ice cream variations that will definitely make you regret not having a sweet to top off the meal. The aroma of the Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow makes it one of the most popular dessert options but those eating to start out the night, several drinks like the Pepsi Vodka Float offer alcoholic variations on your favorite all

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Sinsa-dong

CALI Kitchen

It used to be that you could find a whole lotta Californians in Seoul, but not a single California burrito. All that’s changed now with the arrival of Cali Kitchen, opened by native Californian Chuck Chun. A businessman by trade but a chef at heart, Chuck was known for hosting small pop-ups in Seoul, cooking whichever hard-to-get foods he had a hankering for, be it Chipotle-style Mexican or Argentinian-style steak with chimichurri. Chuck decided to open CALI Kitchen this year to fill that Californian-Mexican hole in our hearts, and we couldn’t be happier about it. The menu is divided into two sides: on the left, you have the Cali Burger (which Chuck describes as “the love child of a Shake Shack burger and an In-n-Out burger”) and chili fries; on the right you have the burritos, including that famous California Burrito. Loaded with your typical beef burrito fixings plus fries, it’s a hefty meal that’s more filling than flavorful, but it has its fans (San Diego surfers chow down on these after a long day out on the waves). If you like your salsa with a lot of kick, Chuck sometimes has an extra spicy batch on hand that you can ask for. The chili is well worth noting: we couldn’t stop eating it off the fries (we’ll order the chili separately next time). It’s a mildly spiced recipe that’s full of meat, including a lot of steak. “Our butcher looks at us like we’re crazy when we ask him to grind up that quality meat,” Chuck laughs. But it’s this commitment to high quality ingredie

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Itaewon
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I am a Burger

At I am A Burger, you get to choose every aspect of your burger. You select the burger size (140g or 210g), type (eight different burgers) and bun (original, oatmeal and black). All three types of buns are baked fresh in-house every morning. When all the buns are gone, that's exactly when I am A Burger is done for the day. We're a big fan of the cheddar cheeseburger on an original bun. Topped with just cheese and grilled onions, satisfaction is found in its simplicity. The Maccicco burger with chili, jalapeños, onions, cheese and fried egg on an oatmeal bun is also fantastic when you want something a bit messier.  Plain fries and cajun fries are available as are cheese and chili fries. It’s everything you expect to find at a proper burger joint.

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Gilbert Burger

Established in 2008, Gilbert Burger is one of the OG's of gourmet burgers in Seoul. It started with a small shop in Seocho-dong and expanded into several other locations in Seoul, including Itaewon, Gwanghwamun, Sinsa-dong and Samseong-dong. Gilbert Burger offers two patty sizes (140g and 200g) and 10 kinds of burgers to choose from. Notable burgers include the Juicy Cheesy (stuffed with cheese), the Green Light (pepperjack cheese, jalapeños, green chili and chipotle mayo) and the Rocket (blue cheese, gruyere, caramelized  onions, arugula and bacon). The Gilbert Burger comes with sweet potato fries. In addition to their regular fries, you’ll also find onion rings, corn salad and chili on the menu. And a nice surprise? Root beer and Dr. Pepper floats.   

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Downtowner

Only a few months old, Downtowner in Hannam-dong has already made quite a splash. Five burgers are listed on the menu, but there are really only three (cheese, bacon cheese and avocado) as two of them are double versions of the original. But what this place lacks in variety, it makes up for in price and a tasty selection of sides. Prices start at 6,800 won for a 120g patty cheeseburger, going up to 11,800 won for a double cheeseburger with double bacon. Downtowner also offers variations of fries, ranging from original to guacamole. The chicken strips, though, are perhaps the most interesting side on the menu. Purists will appreciate the buffalo chicken, but for something different, try the General Tso. Unfortunately, Downtowner doesn't serve shakes, but they do make up for it with an extensive selection of craft beers.

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Yongsan-gu
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