Seoul, South Korea has been on my Oki Travel Bucket List since we moved here. Unlike a lot of the other travel destinations in Asia, Seoul is only a 2 hour flight away from Oki. After spending a couple of months apart, Colin and I decided it would make for a perfect weekend getaway. All of our friends had wonderful things to say about Seoul and gave us great tips on where to stay, what to see and which restaurants to try. We fit a lot of fun into our weekend in Seoul, including a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) tour, sightseeing at palaces and a little shopping. Being the food lover that I am, one of the main highlights of the trip for me was the food. The Korean food we had was excellent, but we were also staying in Itaewon, the International district, so we were able to enjoy some of the foods we miss from home too.
From Korean BBQ to Mexican tacos, you’ll find our food itinerary below with a brief description and as much information about to how to find the restaurant as possible. All of these opinions are my own, but I encourage you to try any of these restaurants if you are traveling to Seoul. We loved them all!
Dinner at Maple Tree House
We knew our first meal in Korea had to be Korean BBQ. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, we wound our way through the streets of Itaewon to find this great restaurant. The restaurant’s exterior and lobby is lined with green soju bottles (Korea’s extremely cheap, vodka like, liquor) giving the restaurant a uniquely classy look. Once seated, we ordered our meats of choice, steak and bulgogi beef, and were quickly presented with many banchan, or Korean appetizers/side dishes. I’m not sure what all of them were, but we do know we had kimchi, a salad with sesame seed dressing, some type of spicy sprouts mixture, tofu and small fried minnows. We enjoyed all of them, although some were a little more out of our flavor comfort zone than others. We ate those while our server cooked our meat in front of us. The steak and bulgogi beef were perfectly cooked and delicious. Although I had read reviews that this restaurant was a little more expensive than other Korean BBQ places, everything was outstanding and I would go back in a heartbeat, although that could be the bottle of soju talking (pro tip, get one bottle to share. It’s strong!)
After Dinner Drinks at Prost and Baby Guinness– The nightlife in Itaewon was just starting when we finished dinner around 8:30pm. Friends recommended both of these bars to us, but it was just fun to wander the streets and look at all of the places to go. It seemed like the amount of bars and restaurants were never ending. Even if you’re exhausted from a long day of sightseeing, it’s worth the experience just to walk around.
We were up early for our DMZ tour, so we just grabbed coffee, tea and pastries from our hotel for breakfast. Coffee shops in Seoul don’t open until later in the morning, around 9 or 10am, and stay open late into the night. If you need to be up early, keep this in mind! On our walk to our tour at 7am, very little was open.
Lunch included on our DMZ tour
Before Dinner Drinks- Hand and Malt Brewing Company
We found a rooftop bar in Itaewon to have drinks while we waited for our table for dinner. Although I never learned the name of the bar, we did have Hand and Malt Brewing Company’s beer, which can be found on tap throughout Seoul. We tried their Slow IPA and Mocha Stout and really liked both.
Dinner at Vatos Tacos
Just thinking about this dinner makes me want to jump on a plane and go back to Seoul. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re deprived of even decent Mexican food here on Okinawa, or that the margaritas at Vatos Tacos are huge (and SO good), but our dinner made my “one of the best meals of my life” list, and I’ve eaten a lot of delicious, noteworthy food.
Our meal started out with two of their house margaritas and chips with every dip: queso, salsa and guacamole. When deprived of Mexican food, we go all out. The queso had lots of flavor, as well as black beans mixed in. Both salsas were good as well. But the best of the trio was the guacamole. When the guac has bacon, blue cheese and candied walnuts mixed in, you just can’t go wrong. Our tacos arrived quickly and they did not disappoint either. Colin ordered the barbacoa pork tacos, which were really good, but I thought mine, the chimichurri chicken tacos, were much better. The ingredients were perfectly balanced, with just enough toppings to compliment, but not overpower, the spicy, flavorful chicken.
This is a restaurant you don’t want to miss if you are in Seoul. We ate at the branch in Itaewon, but they have multiple locations. The wait for a table was long, about an hour and a half for two at 5pm on Saturday, but they let us put our name in and told us when to come back to get a buzzer. Trust me when I say, it’s more than worth the wait.
After Dinner Drinks at Southside Parlor and Magpie Brewing Company
I had read about Southside Parlor on a few different travel sites and we loved it! It’s up a couple floors on one of the main roads in Itaewon, so it has an excellent view of the city at night. They have a long list of standard and not so standard American cocktails, as well as a Southern, soul food inspired menu. We were too full to eat, but our drinks were very good. The atmosphere is lively, but also has a cozy and intimate feel.
Magpie Brewing Company was a good find, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. They have a small upstairs bar, but we chose to sit in the basement, which has bar and table seating. It’s nothing fancy, concrete walls and wooden tables, but the beer was excellent. They serve all of their own beer and, if my memory is correct, we tried their porter and German gose (named The Ghost). There were pizzas being served downstairs as well that smelled and looked delicious.
The second part of our trip can be found here!