Here is my latest list of 9 Best Seoul restaurants that are worth visiting! Next time you go to Korea, hopefully, you will enjoy it as much as I did!
So by no means, is this a complete list nor have I really spent a lot of time researching to see the best of the best restaurants. But my family are real foodies so they would not have taken me to these restaurants if they didn’t love it. And they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Must Visit Seoul Restaurants
1. Woo Lae Oak 우래옥 (Micheline Guide 2023 Bib Gourmand)
I used to visit this restaurant with my dad and family back in the 70’s when I was a kid. The original owner is a good friend of my father – a fellow North Korean (Yibuk Saram 이북사람) who escaped during the war.
They serve the classic North Korean style Naengmyeon that’s clean tasting, not sweet or sour – unlike many Naengmyeon you taste in today’s modern restaurants. It’s so clean and light tasting that you may almost want to say that it’s too bland.
But you really have to try to appreciate the mild beef broth taste without much seasoning.
Of course, you can add your own vinegar and mustard to spice it up a bit. Order bulgogi that’s cooked at the table to go with your Naengmyeon and it’s a wonderful contrast of cold and hot temperature foods in your mouth.
DINING STYLE – it’s a no-frills restaurant so just don’t expect any fine dining ambiance. They also have a coffee and ice cream station for dessert if you want to have it after your meal.
RESERVATION RECOMMENDED – this is a crazy popular restaurant even after 77 years so make reservations if you can otherwise be ready to stand in line for over an hour.
LOCATION (Map)– It’s near Bansan Market (방산시장) where you can buy all sorts of baking goods, package materials like boxes for chocolates, etc.
2. Gyuban 규반 (Modern Interpretation of Traditional Korean food)
My sister visited this place and took me back the next day because the food was so amazing and she wanted me to experience it!! The chef-owner was a consultant to the famous food K drama Dae Jang Geum 대장금. I heard it was her hand in the drama whenever the main character was cooking. lol.
I LOVED almost everything that was served.
My favorite dish was a very simple plate of tofu, special dried seaweed Gamtae, cucumbers and to-die-for fermented silver belt fish jeotgal instead of ssamjang. It was such a wonderful pairing of sea flavors and crunchy refreshing cucumbers on a soft bed of tofu.
Their menu changes seasonally so I would recommend going with their course menu or the hansang 한상 menu where everything is served all at once.
DINING STYLE – this is definitely a fine dining experience. We made reservations and were served inside our private room with a pleasant view of the indoor garden.
LOCATION (map) – This is right in the center of Seoul, inside a business building, near city hall. There’s also a nice Gyuban coffee shop across which I didn’t get to visit but looked good.
3. Busan Agu 부산아구 (Old fashioned authentic Busan restaurant in Gangnam)
My nephew took me to this tiny old restaurant in Gangnam. I was surprised that this kind of restaurant still existed in the area. I felt like I was taken back in a time machine.. there were couple tables in the front and then you take your shoes off and step up onto an ondol (heated floor) area and sit on the floor.
Everything was absolutely delicious. I can’t do a lot of spicy food but the Agu Jjim was actually not that spicy even though it looked really red and hot! It was flavorful and has tons of Kongnamul and also Agu (angler or monk fish) which is the way I like it. It’s honest good old-fashioned Korean food at its best.
Make sure you also order the Gye Albap 게알밥 which is rice topped with crab roe(Gye-al) from Ganjang Gyejang. It was just absolutely scrumptious!!
DINING STYLE – total casual, kind of run-down restaurant.
RESERVATION – NOT POSSIBLE
LOCATION (map) – it’s very close to Shinsa subway station
4. Hannam Tatsu (A modern Izakaya Japanese restaurant)
I visited this restaurant in Hannam Dong for the first time with my sister, nephew and his wife. I highly recommend it if you like bar restaurants. Izakaya is the Japanese equivalent of a pub or tavern and they serve both Japanese drinks but also a good selection of wine. The menu here is kind of a fusion between Japanese, Korean and even Italian(?).
We ordered the Futomaki (extra big with tons of fillings), Uni + Abalone, Myeongran (Pollock Roe) Avocado, Eel and Nabe that was cooked at the table. For drinks, we shared a bottle of California Chardonnay (I know.. I would have opted for Sake or Makgeolli lol) and the foods all went really well with the wine!
DINING STYLE – Casual, modern dark bar like atmosphere with a long bar table too.
RESERVATION – is recommended
LOCATION (map) – in the small alleys of lower Hannamdong area
5. Hanwoori 한우리 (My family’s go-to restaurant for many years)
They are known for their Guksu Jeongol and Shabu Shabu. But pretty much everything is yummy and the service is top-notch. This restaurant has been successful for over 40 years and has become a total enterprise (website). They have several locations throughout Seoul and they sell pre-packaged food of the dishes they serve at the restaurant.
We also had Naengmyeon and Galbi combo one time and it’s kind of expensive but definitely one of the best in Seoul.
They also have Bossam Kimchi sometimes which is a treat.
DINING STYLE – upscale, simple and clean dining space throughout their own building. There’s also a little center court area that is a coffee and dessert shop.
RESERVATION – is recommended on weekends or for big parties
LOCATION (map) – this is the original location in Gangnam.
6. Mokmyeok Sanbang 목멱산방 (website) – Simple menu and service but very good food!
The name is kind of very difficult to pronounce (even for me.. lol) and remember but the food was certainly memorable for me. The menu is pretty simple – Bibimbap (5 different style), Bossam with tofu, kimchi jeon.. but everything was really tasty and I can tell the chef really put a lot of thought and effort into everything.
For example, the rice for bibimbap comes out room temp (not warm from the rice cooker) and doesn’t look very nice but it really works well with room temp namul. Overall, I can tell it’s one of those restaurants where you order anything and they would all taste good.
DINING STYLE – casual and partly self-service (you need to get your own water and extra banchan)
RESERVATION – NOT POSSIBLE. Just show up early because usually there’s a long line.
LOCATION (map) – this is at the edge of Namsan, right across from my old elementary school Rira (리라국민학교). No parking so take a taxi or bus.
7. August Chicken 어거스트 치킨 – Best Korean Fried Chicken franchise as of Spring 2023
What’s the best Korean Fried Chicken place in Seoul right now? Well, I haven’t tried all of them but my family is a pretty serious foodie family and if my nieces and nephew say they are the best, I believe them (as of spring 2023 of course).
Instead of dining in, we did take out and I was very impressed that the chickens all came still very crispy and warm. I could see that they made extra effort in designing the boxes to keep it that way. We ordered a whole bunch of different chickens —
Their signature Old style chicken (옛날 통닭 Yaetnal Tongdak) had an extra crispy smooth outer shell while the inside was extra juicy. Electric Rotisserie Chicken (전기구이 통닭) which wasn’t what I was expecting (not the traditional rotisserie) but still delicious with the special garlic sauce. We also ordered some chicken wings and fries which were all very well seasoned, perfectly fried and packaged immaculately. It also came with a personal note which was very sweet.
DINING STYLE – TAKE OUT or Dine In but haven’t visited a physical location so not sure
RESERVATION – NA
LOCATION (map) – there are many locations throughout Seoul but the link will take you to their main location. Their website is under construction right now so not helpful. Search for ‘어거스트 치킨’ on naver.com and you will see the different locations.
8. Our Bakery 아우어베이커리 (a fabulous bakery specializing in croissants)
There are so many good bakeries in Seoul, and it’s hard to pick out the best one but I picked this one because I had their Dirty Choco Croissant. I am a fan of Chocolate croissant which has chocolate in the center of the pastry but this is another level.. the whole dough is chocolate dough and has a full dusting of cocoa powder.
OMG – it’s to die for.. I believe they are the original creators and I had one at another bakery and it just wasn’t the same. So, if you are in the vicinity of Hannamdong or Itaewon, visit the Our Bakery in the Hannam Dong Gourmet 494
DINING STYLE – a modern cafe feel with great coffee, it’s so hot right now, prepare to stand in line or not get a table
LOCATION – check out their website locations page for other locations.
9. JS Garden (the name is puzzling but have very good Korean Chinese)
Jjajangmyeon and Tangsuyuk (sweet sour pork) are 2 of my absolute favorite Korean Chinese food and I always have to have some whenever I go back to Korea. Everything we ordered was delicious! This franchise restaurant has several locations so see if there’s one where you are.
It’s higher quality flavor than your common neighborhood Chinese place but it’s still just really good traditional Korean Chinese flavors. They do follow the trend though – order the Gureum Tangsuyuk (구름 탕수육) – the batter has sweet rice flour in it and is extra crispy and slightly chewy. I enjoyed it a lot.
DINING STYLE – modern, clean
RESERVATION – usually not needed
More Everyday Korean Food Restaurants/Shops
GOURMET 494 (high-end food court)
Gourmet 494 is a very high-end food court that is in the most luxurious department store called Galleria Department store in the Gangnam Apgujeong area. But this time I found that they have another location in Hannam Dong. If you have a group and can’t agree on what to eat, go there. And have coffee and the Choco Croissant at Our Bakery in the same court and then finish with a wonderfully light and yummy rice ice cream at Baekmidang 백미당 – just outside, next to the escalator.
I had 현선이네 Hyeonsuninae Tteokbokki, Tonkatsu and Udon here and they were all quite good!
DINING STYLE – Self Serve
Mama Cook (Banchan shop in Gangnam)
I followed my sister to this shop and they have just about every banchan and soups you can imagine.
Well, I hope you will get to enjoy what I enjoyed on my recent trip to Korea! I would love to hear what you think. I will also share in another post about some tips I have – because I made some silly mistakes while I was in Seoul!
UPDATES on MY PAST BEST SEOUL RESTAURANTS LIST
Pro Ganjang Gyejang – this was my top favorite for Ganjang Gyejang but no longer. I found their overall quality and portions have gone down while the price is higher. I am taking them off the list.