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Go to an artsy cafe – Check! Go to a trendy shopping mall – Check! Finding sexy Korean ladies and men – Check! What’s missing…? Eating traditional Korean cuisine, duh! People going in and out of Korea always tend to leave out one thing on their check list of things to do, which is to swing by a Hanok (한옥) restaurant, commonly known as a Korean traditional restaurant. These Hanok restaurants have a more refined and fashionable spin-off to the average Joe restaurant and typically serve traditional “down-to-earth” Korean cuisine that varies from different meat dishes, naengmyeon (cold noodles), and specialty soups. Can you say yummy in my tummy?
If you are craving for some spankin’ good traditional Korean cuisine and at the same time you feel like immersing yourself in Korea’s culture and history; well, we’ve racked up a few hot matjibs (delicious food “hot spots”) just for you!
1.) Seokparang (석파랑)
“Restricted For The Noble People”
So you’re feeling like a nobleman today, or noblewoman for all you ladies out there Seokparang is the only Hanok restaurant in Seoul that restores the traditional flavors of massive heritage and culture to make you feel like a true upper-class being. Have you ever wondered what time traveling felt like? Well it’s “Back to the Future” to the Joseon Dynasty era. If you can’t get enough kick out of Korea’s history, why not dine on upscale traditional Korean cuisine and learn at the same time? Here’s a small history lesson of this restaurant – Seokparang’s architecture, known as the “Villa of Daewongun,” was originally part of the Seokpajeong, a nearby complex that was in fact a villa of Heungseon Daewongun. A gazillion years later, the original structure was moved to its current location in the late 1950′s. This Hanok restaurant specializes in delightful traditional Korean cuisine, each retaining every pinch of genuineness. In fact, so genuine that Seokparang offers food like that served at the Royal Palace, all on antique dinner utensils and silverware! How cool is that!? The atmosphere is calm, while the food and top-notch service is the primary focus. Some of the elegantly prepared traditional Korean cuisine they offer are Chilyanggye (steamed chicken with seven flavors), rice porridge, fresh abalone, delicious Eohoe (sliced raw fish served in a traditional Korean style manner), all of which orchestrates the menu at this upscale Hanok restaurant. Once you have finished eating, you can now go out and tell all of your friends that you dined with the Joseon monarchs!
Address: 서울특별시 종로구 홍지동 125번지
125 Hongji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Maps: Google Maps
Closest Subway Station: Hongje Station (Line 3)
Out of Seoul
“Sumberge Yourself Right Into The Culture”
Be prepared, financially and mentally! – This is a B-E-A-utiful Hanok restaurant that comes with a cost. This Hanok restaurant is hardly the only place in Seoul where exceptional food and history can greet each other. You can truly submerge yourself right into the culture at this restaurant. Again, if you ever wondered what it felt like to dine in the great Joseon Dynasty era, this is the place for you. One of the first things you will notice as you walk into this Hanok restaurant are the different traditional Korean pottery, arts, and hanboks. But what could be better to accompany all of this? The delicious traditional Korean cuisine, of course. Jami Palace offers food ranging from immensely mouthwatering meat dishes such as tteok galbi (떡갈비), roasted sirloin with mushrooms, fish grilled to perfection, fresh seasonal sprout salads, and a selection of vegetables seasoned with vinegar and other condiments. The food here is prepared in a way that it almost looks too pretty to eat. So you are basically paying for edible art!
Address: 인천시 서구 원당동 817-1
817-1 Wondang-dong (38 Wondang-daero 819beon-gil)
Closest Subway Station: Gyeyang Station (Line 1)
“When Entertainment Meets Korean Cuisine”
Welcome to one of the most enlightening cultural experiences of Seoul. SamCheongGak offers a respectable combination of traditional Korean dancers, musicians, singers, and strip dancers (just kidding). Grip your table because that’s only the beginning of the chapter! The owners of this place were seriously cool, thoughtful, and smart enough to incorporate LIVE entertainment with a Hanok restaurant that serves visitors with absolutely delicious seasonal foods. Some of the heavenly foods they serve range from immensely delicious roasted shellfish, bibimbap, and japchae (glass noodles with mixed vegetables). This place is located on a mountain known as Mount Bugak in the Seongbuk district. If you are a person who loves eating and watching things in ultra high definition, this is DEE best place for you.
Tip: Do some leg exercises and a lot of stretching before you go searching for this place! You may also want to make some reservations and check out their schedules for any upcoming performances in advance!
Address: 서울특별시 성북구 성북동 330-115
330-115 Seongbuk-dong Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
Closest Subway Station: Hyehwa Station (Line 4)
Out of Seoul
4.) Hanchaedang (한채당)
“Your Answer To Romance”
Sometimes the most romantic restaurants are the ones that don’t present themselves as romantic restaurants. This is a perfect place where love birds can go and have an elegant dining experience where price shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Hanchaedang serves traditional Korean cuisine with a more contemporary and modern feeling while also being able to retain an atmosphere that holds the traditional Korean heritage and design philosophy. Now you couples won’t ever have to fight over what you want to eat for dinner because this Hanok restaurant defeats that purpose by offering an ultra wide array of traditional foods. Although their menu is realllllllly long, we selected a few of the good ones to get your taste buds salivating: Chinese cabbage wraps with pork, Korean barbecue beef ribs (떡갈비), and shrimp with sweet chile sauce.
Once you finish your course of meal, why not take a walk around the actual place? The restaurant features a stunning scenery around the perimeter, where visitors can sit on the available benches outside, walk around the garden, and even in the winter time they have a little campfire going on to keep your little buns toasty warm Doesn’t this place sound nice and cozy?
Address: 경기도 하남시 망월동 324-2번지
324-2 Mangwol-dong, Hanam-si, Gyeonggi-do
Closest Subway Station: Sangil-dong station
5.) Mingadaheon (민가다헌)
Let’s rewind ourselves back to the late 19th and early 20th century. This particular Hanok restaurant is definitely noteworthy in mentioning the history. Mingadaheon, or Min’s Club, is a very important benchmark in recent Korean history because it gives a panorama and a better understanding of how changes were being made to Korean architecture. Min’s Club was originally built as a house for resident Min Byung-Ok, an ancestor of Empress Myeongsong. Lucky him, eh? The main dude behind the blue prints was Park Gil-yong (1898 – 1943), one of the most prominent architects of that period of time. Now back to the present, Min’s Club has been turned into a fusion Korean Hanok restaurant. The restaurant has a very Victorian-ish interior while the outside still reserves the traditional Hanok model. As a fusion restaurant, they offer very delicious foods with a combination of traditional Korean and Western cuisine, an exquisite selection of wines (over 200), and quality teas. Some of the popular dishes they serve here are grilled pork with caramelized onion sauce, Nobiani which is a meat cake made of the highest grade quality Korean beef, and mashed potatoes with creamy mushroom sauce. Traditional Korean cuisine such as bibimbap, steamed rice, and kimchi is of course offered as well. For the people visiting Korea, there should be no excuse to stop by this place!
Random tidbit: Min’s Club was also one of the first homes in Korea to have an indoor toilet and bathroom.
Address: 서울 종로구 경운동 66-7
66-7 Gyeongun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Closest Subway Station: Anguk Station (Line 3)
6.) Tosokchon (토속촌)
“A Summer’s Favorite”
Gobble Gobble! Samgyetang, or chicken ginseng soup, is a specialty food in traditional Korean cuisine. This mild flavored chicken soup includes a whole chicken, stuffed with other minor ingredients such as sweet glutinous rice, ginseng, garlic, as well as other types of herbs and grains to help you retain those nutrients lost during the hot summer days. So throw out that can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and head over to this place called Tosokchon. Tosokchon is labled as one of the best “Samgyetang” restaurants in Seoul, Korea. We beg to differ, but this is well beyond true. It is so famous that even late President Roh Moo-Hyun was a frequent visitor. Now, if you’re visiting Korea, you were probably most likely warned of the extremely super duper mega hot ultra heat waves (breaks the record every year!) that Korea gets somewhere in the midst of July and August of every year. Well, during these two months out of the year, Samgyetang is a favorite dish amongst native Koreans and people visiting Korea. At this particular Hanok restaurant, you’re greeted with long tables seated on the floor, a nice selection of Banchan (반찬) which is just assorted various side dishes, traditional Korean utensils for eating, and probably a lot of old ajeoshis (middle aged men) also eager to restore those nutrients they lost during the hot, dreadful humid day. That’s about it, there is nothing TOO special about this restaurant’s atmosphere; rather, the presentation is merely in the food itself. The menu is only based on Samgyetang at no surprise, with slight variances in the menu. Although the building is built as a traditional Hanok, you won’t be really having time to appreciate the place as it is very busy during those two months out of the year. Once you finish eating here, you’ll have enough energy to do a flying 360 roundhouse kick!
Address: 서울시 종로구 체부동 85-1
85-1 Chebu-dong (5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil)
Closest Subway Station: Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3)
7.) Chez Simon (쉬시몽)
“French Cuisine in a Korean Hanok”
Bonjour. “Chez Simon” is probably the most contemporary Hanok restaurant of all on the list. Camouflaged in the summits of a hot date spot for young people in Seoul, Chez Simon is a restaurant that takes the pleasure of French Cuisine (that’s right, French) served in a traditional Korean Hanok. This restaurant offers French cuisine and is owned by Korean chef owner by the name of M. Soon Shul Sim. Having graduated from Paris Le Cordon Bleu, you most definitely know that he has to be a good cook. The interiors of this restaurant can definitely fool anyone that sees this place from the exterior. The interior presents a bold statement on modern architecture; however, from the outside, it looks just like a traditional Hanok restaurant. This restaurant is well known for the menu change that occurs very regularly and is also known for their savory deserts. The chef’s idea to open a more modern style restaurant in the heart of a Korean district was brilliant. Also, his ability to change simple ingredients into art is what has attracted and expanded the restaurant’s fame. Main course meals include ravioli with special creamy mushroom sauce, potato foam soup, and nice juicy steaks cooked to your liking. One thing to not miss is the desert menu. One recommended item is the Creme Bulee, where it is served almost like a perfect cappuccino where tiny specs of vanilla beans just waiting to land on your taste buds. Although the food might be considered awesome, the service is also quite good. This place is not too expensive as a six course meal will only cost you around 35,000 won (lunch). Your wallet and stomach will thank you.
Address: 서울시 종로구 삼청동 64-10호
Seoul, Jongro-gu Samcheong-dong 63-10
Closest Subway Station: Anguk Station (line 3)
8.) Sanneri (산내리)
“Take a Rest From The City Life”
Take a load off from those business papers. Take a rest from all that pollution in the air (impossible). Or take a break from your girlfriend or boyfriend nabbing at you all day by having a nice traditional Korean meal! This is what Sanneri is aiming at for their customers. This distinct Hanok restaurant was nearly around for 100 years while the restaurant has been around for about 30 years. Sanneri’s history is still young, yet it’s growing rapidly as a reputation for being a top choice for traditional Korean restaurants, and that’s what it intends to do. This restaurant was the house of a Korean noblemen by the name of Han Gyu Sul who objected the Japan-Korea treaty back in the early 1900′s. This Hanok restaurant wants to be able to offer their customers food ingredients chosen strictly by Korean noblemen that lived 100 years ago. The central theme has built on the idea where people should relax and rest from the busy and industrial world of Seoul. Although the restaurant is located IN Seoul, it’s located in the old area of Seoul where a lot of ajummas and ajeoshis live (in other words, it’s quiet!). They offer 200 guest seats for the main dining area, as well as 10 private rooms for your “get away.”
Address: 서울 종로구 계동 146 – 1
146-1 Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Closest Subway Station: Anguk Station (line 3)
Out of Seoul
9.) Kkotdarim (꽃달임)
“The Essence of Fowers”
This Hanok restaurant is undoubtedly in a class of its own. Classy? Modern? Kkotdarim serves traditional Korean fusion food in a Hanok styled lodge. The lodge-like joint is full of flowers, flashy sculptures, and fine China where they serve numerous courses of delicious fusion cuisine. This restaurant almost resembles a Santa’s toy house, where the architecture of this interior can almost be seen as dull fashion but retains some kind charm. Before entering the building, you’re greeted with a bunch of figures in the open garden where the little statues almost look like they were imported from Mexico or some South American country. Once you’re inside and done talking about how dazzling the atmosphere is, we’re pretty sure you will have built up an appetite for traditional Korean cuisine. The menu is adequately large and you have many courses to choose from, but some of the courses we recommend are the phenomenal season Korean soup, fresh tenderloin salad, cold buckwheat noodles with stir fried vegetables, and rice cakes marinated with soy sauce. The presentation of the food is no match with the atmosphere of the place!
Tip: Atmosphere can be a bit freaky, so don’t bring children (just kidding… kind of ).
Address: 경기 성남시 분당구 백현동 496
496 Baekhyeon-dong, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do
Closest Subway Station: Jeongja Station (Bundang Line)
Out of Seoul
10.) Mongingak (몽인각)
“Two storied Hanok”
A two storied Hanok restaurant means twice the goodness and beauty! This two storied Hanok is located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do and has very distinct features that gives this place a huge reputation. The Hanok is absolutely stunning in terms of architecture. The structure was built as a pavilion and features ginormous glass window panes to show the spectacular view of the awe inspiring nature around the Hanok. Another reason why big glass panes were incorporated into the Hanok was to give an illusion of a more spacious interior. There are some unique Hanoks out there but this one will have you come back for a second, third, or even fourth time just because of what the scenery has to offer outside. The first thing that will come in your mind as you walk in the Hanok is the absolute precision of architecture. You will leave the place thinking, “Dang, Korean people really know how to make a building!” As with all other Hanok restaurants, this place also offers an array of special traditional Korean cuisine. They offer a lot of meat courses such as bulgogi (불고기) which is marinated barbequed Korean beef and galbi also known as short ribs. Another recommended course you should try from this place is the Korean bean pancake, which is a golden crispy brown pancake made with bean sprouts – an absolute specialty in traditional Korean cuisine. Make sure to check this place out!
Address: 경기도 용인시 기흥구 상갈동 144-8
144-8 Sanggal-dong, Giheung-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do
Closest Subway Station: Giheung Station (Bundang Line)