Seoul Food & BBQ
In New York, having Korean food for dinner was a treat for us because it’s so expensive to order the galbi. But on Fridays, when I felt overworked and exhausted, It became my go-to meal as my way to recover. When I was younger, it was our family’s Sunday night dinner. Essentially, it’s really been my comfort food since childhood.
So when we decided to visit Seoul together, I didn’t order any Korean food for at least 6 months prior. And that’s a long time for me. This would be Avery’s first time in Seoul and my second. When I was here with my mother, I remember seeing the most beautiful palaces, ate the best Korean BBQ and Chicken Ginseng Soup, and saw some killer street fashion.
We spent half the time in Myeongdong and the other half in Gangnam. Myeongdong is like the Times Square of Seoul - i remember eating some of the best BBQ here so I wanted to make sure we were close enough to literally roll back home if we needed. Gangnam is the fancy part of Seoul. Gangnam became even more popular for the westerners because of that silly PSY song (whoopah Gangnam Style!). Note that these neighborhoods are quite far from each other so going back and forth is not ideal. For your first time in Seoul, I would recommend staying around Myeongdong, Itaewon, or Dongdaemun so you are close to the city’s famous palaces and notable restaurants.
Speaking of palaces, I have two favorites: Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung. If you’re on a tight schedule or a tight budget, I would recommend Changdeokgung. It’s much larger and they have the most magnificent “Secret Garden”. To be honest, it felt as big as Central Park. When we were there, the leaves were changing color and it was absolutely stunning. Gyeongbokgung is much smaller and we didn’t end of getting a chance to visit it this time around but I absolutely recommend.
I’m not a big shopper but if you love to shop, kick it in Dongdaemun, Gangnam, and a shopping area called Common Ground. Dongdaemun is a wholesaler’s dream - you can get ANYTHING here.: tops, pants, dresses, belts, hair accessories, socks, shoes, handbags - the list just goes on and on. It’s a bit overwhelming so I would start your day here with the biggest coffee you can find. Gangnam and Common Ground were the best to find local Korean designers, my favorite. Common Ground is made up entirely of shipping containers full with accessories, super dope clothes, and some cafés. I have a soft spot for shipping containers - one day, I want to build a 3-shipping-container home in Utah where the entire sides are made of windows so I can see the most beautiful sunsets and stars every single day of my life.
We had Korean BBQ almost every day. While it’s expensive in NYC, it’s about half o the price here in Seoul. I found this restaurant via TripAdvisor - many customers complained about the Mainland tourists, and yes, they are present. But the food is SO good that I can ignore anything and anyone when it’s around. To me, the perfect Korean BBQ consists of marinated short rib galbi, seafood pancake, and the right assortment of banchan, multiple side dishes presented at the beginning of dinner to go along with the meat. My must haves include: kimchi, yellow soybeans, lettuce, chill paste, pickled radish, onion salad, and spicy scallion salad. Oh and the steamed egg. This place was TOP NOTCH. We even tried to #1 BBQ spot in Gangnam where supposedly all the celebrities eat, but it wasn’t as good. While the meat quality was better, the banchan was lacking.
Seoul was the last leg of the trip. At this point, we had explored so many cities and walked a ton. We were planning on being in Indonesia for a month but changed the plan after two weeks. So originally, 50% of the Trip 1 was gong to be focused on nature. But with the change in plans, Trip 1 ended up packed with cities. It definitely changed the tune and vibe of the trip, but I am actually happy with it. I wanted to feel like we were fully absorbed in being a part of the city vs. feeling like a visitor. We built a list of favorite restaurants where we returned multiple times. We started to memorize certain parts of the subway map. I think this is my favorite part of traveling: when the location really starts to sink in and you start to settle with your favorite coffee shop, favorite streets, favorite restaurant, and your typical pre-bed routine of watching Netflix. You start to feel stability in a non-stable setting.
Feeling blessed doesn’t even describe the magnitude of how I feel. I had the best time with the best person (we didn’t fight at all the entire trip). As we return home, it’s going to feel like we’re traveling still because in just five weeks, we embark on Trip 2. Is it weird to say that we can’t wait already?